Hope for Worried Soul (Psalm 42)

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There was an article this past month (May 2013) in the NY Times reporting a story on the CDCP published report that said more people die of suicide than in car accidents.[1] Typically, suicide has been viewed as a problem of teenagers and elderly but presently there has been a surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans. The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50’s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50%. In the last decade, suicide rates have increased for Baby Boomers at an alarming scale. In all, experts say that suicide rates are difficult to interpret the reasoning for the increase because of the variations how causes of death are reported and even more the dynamics of each individual circumstance. Yet, one thing is most undoubtedly a common backdrop: hopelessness.

If that doesn’t get your attention then a recent article from Psychology Today[2] tells us that presently more kids struggle with depression and anxiety than any time in modern history. Interestingly, the most at-risk group is preteens & teens from affluent, well-educated families. In spite of their economic and social advantages, affluent teens experience the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders and unhappiness of any group of children in this country.

The location of your hope will determine the length of your happiness. If your hope is in a job and when you are retired or fired, hope is removed. If your hope is in a life-stage and you experience the shifting nature of circumstances then you realize the uncertain foundation of your life. If you have ultimate hope in a relationship, even a spouse, and disappointment or dejection occurs where do you turn?

This message is one of a series of messages calling you to a greater hope. For emphasis, the location of your hope will determine the length of your happiness. We must hope in something greater than this life. Your hope must not be built on shifting sand but on a firm foundation. Jesus Christ is the solid rock of hope and purpose in life. He is eternal, there are no variations or shadows due to change with God (James 1:17).  Today’s message is Hope For The Worried Soul (Psalm 42) with 2 realities to remember.

Psalm 42 is written by the Sons of Korah.The sons of Korah [Asaph, Heman and Ethan/Jeduthun] are connected with being men in charge of leading songs and praises in the Tabernacle and Temple under David and later Solomon (1Chronicles 6:31-33 – Kohathites). They were noted as gatekeepers (1Chronicles 9:19) and loud praise leaders (1Chronicles 20:19).

Maskil means to enlighten, where the psalmist seeks to instruct his hearers. Therefore, Psalm 42 is a song to teach and awaken the congregation to truth


In our tears we must thirst for the right object (Psalm 42:1-5).

The Psalmist is searching and stressed. Apparently he is in a drought experience and dreaming of fulfilled desires. He uses the illustration of a deer panting for flowing streams of water. His lips taste salty from tears flowing from his eyes down his cheeks (v.3). His rivals are questioning God and his faith. In fact, the Psalmist is even in doubt with a downcast soul (v.5, 11).

Like the Psalmist, there are many today who are searching and stressed. There are many who are anxious and worried, wondering if hope is on their horizon. Tears can lead a person to mistrust reality. The Psalmist questions his depressed spirit and perhaps doubts God’s care (why are you in turmoil within me?”).

Depression affects as much as twenty-five percent of the population. If you are depressed or downcast then you are not alone. The Psalmist identifies with you and even more, Jesus identifies with you. Depression is not necessarily a sign of spiritual immaturity. There were times in Jesus’ life that he felt burdened and heart-broken and culminating at the cross felt abandoned. Depression is a stubborn darkness and spiritual battle. It stills the emotional, mental, and even physical well-being.

And in the midst of the Psalmist search and stress he knows where to turn. He thirsts for God – the living God. Only a thirst for God can overcome tears for this world. He pours out his soul and ponders the days he used to worship with his brothers and sisters in the house of God (v.4). His remembrance of past days is happy as he searches where to locate his present hope.

We must fight like the Psalmist. In the midst of tears and suffering, the Psalmist fought with hope in God. He did not flee his faith to his feelings. He did not surrender to the attacks of his rivals. He trained his heart and mind to fight and focus on his hope in God. God was his repeated salvation [Hebrew plural] for which deserved his praise.

In our trials we must trust the rock of salvation (Psalm 42:6-11).

illustrationSometimes in life you get some mail in your mailbox that does not belong directly to you. It has your house address but instead of your name it simply says “Occupant”. You receive the mail by default of being the resident of that address. Likewise, trials often occur in our life because we are occupants and residents of a fallen world.

John Phillips in Exploring the Psalms 1-88 (p.327) says of this Psalmist, “one moment the sinner stands on the bedrock of hope, the next he is wallowing in the quicksands of horror; one moment he is shouting, the next he is shaking; one moment faith thrills him, the next moment fear threatens him.”

The Psalmist experiences the tension between trials and trust. He hears the roar of waterfalls and feels the crashing waves over his life. He feels forgotten and wounded (vv.9-10). He repeats the questions, “Why are you cast down… why are you in turmoil within me?”

God’s church should create space for those who are struggling to trust God in the midst of trials. Every one of us experience trials – either we are enduring a trial presently, coming out of a trial previously or we will be entering a trial in the future. One person said, “Everybody hurts… sometimes”. And it seems these days that sometimes is growing to be a lot more often than we would like. The brokenness of the world surrounds us on a daily basis, whether it’s a public tragedy or a personal heartbreak. The world we live in is increasingly broken, desperate for hope with people longing for home.

And each of us respond differently. As believers we must permit each other to struggle through why trials are occurring to them and what God is teaching them in the process. While we honor each other in the struggle we must also hold each other accountable for the hope of salvation.

God is our hope and our help. He is a rock – all other ground is sinking sand.

God commands his steadfast love and his song is always with us.

Psalm 77:6 “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart”

Job 35:10 “…God my maker gives songs in the night”

Habakkuk 3:17-18 “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, YET, I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord is my strength”


There is hope for your worried soul…

ð     For what does your soul pant and thirst?

Jesus says, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:14-15)

ð     Where do you turn when faced with trials?

  • Trial do not test your faith but reveal your faith.

Jesus says, “In the world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28)


ð     Depression may be darkness to you but you must discipline your heart and hope.

  • The way the Psalmist did this was to ask questions of himself.
    These questions in vv.3, 5, 9, 11 are not hopeless but hopeful. They are tools for self-evaluation to gain perspective. They show that he is not complacent in his relationship with God but seeking contentment in it.à Commit to personal disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, worship…

    • In Fall, likely to repeat a course on “Spiritual Disciplines”

à Commit to connecting – “doing life together”

  • We can defeat worry and depression through the discipline and power of praise of God’s love
    • Psalm 42:2 “My soul thirsts for God… When shall I come and appear before God?
    • Psalm 42:5 “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him”
    • Psalm 42:8 “at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life”
    • 1Corinthians 9:27 “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”


à Commit to daily encountering the gospel

          Instead of listening to yourself, talk to yourself

Martin Lloyd Jones (Spiritual Depression)

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says,: “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.”

Hope in God.

Lamentations 3:20-26 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,  “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

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