There are times of great distress and discouragement for all people, whether they are a citizen of Heaven or not. As lovers of Jesus, we can fall into the trap of thinking we need to be happy and blissful all the time, but that is not reality. We are blessed because we are children of God. We do have joy in the Lord because of His grace and mercy towards us. But we don't always feel that way.
In Psalm 42, the psalmist wrestles with his own soul, and what is recorded is a brutally honest discussion of faith, truth, and feelings. He begins with a declaration of his longing for God. "As the deer longs for streams of water...," is an invocation for a greater desire for the Lord. We sing these lyrics in our worship services and Bible studies in agreement, but possibly not understanding the rest of the psalm. The deer is thirsty because of a lack of hydration, and likewise, the author is writing from a place of difficulty and deficiency. Taunted by enemies, the anguish of soul, regret over what was and is no longer, deep discouragement, tumult and raging seas, feeling forsaken and cast off – all of these make up the context of his thirstiness and longing for the Lord.
We also see a resolve to worship the Lord amid the storm. "[T]hrough each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.” (Psalm 42:8) We can choose to worship the Lord by faith at any time. In fact, every time we lift praises to God, it is an act of faith because we have no control over what will happen. It feels more comfortable to raise a song to the Lord in times of plenty, but it is by faith regardless. Do we choose to praise the Lord in times of peril and dissuasion?
Finally, we see a faithful determination to be hopeful through discouragement. “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!" (Psalms 42:11). Twice in this short psalm, the talks to his soul. It shows a faithful determination to not succumb to the storm, the opposition, or the depression. How often do we simply let the raging seas of emotions in our souls carry us along without applying the reasoning of faith to hope in God and offer praises to Him?
We don’t hear of God’s salvation taking the psalmist's enemies out, rebuking the seas, or answering his questions. But we do hear his longing heart, his resolve to worship, and the hopefulness of a man who knows his God's character. Have you talked to your soul lately?