Good Grief: Sadness (Psalm 42)

AUDIO

MOTIVATE

  • Our TL/AHG group started to learn archery this past week; thanks Bob Danton!
  • For whatever reason, archery reminds me of deer hunting.
  • Indirectly, I have killed 3 deer, but I am not a hunter; though not opposed to it, just not self-initiated.
    • Buick Skylark on Route 2 in Owings, MD
    • Ford Taurus in Huntingtown, MD with Danielle
    • Toyota Echo in Zebulon, NC with Danielle
  • Today’s Scripture talks about a deer…
  • If you haven’t turned the channel online or haven’t tuned me out live, we’re in Psalm 42 this morning.

Grief is about learning to get through whatever we are going through. Grief is not limited to loss of life, but all losses in life. When it comes to grief, we can try but to heal we can’t go around/over/under/by, but we have to go through them. Grief can be a gift if it draws us closer to God. That’s what this series is about…

img_4227

EXAMINE           Psalm 42

Many view Ps 42-43 as a single psalm.

  • Ps 43 is w/o inscription and the psalms contain common lyrics.
  • Common lament: “Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (42:9; 43:2)
  • Common refrain: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (42:6, 12; 43:5)
  • Common hope to return and meet with the Lord and His people (42:2, 4; 43:3-4).

 

As last week’s message stated, the Psalms are both inspiration (songs “to the Choirmaster”) but are also instructional (“A Maskil”); they inform about all of life, especially seasons of sadness and grief from a world out of alignment with God’s ways (cf Ps 1).

This psalm is from the sons of Korah. Korah was a descendant priest, but his pride got the best of him as he rebelled against Moses. God’s judgment came upon these rebel priests and they all died (Num 26:9-11). However, Korah’s sons were spared, and a known descendant would become the godly prophet Samuel (1Chro 6:31-38). The sons of Korah were stewards of the tabernacle, and some were expert warriors with King David (1Chro 12:6). In all, these individuals played an important role in Israel for writing at least 11 Psalms and leading the nation to worship the Lord.

In our despair, we must discern our intake.

The psalmist writes with much imagery. He describes his difficulty with a scene from nature, with a deer panting an thirsting for water (42:1). Contrary to the serene cross-stitches, the comforting wall canvases and peaceful coffee cup impressions of this psalm, the actual setting is a deer, dying to quench its thirst.

Few of us have truly experienced significant and severe dehydration. This is more than the 3-year old saying, “I’m sooo firsty and neeeeeed a dwink.” We’re talking dehydration that results in slumped posture, staggering movements, hallucinations and rapid heart pumping that will cause fainting and eventual death. Dying of thirst is not tranquil.

The psalmist is confessing desperation for God, “O God. My soul pants for you. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (42:1-2). Like an animal in a dry place, the psalmist is spiritually dry and despairing of energy. Though he longed for a refreshing drink, instead all he tasted day and night were droplets of salty tears. David isn’t just talking about a bad day but a darkness overwhelming his soul for days leading to a life season – kinda like 2020.

If the psalmist’s inward and downward spiral is not enough, he hears the external criticisms and insults: “Where is your God?” (42:3) The age-old question, “If God is so good, then why is there so much bad in the world?” In other words, the derisions of the multitudes are creating doubts in the mind and heart. His present circumstances are mocking his past faith, with doubt re-writing history.

  • Remember when God saved you? That wasn’t real and God doesn’t care about you.
  • Remember when you felt close to God? That wasn’t real, it was just people puffing up your emotions.
  • Remember when people helped you in weakness? That wasn’t real, they just wanted something in return later.
  • Remember when the word convict you to a new life purpose? That was just you with another bad idea that never works out.
  • Let creation clarify who is in control. The psalmist’s vivid imagery is not only poetic but pedagogical. On occasion the Scriptures use creation as a teaching tool for life and faith.
    • Learn from the ant who works and prepares… and the sloth who is lazy (Proverbs 6:6-9)
    • Where were you when I created clouds, made mountains, fashioned oceans… Do you sustain the process of life for all the animals and refilling the earth generation after generation? (Job 38-40)
    • “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him? (Ps 8:3-4)
    • Consider the ravens and lilies of the field for how God cares for them, how much more you (Mat 6)
    • The successive nature of our world reminds us the sun will come up tomorrow even if there’s cloud coverage; earth will continue spinning and changing seasons, and God is faithful.
  • Look up when you feel down. As the psalmist cried out to God, so must we share our struggles and sadness with the Lord. Notice how the psalmist describes God as “the living God.” It is clear the psalmist understood faith was an intimate relationship with a personal being. God is alive and active in the world, even if our circumstances are out of control and our emotions are engulfing us. God is alive as our Creator, our strength, and our Savior.
  • Be aware of empty calories spiritually. Whether common circumstances or grieving seasons, there are some matters that will drain you spiritually. Like the junk food that fills and fattens, there are items that do not nourish our soul. Be wise toward the meals you eat and the diet you follow.

 

In our despair, we must ask the hard questions.

Undoubtedly, the psalmist feels abandoned and exiled. He has fading memories of festive gatherings and processions in God’s temple (42:4). He is forcing himself to remember being with God’s people to see the familiar faces, hear the songs and shouts of God’s children from young to old, and to feel the warmth of the gathered people of God. Yet, this forced nostalgia is no substitute for reality.

We need to remember. Remembering the goodness of God and God’s people keeps us going. When we are despairing, we will be tempted to detach and divide ourselves from others. However, these are the moments we need to deepen our connections and solidify our faith.

Even more, those who reminisce over a previous era of church traditions but fail to appreciate how far God has led you and His faithful work in the present are often missing the point of gathering with God’s people.

