Sad but Stubborn: Thirsty for God

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1)

How often do you feel sad? Sadness can be a fleeting feeling in the middle of a busy day, or it can overwhelm us for weeks and months. We’re going to talk about sadness (or depression or “feeling down”) this week – but we’re not going to talk about how to fix it.

sad_350Psalm 42 is a song about sadness apparently intended to be sung in public. The writer admits to being deeply “downcast,” but he responds to his sadness in a weird way. More on that later in the week.

He starts the song with the picture of a thirsty deer looking for a stream. It might be easier for us to imagine a dog coming in from a long walk and making a bee line for it’s water dish. The writer’s point is that he was thirsty for God like that – needy, eager, desperate.

More tomorrow about feeling lonely for God.

Think: Do you ever feel so lonely for God that it feels like a thirst, like you’re desperate? Would it be weird to feel sad because you can’t be with God?

Pray: Ask God to help you to increase your thirstiness for him.

Do: Think about being needy for God in your soul next time you feel physically thirsty.

Sad but Stubborn: Homesick

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:2)

It’s a vivid memory. I was in college at the time and sitting in my car in a Wendy’s parking lot and listening to Rich Mullins sing “Be With You.” And out of nowhere I felt like crying.

sad_350I’d been thinking a lot about what was missing in my life. I’d been a Christian since kindergarten. I’d pretty much done everything I knew to do as a Jesus follower. Why didn’t it feel like enough? Why was I wondering if I’d been wasting my time? Wasn’t following Jesus supposed to take away all the emptiness?

Then I heard Rich sing that song and it hit me: “I’m not home, yet.” I’m not with God, yet. Not in the way I will be. What I was missing was being with my Father – and that loneliness made perfect sense.

The writer of this psalm is probably describing getting “home” to the temple and his worship of God there, but the emotion resonates. Paul described it, too. We were made for the Father and we won’t be fully satisfied until that moment comes.

Think: Have you ever had that sense that something was missing even though you had done everything a “good Christian” should do? Have you ever connected that feeling with being lonely to be with God?

Pray: Ask God to help your loneliness for him to draw you closer and to deepen your love and worship for him.

Do: If you haven’t, yet, read Paul’s description of this feeling in Romans 8:22-25 – and how the Spirit helps us turn that healthy sadness into prayer in verses 26-27.

Sad but Stubborn: Pour Out Your Soul

“My tears have been my food day and night, while men 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 with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.” (Psalm 42:3-4)

The writer of this song is about to get stubborn in his sadness, but first he pours out his soul to God. It’s the right approach for all of us when locked in a battle with sadness or depression or even just feeling down. You can’t make the best use of your sadness if you can’t tell yourself the truth about it.

sad_350“Why isn’t your God doing anything good to help you?” That’s what is implied by the taunts of the unbelievers in the writer’s life. They noticed his sadness and challenged his faith in God.

But the songwriter refuses to give in completely to despair; he refuses to give up on God even though he is overwhelmed by loneliness and sorrow. He makes a stubborn choice to remember a happy moment of being caught up in the worship of God (probably at the temple in Jerusalem).

That choice of what to dwell on with his mind seems to lead to the determination we’ll see in the next verse tomorrow.

Think: What do you choose to dwell on when you’re sad? Have you noticed that choosing to think about happier moments and worshipping God helps you to keep from giving up completely?

Pray: Ask God to help you when you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed or depressed to have the self-control to dwell on worshipping him and on some joyful moments he has given to you.

Do: Write a quick two or three sentences about one of your most joyful memories that included worshipping God.

Sad but Stubborn: Talk to Your Soul

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5)

Do you ever talk to yourself? I don’t mean muttering incoherently while you walk around downtown in your bathrobe. I mean really talking to your “soul,” as the writer of this song so eloquently describes it.

sad_350I took up the habit of intentionally talking to myself a few years ago after thinking through this psalm. It’s not a new-agey kind of thing where I’m trying to get in touch with my lost inner child or something. It’s just an exercise in self-control – one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. It’s a technique for saying to my emotions, my desires, my wandering heart, “Look, I refuse to slip all of the way into despair (or lust or distraction); this is how it’s going to be. Remember what’s true.”

