Hope for the Hopeless
Bible Reading: Psalm 42
In this Psalm the writer passionately expressed his sorrow amidst a time of trouble he was facing. Sorrow is something we all deal with. Even the most spiritual amongst us are not exempt, as is evidenced in the other examples we find both in the Scriptures and scattered throughout the history of the church.
The writer of this Psalm was of the Sons of Korah, a group of men who served as musicians in the temple worship. There’s some question about the exact circumstances of the Psalm, though many suppose it to be when the Sons of Korah were accompanying King David as he was driven from Jerusalem by his rebellious son Absalom (2 Samuel 15). As David and his friends fled Jerusalem, the Sons of Korah looked back in sadness at being driven from their home (Psalm 42:5).
Why is the Psalmist sorrowful? There are many reasons. As a deer pants for flowing streams, his soul pants for God. But God seems distant and removed from him (Psalm 42:1,9). He’s far removed from the temple and the temple worship, a source of joy for him in the worship of his God (Psalm 42:4, 5b). The absence from corporate worship and remembrance of the way things were conspire to break his heart. He’s facing trial after trial (deep calls to deep) as the “breakers and waves” of troubles wash over him. He mourns in the oppression of his enemies, who taunt him, saying, “Where is your God?” His tears are his food. He’s broken-hearted and full of sorrow.
Can you relate to the Psalmist? Have you ever felt like that? Broken hearted? Despondent? Depressed? Have you ever been so deep in your sorrow that the only prayer you can utter to God is “help?” There’s some good news in this Psalm, for the Psalmist also speaks of hope. You’ll note that the Psalmist talks to himself. Amidst his troubles and his sorrow, he speaks to his own soul. That chorus of this hymn is repeated three times if you count its occurrence in Psalm 43 (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5). And what is it that the Psalmist says to his soul? We note in his words a dramatic shift in focus. He’d been focused on himself in his troubles, but then he asks his soul “Why?” and directs his thoughts instead towards God. “Hope in God” he said to his soul! If you are discouraged or distressed it’ll do no good to look horizontally, you’ll need to look to God.
Martin Luther dealt with times of sorrow and depression. Charles Spurgeon wrote of one such occurrence: “Martin Luther was a very cheerful man, as a rule; but he had terrible fits of depression. He was at one time so depressed that his friends recommended him to go away for a change of air, to see if he could get relief. He went away; but he came home as miserable as ever; and when he went into the sitting-room, his wise wife Kate, Catherine von Bora, was sitting there, dressed in black, and her children round about her, all in black. ‘Oh, oh!’ said Luther, ‘who is dead?’ ‘Why,’ said she, ‘Doctor, have not you heard that God is dead? My husband, Martin Luther, would never be in such a state of mind if he had a living God to trust to.’ Then he burst into a hearty laugh, and said, ‘Kate, thou art a wise woman. I have been acting as if God were dead, and I will do so no more. Go and take off thy black’.” – “The Complete Works of C. H. Spurgeon,” Volume 38 By Charles Spurgeon
It is as Corrie Ten Boom once said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.” The Psalmist looked to God and the hope founded in Him and His sure promises, “for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God!” The Psalmist has set a good example for us. We live in a trouble-filled world. To be sorrowful and even to the point of depression is to be human. But the good news amidst our sorrows is that God never changes. And as we shift our focus to Him, and are reminded of who he is and the salvation he brings, we find good reason for hope! Time after time! Amidst the ups and downs of life, God, our Rock, remains the same.
Corrie Ten Boom: “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”
Heavenly Father. Forgive me for my wayward eyes. I’ve looked around and have been distressed by all the troubles I see in our world. And I’ve looked within myself, only to be depressed in my own inabilities to bear such burdens or affect any change. Grant me the grace and wisdom to keep my focus on You. To set my hope on You. Praise You for Your faithfulness. You are as a Rock, firm and unmoving and dependable always. You are My salvation! You’ve never failed me and never will. Help me to set my hope firmly and securely on You. And rest in the peace and security of knowing You’ve got it all in control! In Jesus’ name. Amen.