Psalm 42-43 Part 2



The psychology instructor had just finished a lecture on mental health and was giving an oral quiz.
Speaking specifically about manic depression, she asked,
“How would you diagnose a patient who walks back and forth screaming at the top of his lungs one minute, then sits in a chair weeping uncontrollably the next?”
A young man in the rear raised his hand and answered, “A basketball coach?”
We laugh, but real depression is a serious problem.
“Mild or severe, depression affects more people in our culture than any other emotional disorder,”
It should not be surprising that the Bible has much to say about depression.
A thorough study would consume many sermons, but Psalms 42 & 43 give us some solid counsel.
How is your heart?
What is going on with your soul?
Psalm 42–43 ESV
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. 1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. 5 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 6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. 8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. 9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” 11 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. 1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! 2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? 3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 5 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.
Last week as we began reading this psalm together.
We first saw that the psalmist was distant from the temple of God.
He desired to be with God.
His soul thirsted for God.
But he could not appear before God.
In verse 5 We first see the questions asked,
Psalm 42:5 ESV
5 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
The psalmist is admitting that there is a problem.
He recognizes his spiritual depression.
This was the first step needed to address spiritual depression.
To recognize and admit that there is a problem.
There is something going on with our soul.
the first step when you’re depressed is, recognize it and begin to confront yourself as to the reasons why.
The second step is to think biblically about difficult circumstances.

2. If your depression stems from overwhelming circumstances, think biblically about those circumstances.

Learning to respond biblically to trials is one of the most crucial lessons you can learn as a Christian.
God has given us the resources to be overwhelming conquerors in even the most desperate situations,
Romans 8:35–37 ESV
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Living by faith means choosing to believe God and His Word rather than circumstances.
So we need to answer several questions when we are overwhelmed by circumstances, as the psalmist was:
(1) Are my circumstances due to any known sin on my part?
In Psalms 32, 38, and 51, David’s depression was due to his sin.
If we’re aware of disobedience to the Lord, we need to confess it, turn from it, and appropriate His cleansing and forgiveness.
If we’re not aware of any sin, then we need to be careful to continue walking uprightly before the Lord,
We must not give in to the temptation to rail against God in our time of trial.
There’s a difference between complaining to the Lord in a submissive manner and shaking your fist in His face.
The psalmist here doesn’t mention any sin on his part.
He is confused and he feels as if God has rejected him, and he tells God those feelings.
Psalm 42:9 (ESV)
9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me?
But it’s also clear that he had taken a stand by testifying to his enemies that the Lord was his God.
They were throwing it back in his face, asking, back in 43:3 “Where is your God?”
This added to his despair, because he didn’t want to bring reproach to the name of the Lord.
The psalmist wants to follow God’s light and truth (43:3).
He wasn’t suffering due to sin.
A second question to ask is
(2) Does God want me to do anything to change my circumstances, or am I shut up until He acts?
Sometimes the Lord wants us to take steps to get out of our troubles: write a resume, call for the job interview, etc.
I remember once when I was single and feeling as if I’d never get a godly wife.
God helped me through different circumstances to see that I was not in a position to love a wife as I ought.
I was far too distracted by sin to love a wife as I ought to.
And God showed me that.
God showed me that I did not have a strong relationship with himself yet either.
Rather that praying and relying upon him, I was relying upon my own strength, skills, and abilities.
The psalmist seemed to be shut up in his overwhelming circumstances, with no where to go except to pray fervently.
If that’s where you’re at, then pray fervently!
As long as we have access to God in prayer, there’s hope!
God can change things drastically and quickly when He’s ready (see Gen. 39-41, Joseph in prison in Egypt).
The third question to ask -
(3) If I can’t change my circumstances, how does God want me to change my attitude?
The psalmist here is aggressive in confronting himself
(three times) to deal with his despair so that he can regain a sense of God’s presence.
He can’t change his circumstances, but he can change his focus from himself and his overwhelming situation to God.
By the end of the psalm, his circumstances haven’t changed, but his attitude has, because he has deliberately focused on the Lord.
We are commanded in the Bible to rejoice in the Lord always
Philippians 4:4 ESV
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 ESV
16 Rejoice always,
The only way to obey that command sincerely is to change my attitude by changing my focus from self to God.
A fourth question to ask is
(4) Is God in sovereign control of this situation or not?
If so, what is He trying to teach me?
Obviously, God is sovereign even over the evil and sinful things going on in this world.
No one can thwart His purpose (Eph. 1:11; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).
God is in control of all things.
But it’s easy to doubt or forget that fact when you’re overwhelmed by a trial.
So you have to affirm God’s sovereignty in the midst of your trial.
The psalmist does that here when he calls the waves that were crashing over him ““Your breakers and Your waves” (42:7).
It was evil men who were oppressing him,
but the psalmist knows that God has them on His leash, as it were, and that He has sent this trial for His purpose.
Some Christians say that God didn’t cause a trial, He just “allowed” it, as if that somehow gets Him off the hook!
Or, they blame Satan for a trial, as if he sneaked up and did it when God was asleep!
But the Bible is clear that trials come from the Lord for our benefit
Look at what Paul writes in Rom 5
Romans 5:3–5 ESV
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Psalm 66:10–12 ESV
10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. 11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; 12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
James 1:2–4 ESV
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
You may think, “How can God be good and bring a catastrophe into the lives of His children?”
Our problem is, we underestimate the strength of our flesh.
We are blind to the extent of our pride.
We are dull as to how much we love this wicked world.
So the Lord in love sends overwhelming trials to teach us not to trust in ourselves, but in Him alone.
Paul provides for us an example of this in 2 Cor.
2 Corinthians 1:8–9 ESV
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
That leads to the third step in dealing with depression:

3. When you’re depressed, your main need is to seek God Himself, not just relief.

When we’re in emotional pain, we should see it as an opportunity to seek God and grow in Him, not just try for quick relief.
Though the psalmist was in pain, he realized that his real need was God (42:1-2, 5-6, 11; 43:4-5).
In fact, he begins this psalm by recognizing that above all else, his need was for God and God alone.
Matthew Henry ([Revell], 3:394) comments on 42:1: “casting anchor thus at first, he rides out the storm.”
The first place you need to cast your anchor when the storms of depression hit is pray,
“O God, my soul pants and thirsts for You, the living God!”
(1) Seek the person of God.
The psalmist’s thirst for God seems to grow in intensity, not slacken.
Matthew Henry puts it (3:394) that the psalmist thirsts “for nothing more than God, but still for more and more of him.”
Depression can either whet or dull our thirst for God.
God allows suffering to drive us closer in dependence upon Him.
The need for the depressed person is reality with the living God.
We are to hope in Him; He is our help.
The psalmist knew God personally before this trial hit.
Note how he calls God “my God” (42:6, 11; 43:4, 5);
“the God of my life” (42:8);
“my rock” (42:9);
“the God of my strength” (43:2);
“God my exceeding joy” (43:4).
This tells us that the godly can feel depressed.
But it also tells us that the time to prepare for crises is before they hit.
He had spent time with God before and knew God as his God.
Therefore he had a refuge, a familiar relationship to turn to in his time of despair.
(2) Seek the presence of God.
The psalmist wanted to appear before God (42:2),
to know the help of His presence (42:5).
That sounds good on the surface, but when you think about it, to appear in the presence of God can be a terrifying thing, even to the godly.
If there is sin in your life, the light of God’s presence shines on it and brings it into the open.
So the only person who can truly desire the presence of God is the one who is willing to confess and forsake sin.
God sometimes shows us our need for Him by depriving us of the sense of His presence and help,
so that we will all the more seek Him.
The thirst for God when He is absent is a sure sign that we are His children.
(3) Seek the praise of God (42:8; 43:4).
When you’re depressed, the last thing you feel like doing is praising the Lord.
But, praise is a command, not a feeling.
If we obey, we often feel better.
The song drives the darkness away.
To praise God is to focus on His attributes and actions.
As we deliberately direct our thoughts to God’s saving grace toward us in Christ,
that He, by His mercy, drew us out of a horrible pit, our spirits will be lifted.
(4) Seek the precepts of God (43:3).
God’s light and truth from His Word will show us the way back.
Again, even if you don’t feel like it when you’re depressed, read God’s Word and ask His Holy Spirit to shine His light into your darkened heart.
The psalms are always a great place to start.
God’s light and truth are threatening to the soul who does not want to confront his own sin and self-focus,
but God’s truth will lead you to His dwelling place where you will find God Himself to be your exceeding joy (43:3-4).
All of this must be done in a community of fellow believers.
(5) Seek God with the people of God (42:4; 43:3-4).
The psalmist seems isolated in his depression, which is often the case.
But he realizes that the place of joy where the need of his soul would be met is in corporate worship with God’s people.
When you’re depressed, you often want to avoid people, especially gathering with God’s people.
But that’s what you need.
Go against your feelings and force yourself to gather with God’s people to seek Him.
There is something about corporate worship that cannot be experienced in individual worship.
(6) Seek to serve others.
In the middle of spiritual depression it feels like we are alone and worthless.
Becoming focused upon ourselves.
It is the truth of God that brings us back into a right relationship with him.
The purpose is to ultimately serve others.
Psalm 43:4 ESV
4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
Praising God in this manner helps others to do the same.
As Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote
The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’--what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’--instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God”.
Is God Himself “your exceeding joy” today (43:4)?
If not, don’t rest until it is true.
Your need is not happiness; your need is not relief from your pain; your need is God!
Thirst after God!
Rouse yourself to seek Him as your only source of hope and help, no matter how despairing your circumstances.
Hope in God! You shall again praise Him, the help of your countenance and your God!
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