And that led this writer back to worship. He said to himself, “Why are you so upset? Hope in God! You’re not done praising him. He is the Savior. He will save you.”

Think: What do you need to remind your soul about today? What will keep you from taking control of your heart and trusting it to God?

Pray: Ask God for the self-control to put your hope in him, to remind yourself of the truth.

Do: Ask a friend or two if they ever tell themselves what to do as a way of taking control of their emotions. Does it work for them?

Sad but Stubborn: Don’t Wait

“My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (Psalm 42:6-7)

Those who have never faced a serious depression have trouble getting this idea of having a “downcast soul.” The writer here isn’t just bummed out because he’s having a bad day. He describes a deep sadness that won’t quickly pass.

sad_350Still, he refuses to wait for a better day to “remember” God. He describes his location. If he’d had a GPS locator, some scholars tell us that he would likely have been checking in from the mountains north of the Sea of Galilee – far from where he wanted to be worshipping God at the sanctuary in Jerusalem.

If it had been me, I might have decided to let my sadness pull me under for a while until I was in a better place to get my head on straight with God. But the writer was stubborn. He remembered God right where he was. He remembered that God controls the waves – even the ones that had swept over him. He would keep trusting.

Think: Have you been putting off getting closer to God because you’re not in the “best place” right now? What’s wrong with that idea? What would it take, really, for you to remember God wherever you’re at right now?

Pray: Ask God to help you to remember him even when your circumstances aren’t what you wish that they were.

Do: David’s song in Psalm 63 sounds similar to this one in some ways. Check it out.

Sad but Stubborn: Why?

“By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’ ” (Psalm 42:8-9)

There’s something heartbreaking about these two verses together. The writer – in deep despair – still stubbornly refuses to allow his sadness over his circumstances to turn him against God.

sad_350Just the opposite: He admits that God loves him. He sings his prayerful night song to the “God of my life.” Instead of shaking an angry fist at God, he is trusting, almost sweetly submissive in his attitude.

But that doesn’t keep him from asking God the hard questions: “God, my Rock, why have you forgotten me? Why is the enemy winning? Why must I feel this way?”

I believe this is exactly the right response to God during the worst times of our life. Sadness with stubborn trust. Praise with brutally honest questions. Seeking comfort while being honest from your gut. Respect. Sincere prayer. And the determined choice to keep trusting even when the answers don’t come right away.

Think: Which is harder for you when life is hard – to keep your heart soft and close to God or to ask him your hardest “why” questions? Is it possible to ask God “why” while still being convinced that he is acting in love for you?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to harden your heart toward him when life is hard, but also to be honest with him about what’s hard about life while trusting him with the outcome.

Do: Read what Paul wrote in Romans 8:31-39 to Christians about what God is doing for us and feeling about us while we’re going through hard times.

Sad by Stubborn: Even in Pain

“My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:10-11)

Have you ever been so sick or injured or sad that you thought you were going to die – or felt like maybe you wanted to? The writer of Psalm 42 seems to be describing severe physical pain on top of all of his emotional suffering on top of being mocked along with his God.

sad_350Once more, though, he refuses to give up. After asking God the hard “why” questions in the previous verse, he turns the questions on himself again: “Why am I so downcast? This is not the end. My hope is in the God who saves – I will not stop praising Him.”

Job made a similar declaration when in physical and emotional agony at no fault of his own. He said about the God he was convinced could end his suffering, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (See Job 13:15.)

For those who trust in God, life’s worst days call for the best kind of stubbornness to keep hoping in the God who saves, to keep trusting and praising the God who comforts and rescues and will one day bring us home.

Think: How much harder is it to trust and hope in God when you are hurting physically as well as emotionally? How much difference does it make to know that God is for us and that Christ understands our physical and emotional pain after what he experienced on the cross?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be stubborn even when you’re sad, to keep praising, trusting and hoping in him even on your hardest days.

Do: If you know a Christian who lives with ongoing physical pain and still seems to trust God and live joyfully, think about asking how he or she does that.