Psalm 42:5

Hope For the Downcast

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Ever felt as though you could not go on with the Christian life? Ever thought that you don’t seem able to persevere in your walk with the Lord? Ever felt as though your life was falling apart and that God seemed a thousand miles away?

I’m sure that at some point you have felt miserable about your Christian life. Perhaps you have even become depressed and despaired of your state. Then maybe this morning’s message will be a help to you. This morning we are going to look at what I have entitled, ‘Hope for the Downcast,’ and our focus will be upon Psalm 42, and especially verse 5, ‘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 is entitled as a ‘maschil,’ and what that means is that this Psalm is so much more than just an expression of superficial sentiment, for this Psalm is designed as an instructive Psalm for those who are distraught and disheartened. It is designed to make you, its hearer wise in times of trouble - if you of course take heed to its teachings.

The author of the Psalm, in this case David as the inspired penman of God, is seeking to share with others who have/are experiencing similar frames of mind in the face of what humanly speaking are discouraging situations, the wisdom and spiritual skill of dealing with the discouragement in a God-centred and therefore Biblical way.

Brethren, these are skills that you need to learn and possess, for you live in a world where there are daily discouragements rising up from fresh sources all the time. How easy it would be for you to submit to these disheartening influences, and collapse under the weight of them in a pile of despair and blubbering sinful self-pity.

Can I suggest to you this morning, those of you who indeed know the Lord Jesus Christ, that here in this Psalm you will find useful instruction for all times of discouragement, disheartenment, and disillusionment that you will face. The great preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, has said, that;

‘This is the cry of a man far removed from the outward ordinances and worship of God, sighing for the long-loved house of His God; and at the same time it is the voice of a spiritual believer, under depressions, longing for the renewal of the divine presence, struggling with doubts and fears, but yet holding his ground by faith in the living God.'

Spurgeon recognized that Scripture has an immediate context and therefore an immediate implication, yet it is still given for our learning. Though we may not find ourselves in the exact same situation as David, who was actually fleeing from the presence of his own son who sought his life, there are still important practical lessons to be learnt for all believers of all times here in this Psalm.

Here then believer is a passage that will be of invaluable help to you when you confront the troubles and trials of life as a child of the living God. Here you will learn how not to succumb to the pressures of all those discouraging voices that afflict you in times of illness, trial, affliction, etcetera. Here you will find aid in the day of trouble, so that you will be able to rest in God and not in the help of ungodly psychiatrists and psychologists.


1. Discouraged and Disheartened?

This Psalm was not written in a vacuum, as though it is an expression of thought far removed from the real life pressure cooker that is human experience. It is not the mere ‘inspired thought’ of some gifted poet, who writes with a sense of feeling and pathos but yet without experiencing the reality of that of which he writes.

This Psalm captures the essence of a man in the crucible of real life and personal experience. This Psalm can help you brethren because this Psalm’s author has been where you have been or perhaps are. ‘But he hasn’t experienced what I...’ Yes he has, and he knows that you have no need to collapse in a sloppy pile of tears and self pity. You can survive and indeed you can flourish.

David has experienced the sense of isolation and loneliness that discouragement and disillusionment can bring. He has experienced the continual rolling waves of being overwhelmed in the times of personal distress. Indeed he has been through a multitude of difficulties that you will never know, and yet he has pressed on and thrived.

These twin psalms of 42 and 43 are thought to have been written when David was forced to flee from Jerusalem because his son Absalom was leading a rebellion against him. You can sense the crisis that David had been cast into as you read the account in 2 Samuel 15 and 16, and here in Psalms 42 and 43. What a crisis it was:

You see, all that meant anything to David was now in seeming ruins and his life shattered to pieces. One trouble upon another was coming upon him. How difficult it must have been. Remove yourself from your own troubles for a moment Christian and give thought to David’s situation. How dreadful and heart breaking! How devastating and crushing!

‘Oh, he must have been at the point of giving up and throwing in the towel. How could a man endure as much as David and not be given over to despair and soul crushing depression? He was gone for sure, crushed and ready to end it all!’

Is this what you find? No.

‘And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation (2 Sam 15:25).’

‘And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man. Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head. And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day (2 Sam 16:7-12).’

Even in the very midst of his troubles, David still had a relationship with His God that meant something. He still had a passion for God. He was still determined to be his very best for his Lord.

‘As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day (Ps 42:1-4).'

There he is, surrounded with all this trouble, and with all these people who were pouring doubt upon God, and yet David still had a passion for God as strong as a pursued deer longing to quench its thirst. He craved the presence of God. He longed for a closer walk with God. This was what counted most with David, not his kingdom or personal blessing.

He cried tears of sorrow because he wasn’t able to worship his God in the temple, not because he didn’t have enough money for this and that pursuit. There was no longing after restored position and other earthly glories, but there was a longing for God. David’s life was nothing without his God.

It is here that perhaps the test of discouragement and difficulty is its greatest. ‘Here I am, continuing to trust God with all these gales and waves of difficulty and turmoil crashing against me, and still they keep coming. Where is my God? Why does He not help me?’

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? (Psalm 42:5a)?'

‘When will this ever end? I love my God, I want my God, I want to be with my God - but it’s like He’s turned His back on me. ‘When shall I come and appear before God (Ps 42:2b)?’ Why is it that I have to go through all this? When will it ever end?’

Sometimes believer it seems as though it will never end, a day stretches into a week, and a week stretches into a month, and... When will it end?

‘I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God? (Ps 42:9,10).’

