Psalm 42 conveys a feeling I’ll bet we’ve all experienced:
“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” (Psa 42:5 NLT)
Today, the Psalmist offers an antidote to being discouraged and saddened. I wonder if their advice works for you?
Let’s start by looking at the same phrase later in the Psalm… but with the antidote included this time:
“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!” (Psa 42:11 NLT)
The Problem with Hope
I don’t know about you, but having someone tell me to “put my hope in God” doesn’t sound like the cure for discouragement. For one thing, hope isn’t very tangible… and for many, hope in God is even less tangible.
When I’m discouraged, I need something more immediate.
Hope in God sounds like something for the future. We have the hope of heaven, or the hope of Jesus’ return to make the world right. But how does that help us now?
Making Hope Present
One thing that the Psalmists are very good at is remembering God’s unfailing love. God’s character and God’s actions are often recounted, even in the same Psalms where they express discouragement and sadness.
I think the Psalmists were on to something. They recognized that God is present and God is at work… right now! If we look at the sweep of Scripture we see a God who is extremely active in unfolding a plan to bring his discouraged and saddened children back into the fold.
I’ll bet if we took a few moments each day to look around us, we would see that the same God is still at work in our lives. I’m not talking about looking around by watching the news (let’s face it… sensational sells, and sensationally bad sells even better! Talk about a source of discouragement!).
I’m talking about looking around in a community of people who may be discouraged, but still believe that God is at work. The people who will put their trust in God and press on. If you don’t have such a community, perhaps you can start one!
I can name several little moments where I’ve seen God’s active hand in people’s lives around me. I’ll bet with a little practice, you can too!
Hope and Perspective
Finally, I’m struck by the difference in perspective the Psalmist points out:
- I (as in, the individual) and discouraged and sad… so I will put my hope in
- God – who saves, loves, and has a plan to redeem his children (i.e. is not discouraged and sad)
The more I can get up out of my small and very human perspective, the more I can tap in to a plan that gives me reason to hope. As I remember the character of God… the unfailing love, the mercy, the strength, and about a thousand other positive traits, I find myself… wait for it… less discouraged and sad.
Maybe that’s why the Psalmist says that after placing his hope in God, he (the Psalmist) will praise him… again!
I pray you’ll find strength, courage, and gladness as you place your hope in a God who is active. And I pray that your discouragement and sadness melt away in the presence of an active God who is worthy of our praise… again!