Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.
Psalm 42:5 & 11
Sometimes, intense suffering leads to extreme depression and an intense feeling of isolation. C.S. Lewis wrote in “A Grief Observed” after the death of his wife that he felt as if God had slammed a door in his face, bolted it, and then, silence. Here also, the psalmist writes about his struggles and sorrows, and his desperation for God’s presence (verses 1-2), is like a thirst for water. God also appears to be far away (verses 2-3).
In those times of crises and alienation, we need to remember our past experiences of joy and thanksgiving with God (verse 4), even as we bring our sorrows to Him. Of course, overcoming desperation and depression does not go away easily; evidenced here too by the writer, as he wonders why he is so troubled, when he should instead put his hope in God (twice he asks himself this question, in verses 5&11, and also in Psalm 43:5). We need to ask ourselves right and challenging questions (e.g. verses 2&5), and avoid those that will discourage us (e.g. verses 3, 9, 10). And then, preach to ourselves, to put our hope in God. Reflect on God’s promises in His Word, and pray to the God of your life (verse 8).
C.S. Lewis wrote later in his journal, “A Grief Observed”: “When I lay these questions before God I get no answer; but a rather special sort of ‘No answer’. It is not a locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze; as though he shook his head, not in refusal but waiving the question, saying “Peace, child, you do not understand.”
May we, like the psalmist, continue to turn to God, even when we do not understand, in times of fear and grief, and put our hope in our God and our Saviour. Hope is waiting for God. Hope is focused on the glorious acts of salvation and hope remembers God’s love (verse 8).
“When we cannot find joy in our circumstances, we can find joy in God, who is unchanged and unchanging. We can rejoice not in what is going on around or within us but because He is our strength and will continue to be.” Katie Davis Majors “Daring to Hope”
Ref: Faithlife Study Bible, NBC Carson et al