Here is a man who is greatly disturbed, who is greatly restless, who is greatly troubled and who can find no rest. It’s all beginning to get him down. He is emotionally stretched, reaching breaking point and not knowing how much more he can take. ‘It’s like my bones are breaking under the stress,’ David declares.

Not only are there these difficulties, but he also knows that they come from God! ‘Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me (42:7).’ David knows that it is God who is able to say ‘I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things (Is 45:7).’

Is David alone in feeling like this? Do we not sometimes feel the same way? David longs for God, and so do we, yet for long weeks and months we cry out to the Lord to deliver us, and to help us, and to feed us as those who feel themselves in the spiritual wilderness. Where is the food for my spiritual hunger? Why do you leave me alone like this O God?

We strive for the glory of God only to be ridiculed and hounded by those who would call themselves our friends and brethren in Christ, and still the Lord does not come to us. We do all we can for God and yet feel no progress in our lives, only continuing hardship.

‘For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company (Ps 55:12-14).'

How hard it is when we feel ourselves betrayed by those in whom we have placed our very lives, our very hearts, the real me, the real you?

There is the loss of loved ones, of opportunities gone begging, prolonged illness, failing relationships, lost jobs, mounting family troubles, trial upon trial and afflictions and persecution. On we go, struggling like David, committed to Christ - yet battling. Then we are told that it is because we are sinning - Oh, what a heart crusher is that!

We know what it is to feel ourselves under the rolling billows of providence, afflicted from sunrise to sunset for weeks at a time, maybe even months, struggling to keep our heads above water - ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me (42:5a)?’

Is there any hope on this treadmill of pain? Is there any reason to go on?


2. Hope In God

Some of us would perhaps think that we should do what Job’s wife suggested to him, that we should ‘curse God and die.’ But is this what the struggling child of God does? Is this what David did? What should you do?

One day at work, some years ago now, a bird flew into our workshop at the village. There was this heavy downpour outside when it came in. So we were watching this bird and it suddenly saw us all there. Then it just went berserk, flapping around and crashing into things. It did it to itself; the way of escape was still there for it, yet it didn’t immediately go out of the door.

When we get downcast, discouraged, disheartened and disillusioned, we act like the bird in that story. There is an escape there, but we don’t use it straight away, rather we begin to injure ourselves and beat ourselves up. It’s not God’s fault and it’s not the Devil’s fault, it’s our own fault - we chose to do the beating when we don’t have to.

There is no need to come down on ourselves and to feel terrible about what we are going through. There is no need to go running off to the world for help in the form of Psychiatrists and phycologists. David here tells us the answer and cure for these conditions.

‘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 (42:5).’

What do we need to do? We need to yet trust in God? We need to yet look to Him and not give up.

‘O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar. Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life (42:6-8).’

Instead of taking heed to all the throng of discouraging voices that surrounded him, David looked to His God. It is here that your faith really comes into play. Do you really trust the Lord, then it will show up in these challenging circumstances.

David tells God about the troubles that God already knows about and then chooses to stay near to His God. Instead of running from the presence of the Lord as we might sometimes do, he draws near to God. Well before James ever wrote, ‘draw near to God, and He will draw near to you,’ David was practicing it.

We oftentimes stop going to church when difficulties arise. Sometimes we stop praying for fear of God’s presence. At other times we stop reading the Word of God. All these things that we should be doing we stop, and thereby we actually prolong our agony because we keep ourselves from the cure of our souls discouragement.

‘Lord I feel such and such a way, but I know you are in control,’ is David’s response. ‘You are in control both in the day and in the night, therefore I come to you and put forth my case.’

‘Wherever providence may drive me,’ David says, ‘I will yet trust the Lord my God, I will remember you, O my God. You have always been there for me, and not only for me, but for all my people also. No matter what befalls me, I will yet hope in God.’

Hope is not a vain feeling of perhaps something better will come, rather it is the certain expectation of faith in God that leaves its souls distress with the Lord. It is a recognition in the believer that God will indeed do what He has promised and therefore trusts Him to do so - knowing that He will do so.

‘Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance (42:5b).’

Things looked pretty dark for David, yet he was trusting God, knowing with full confidence that God could and would do all that He said He would. In God’s time all His promises would be fulfilled and everything would indeed work together for good.

From the very midst of a multitude of troubles David looks forward to the time when the sun will break through all the clouds of his present trouble. ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (46:1).’ It is in this Rock that David now takes His shelter from the waves and billows that roll over him.

What is the answer for you in your struggles believer? ‘Hope in God!’ 'What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us (Rom 8:31)?' 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword (Rom 8:35)?’

Yes, you do have many complex and painful troubles, but He who said ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death,’ has entered into our anguish and heartaches. He knows what we have need of even before we ask.

Brethren, those who are your friends cannot always understand, though they want to; they cannot always help you, though they try desperately to do so, but ‘Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (1 Pet 5:7).’

Are you cast down and torn with troubles, then this is the cure - hope in God! Are you cast down because none seem to be being saved? Then hope in God whose ‘arm is not shortened that He cannot save.’ Are you disillusioned because you feel abandoned and as though few care for you? Then hope in God, who sticks closer than a brother. Are you disheartened because you feel as though the foundations are destroyed? Then hope in God who says of the church that ‘the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’

No matter what it is, I point you to God. Whether it be persecution, loss of loved ones, loss of a job, broken relationships, illness - hope in God, ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).’

Read Psalm 145:14-21. 'The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy. My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.' Amen.



UPDATED: 19 April 2014


Sermons - Psalms

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