Lament and hope (Part 3)
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. Psalm 42:5
We have been looking at the important lessons this psalm teaches us with respect to lament and hope. Let us, then, note the persistence of the psalmist with respect to the doubts that he faced. It is true that discouragement kept coming back. Lament, hope, lament, hope, lament, hope; that is the pattern of the psalm. It should also be the pattern of our lives. Yes, lament, but follow it with hope in God’s word. Don’t give up looking to Christ. Always answer discouragement with God’s truth.
Another way to put this is that we must constantly preach to ourselves. This is exactly what the psalmist was doing. He had to do this because if he hadn’t his trials would have preached apostasy instead. He was constantly reminding himself of the truth of God’s word, of God’s character. When a situation would suggest a blasphemous thought, he would answer the lie with the gospel. And we must do that if we would persevere in trials.
Finally, this psalm demonstrates that we are not crazy because we feel this way. You are not the first, nor will you be the last to face the lonely path of discouragement. When you feel like giving up, remember that others have conquered Giant Despair. Let their victory encourage you.
And if you believe, as I do, that the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to pen this for our learning and edification, then it follows that God himself is concerned for those who go through the trial of depression and discouragement. He would not have put such a psalm in the Bible if he weren’t. So when you feel that God has left you alone, remember psalms like this. God was certainly not really absent from him – the Holy Spirit was inspiring him as he wrote it!
Which means that we should not take our feelings as a measurement of God’s presence. That doesn’t mean we ignore them, but the reality is that God can be very present when it feels that he is the farthest away. I love the words of Isa. 50:10, “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” Here was a man who could ask of God, “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (v. 9). And yet we know that God was at that moment very present with him. And he knew this, which is why he was able to keep coming back to exhort his soul to hope in God.I love the balance of the Bible. It does not lead us to expect that our lives here will be necessarily easy; it does not tell us that we will be immune to certain trials or even tragedy. But it also presents us with the equally important reality that this life is not all there is to it and that for those who belong to Christ, the present trials will be replaced with unimaginable glory and joy. We can hope in God, for we shall yet praise him. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).