We all go through stages in life when we feel a little down. Perhaps one of life’s pathways has tripped us up. It could be that health issues cloud our skies. It is then we need to remember Psalm 42. There was a time, reflects the Psalmist, when “my tears have been my food day and night” (verse 3) so that some say to him, “Where is your God?”. Sceptics about God can challenge us when we are not able to give a positive response.
The Psalm starts, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God …”. We picture a thirsty deer in a desert place longing to find a flowing stream! Similarly there are times when we thirst for God – and although His word is there on our bookshelf we say to ourselves, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (verse 5).
The Psalmist then writes as he brings himself out of depression, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation … therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon … the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me”. They have ‘gone over’ him, they have not swept him away – they have served their purpose in God’s oversight of his life. In Psalm 119, there is a significant observation, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good …” (119:67,68). We do good when we follow God’s goodness. We should do this primarily for the good of God’s purpose! Paul makes this point in Romans 8:28, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”.
Peter, Paul and other apostles experienced various crises when following in Christ’s footsteps. We also think that the Psalter was the first part of the Bible (along with the Gospel of John) to be translated into the emerging English language 800 years ago. They were an inspiration to good and worthwhile ways. Some memorised them, strengthening awareness of the true God in the minds of those emerging from the mythology of human imagination. And today they are an inspiration to those trying to turn away from the things of the flesh.
The final words of the Psalm sum up its message. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” His answer! “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God”. May that be our answer too!