Kia ora Cambridge Baptist and friends,
If you felt disappointed about the government’s decision not to move to alert level 3 yesterday you are not alone. It will be another week before you get to sip on a flat white, or munch through your favourite takeaway, and at least another three weeks before you can socialise outside of your bubble and perhaps 6 weeks before we will be able return to holding services at church, and even then at reduced numbers. As a pastor that’s what I’m struggling with most – not being able to meet with you all in person – I remember how it used to me. People praising and worshipping God in the auditorium - the buzz of people in the lounge after the services.
In today’s passage of Scripture, Psalm 42, we see the psalmist, who as a Son of Korah, was in charge of temple worship also feels depressed about the fact that he is absent from God’s house, and this has led him to feel that God is absent from his life. What makes the problem worse is that the people he is with instead of encouraging him and saying things will soon back to normal, they tease him and suggest that God has abandoned him. And as his mind drifts back to happier times, when he used to go with crowds of people to God’s house, he gets even more depressed.
Let’s read a portion of Psalm 42 so we can put it in context.
Psalm 42: 1-5
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.
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.
In verse 5 of the Psalm we see the psalmist pushes pause on replaying how it used to be in his head, because he realises surrendering to depression and discouragement is never a good idea. So, he preaches to himself (or self-talks) and challenges his negative feelings and emotions and brings them before God. He reminds himself that he should reset his hope in God, because he will come through again. Why? Because he has always come through before.
While the psalmist knew he had valid reasons to feel discouraged - he is far from home and God’s house, he is being taunted, he is having painful memories of better days, he realises that they are not a good enough reason to feel depressed, when he takes time to think of the greatness of God, of his favour and presence.
So, while the psalmist doesn’t feel like praising God at that moment, having done what he could to redirect his hope in God, he knew that praise would soon come.
There is so much for us in this Psalm for us at the present moment. Yes, we have legitimate grounds to feel discouraged, we have been in lockdown for nearly a month, there are real risks to our safety and jobs and we recall better days, but like the psalmist we can’t give in to depression. We need, when we feel discouragement setting in, to challenge ourselves and preach to ourselves and ask the question, “why am I feeling discouraged?”, "where do I put our hope?" We need to remind ourselves of the precious and great promises of God and how he has come through in the past. If we do this, while we may not at the moment feel like praising God - praise will come.
Father God in our discouragement remind us of our hope, remind us of what you have done for us in the past, and fill us with your presence and turn our tears into praise. Turn your countenance towards us like the morning sun.