This morning as I prepared my heart for worship, I spent some time meditating on Psalm 43:5, "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." The following thoughts came to mind:
1) The soul will sometimes be downcast and disturbed. This is part of the universal human experience.
2) Such times of disquiet (a word that seems appropriate in these days of noise and confusion and shouting voices) are not to be despised, much less are they to be denied. Part of our journey will include those times of inner turmoil and soul disturbance.
3) We should not deny the truth about our own condition. This week I read a funeral sermon for a pastor who committed suicide. The man giving the sermon (a former seminary classmate) used as his text the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." We are all poor in spirit, he said, and part of our poverty lies in the fact that we don't realize how broken we are. Often it takes a tragedy to show us the truth. How desperately we all need the grace of God. How hopeless we are without it.
4) The psalmist felt overwhelmed by his enemies who were oppressing him (vv. 1-2). He feels that God himself has abandoned him ("Why have you rejected me?"). Our enemies will almost always be the folks closest to us. We are told to love our neighbors and to love our enemies because they are often the same people. And that sort of pressure can drain the life right out of your soul.
5) What do you do when you can't change your outward circumstances? Your only hope lies in changing your inner circumstances. The psalmist practiced a little godly self-talk. He talked to his own soul. For many people, self-talk only makes things worse, but here it makes things better. He asks his soul, "Why are you downcast?" Good question. Perhaps we should all look in the mirror and ask, "What's wrong with you?" The answer may surprise us.
6) He gives his soul an order: "Put your hope in God."
7) And he adds a promise: "I will yet praise him."
8) And he ties it to God's promise and his faithfulness: "My Savior and my God."
Spurgeon has a nice thought about the little word "yet." "Oh! what a glorious “yet” that is. How it swims! Never was there a swimming suit like that which is made of hope."
When these moments come, and they come to all of us again and again, we must do what the psalmist did. Talk to your soul. Find out why your soul is upset. Tell your soul to trust in the Lord. And make a determination that when the trial is over and the dark clouds lift, you will "yet" praise his name. Finally, to borrow another phrase from Spurgeon, "follow hard after God." If you focus on your troubles, you will sink ever deeper. If you focus on the Lord, at least your have set your compass in the right direction. You may still be in the darkness, but if you follow hard after God, the light will shine again. Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
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