Daily Devotional: Psalm 42:5
"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."
Following Jesus doesn’t mean that life is without sorrow, pain, suffering, or even depression. Some the most influential and impactful men and women of faith throughout history have struggled mightily with depression. Here are just a few:
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 19th century prolific preacher
- David Brainerd, 18th century missionary to Native Americans in Delaware
- Adoniram Judson, 18th century pioneer missionary to Burma
You can add to this list the author of Psalm 42. The psalmist speaks to his own soul, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” It is as if the psalmist can’t understand why his own soul should be as troubled as it is. Often times we can identify those things that are causing us sorrow or pain; and yet there are other times when we cannot identify the depression that comes. In the examples above, each had significant, almost debilitating bouts of depression, sometimes at the height of success and achievement in their lives.
If it was indeed King David who wrote Psalm 42, he would have experienced this profound depression while at the same moment being the most prestigious King in Israel. It is David’s lineage that God would promise unbroken royal reign, and from which Jesus the Messiah would eventually come. It was David who experienced the highest of highs for Israel as nation. Yet, he was capable of also going through deep lows as well. Towards the end of Psalm 42, we get to the depths of the psalmist's depression:
I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” —Psalm 42:9
Can it be that God has forgotten the Psalmist? Will God forget us? Are we left to mourn the oppressions of the world, without hope?
No, God never abandons nor forsakes those whom he loves. Though we certainly will go through those seasons where we may feel distant from God, that he is far from us, perhaps even to the point of forgetting us, nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38–39).
The final verse of the Psalm is not a desperate searching for a God who has abandoned him; the psalmist reminds himself a third and final time:
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. —Psalm 42:11
In spite of the depression, he tells his soul to again Hope in God. He is truly our salvation and our God.
The psalmist turns not to food, to vain entertainment, to psychological method, or to distractions to buoy his low spirits. Rather, he acknowledges his downcast soul, and instead instructs it to renew a hope in the God who is salvation, who never forgets or abandons his people.