Friday, October 11, 2019

Arguing with Yourself

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God" (Psalm 42:11).

Psalm 42 is a psalm of distress. The psalmist is in trouble. He finds himself in exile from God’s people and oppressed by God’s enemies. The worst of his troubles, however, is that he feels forsaken by God. On October 3 we discussed the “dark night of the soul.” Here in this psalm we see one of the reasons God takes us through such difficult experiences.

In verse 1 the psalmist says that he pants for God’s presence the way a deer pants for water after being chased. God withdraws the sense of His presence from us in order to make us long for Him all the more, guaranteeing that we don’t take Him for granted.

God’s apparent desertion of the psalmist is not merely subjective, however. While in former times this man was once among the religious leaders in Israel, he soon found himself in exile, away from Jerusalem (vv. 4, 6). His enemies were triumphing over him (vv. 9–10). From all outward appearances, this man had been rejected by God, and people were taunting him, “Where is your God?”

Since many of the psalms were written by David, perhaps this one was also. Certainly the experience of this psalm fits what David went through when Absalom revolted against him. David was driven from the land and could no longer lead the congregation in worship. Enemies like Shimei publicly taunted him. Certainly David felt that all of God’s waves and breakers had swept over him, and that he was being swept away like the wicked at the Flood (v. 7).

Notice how the psalmist deals with this intense depression. He argues with himself. He grabs hold of himself and says, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you upset? Sure, everything’s gone wrong, but God is still God. Hope in God, because the storm will not last forever. The time will come when you will be restored, and you will praise Him who is your deliverer and your God.”

As a kind of second witness, Psalm 43 deals with the same problem and ends with the same refrain. When we go through similar experiences, let us remember these psalms, because they teach us how to deal with ourselves in the midst of spiritual depression.

The psalmist also realizes anew that God can be worshiped even in exile, that His presence is universal. Recall the next time God seems strangely absent that even if you took the wings of the dawn or made your bed in sheol, you could not escape His loving presence.