From Melvin: Mon 8th June

Dealing with being down

You can listen here:

Psalm 42


As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

The Psalmist laments the situation in which he finds himself and longs for some resolution.

To say he feels ‘down’ would be putting things mildly. He can hardly imagine a worse state than he is in at the moment. He feels as if he is drowning and he can’t make it to the surface (v7). He is in the peculiar situation of being thrown off balance by contradictory feelings. On the one hand he is aware of God’s love (v 8) and on the other feels God has forgotten him (v 9). As believers we know what this is like. Our minds acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and is Sovereign but our feelings want to cry out in denial.


What is the fundamental remedy?


We find it in the final verse: ‘Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.’


The Psalmist is not allowing his emotions to have the last word, but God. He is, if you like, preaching, but preaching to himself. In a classic sermon on this Psalm, the famous Welsh preacher Dr Martin Lloyd Jones, writes this: ‘Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment (the writer of Psalm 42) was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.” 


Our problem is that we too often think with our feelings rather than with our mind. For me it is my imagination that can become the tyrant which the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, described as the ‘dominant faculty in man, the mistress of all error and falsehood’. How much time do we spend wrestling with imaginary scenes in our mind of what might happen and when the day comes they don’t turn out like that at all? Our energy has been wasted.


There is a logic to this sermon to the self, ‘Why are you cast down?’ What is the reason for you feeling like this, is it justified, does it fit with the facts? Is it really the case that God has abandoned you? What evidence is there, other than your feelings, and you know how unreliable they are? What of God’s promises? Has he said that ‘he will never leave you nor forsake you’? Yes, it is recorded there in the Bible in black and white. Then why should you be the exception?


This is part of the way we are to deal with being down.



Oh gracious heavenly Father, you know all things. You are the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega - there is no shadow of turning with you. But as for me my soul is often in turmoil, being tossed to and fro, up and down. But you are my anchor, my rock and my fortress. And so I affirm, I will trust in you. Amen.