Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:11
When we navigate storms in life life we have a choice to make. Sink or fight. Sink into self-pity, sadness or turmoil or fight to hope in God.
The author of Psalm 42 is surrounded by jeering enemies who taunt him saying, “Where is your God?” He says his tears have been his food day and night. He’s discouraged, depressed, hopeless, sighing. He keeps breaking down sobbing. He’s in turmoil. Anxious. His chest is tight. He can’t breathe right. His mind is whirling.
What does the Psalmist do? It’s like he suddenly realizes what’s happening, snaps out of his funk, grabs his soul by the scruff of the neck and interrogates himself. He says wait a minute – why are you cast down? Why are you in turmoil? You’re forgetting something – you’re forgetting to bring God into the equation. You’re acting like there’s no God. Hope in God! I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Sometimes we don’t even notice we’re beginning to sink.
We can spiral into sadness when one of our children rebels. We can sink into the “slough of despond” when our spouse is chronically sick, or things are perpetually stressful at work or month after month we can barely make ends meet. One day we wake up and we feel like we’re in quicksand up to our neck and someone’s put a plastic bag over our head.*
As soon as we catch ourselves beginning to spiral downward we have to stop and ask ourselves: Wait a minute – what’s going on here?
Why are you cast down O my soul? Why are you anxious? Here’s why – because you’ve taken your eyes off God. You’ve quit hoping in God. You’ve taken God out of the equation. When we quit hoping in God and believing we shall yet praise him, there’s nowhere else to go but down.
“I shall again praise him” is a statement of faith. We are saying we believe God will come through for us down the road. That in the future Jesus will give us something to praise him about. That God will cause whatever we’re going through to work for good.
So what’s it going to be for you – sink or fight?
Command yourself to hope in God. Get your eyes off the wind and the waves and onto the one who is your salvation and your God. Tell yourself you will again praise God – that the story isn’t over yet. Even better, begin to praise him right now.
*I’m not talking about clinical depression here. I’m talking about the kind of downcast state that results from continued unbelief.
Photo by sjfreeman