  • I’m 43 and I don’t listen to the same music I did when I was 13 or 23.
  • In hindsight, today I don’t have superficial relationships. There’s a breadth and diversity to those whom I relate young and old, male and female, differing economic status and ethnicities. I don’t just relate to those who can do something for me but have learned the value of being able to offer what God has poured into me.
  • Likewise, God’s people need a re-awakening for the church today. The living God and His kingdom is not a distant memory but the most relevant movement to address the pressing issues of today. The local church is God’s plan A for addressing the puzzles, the problems, the pains, and the evils of our day.

We further see the psalmist’s plight: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (42:5) When it comes to grief, few are willing to allow themselves to feel or speak of our sadness. Seriously, who wants to sit with the sorrowful or weep with the mournful? Yet, the psalmist is not afraid to speak of grief and raise hard questions.

We need to know that questioning and crying out to God is permitted and encouraged. If we do not express our emotions or discuss our doubts, then our faith isn’t real. The Christian life is one of faith AND feeling; we just need to make sure which is in the driving seat. If we allow our feelings to direct our daily decisions, then we will lack consistency and integrity with a foundation for life. However, if we let our feelings be informed by our faith then our life has a sense of purpose and zeal. All that to say, God invites us to be real and we should awaken our affections for God and not just relegate them to things that only matter for a moment compared to eternity.

Earlier the psalmist longed for the refreshing waters to quench his thirst. However, his mind wanders to the worst-case scenario about the waters that turn into crashing waves and dangerous tides (42:7). In fact, this is one of the word pictures for grief that is quite accurate: treading water, feeling the force of each successive wave without an end in sight.

The geographical references of Jordan, and of Hermon, and Mount Mizar are not entirely certain, but reflect areas far away from Jerusalem. The psalmist is in exile, away from home, away from comfort, away from the people of God, and he feels forgotten. “I say to God, my rock: ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy.” (42:9)

Again, the psalmist listens adversaries that wound with every word, saying, “Where is your God?” (42:10). There comes a moment when taunts move us to tears. The feeling of helplessness sinks from head to heart to stomach, and the ache in your bones.

There’s ample medical evidence that depression takes a significant toll on one’s physical health: mood changes, nighttime sleeplessness, daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, susceptibility toward abuse of substances, other complicating health issue, not to mention the impact on relationships and daily life. Depression has become so prevalent in society that it is now identified as a disability and is one of many factors that lead to suicides.  In all, here is what I have observed:

  • Hard questions deserve to be discussed with mature believers and/or a pastor/counselor. By all means, pray to God with what’s on your heart, trusting He responds through His Spirit and the Scriptures. But, many times God has placed people in your life to help you process life’s problems. Sadness is not weakness but shows your realness.
    • My most challenging but fulfilling moments in my calling as a pastor is discussions about hard questions. I don’t mean questions like “How many angels can dance on the pin head of a needle?” But the questions that have impact on one’s personal life, spiritual growth, family decisions, and eternal destiny.
    • Some of you are grieving over a life circumstance and you’re in between SHOCK-SADNESS-RAGE… and you’re holding it in. My friend, today/week is the time to seek healing. Grief can be a gift if it helps us grow closer to God. Are you ready?
    • Some of you have friends grieving and you don’t know how to help. We need the reminder that presence matters more than proficiency. When Jesus walked in our world and encountered persons or families facing death, He gave himself. He listened and loved. He cried and touched in appropriate ways to bring comfort, hope, and peace. Taking time to be with another in their grief matters and is more important than knowing all the right words to say. Weep w/ those who weep.

 

In our despair, we must hum for hope.

The repeated refrain of the psalmist is: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (42:5, 11) Additionally, the psalmist recalls the steadfast love of God waking him up each morning and the faithfulness of God singing him to sleep at night: “at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life” (42:8). Is this a happy praise song? Is this a happy ending? No, it’s more like the hum of a tune that though we can’t bellow the words, the music resides in our soul and whispers from our lips that God never leaves us nor forsakes us.

Like almost everything in life the Psalm perspective is mixed. There’s brokenness mixed with blessedness, pain mixed with promise, sorrow mixed with joy. The psalmist’s struggles are significant, and his faith is stable. He is not surrendering to his emotions nor caving to external oppressors. Instead, he’s pleading and fighting for hope. He is not where he wants to be in peace or praise, but hope is present.

We live in a world that pushes for an either/or mentality. We seek clear categories and definite divisions. But deep down we know life does not work in this pattern. Christianity is not escape from problems but endurance in them through the presence of God.

  • What’s your song? Pick an old one and a new one. Share your song and its lyrical meaning with three unique people this week.
  • Don’t treat corporate worship casually. It is here we encounter the living God. It is here the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit speaks through His word. These moments together in the presence of God shape our soul in countless ways and prepare us for the weekly battle in a world filled with despair, darkness, and prowling devil. By all means necessary, present the members of your body to the Lord each day and each week. Establish a regular rhythm of encountering God with the local church.

APPLY/THINK

Before we close, we must be reminded how meeting with God is different.

  • Ask a student if they want the teacher hovering over their shoulder the duration of a test? No, because the stress and fear of putting pencil to paper is already enough.
  • Ask an employee if they would want to have their boss evaluate every working hour? No, because the feedback would be relentless.
  • Ask a thief if he would want to appear before the judge? No, because the sentence of judgment would come.
  • But ask a child if they want their father’s presence while walking a dark and dangerous path and immediately they would extend their hand for an embrace. God is a holy torment to those who have not received His grace and forgiveness through the cross, but to those who know His steadfast love, He is the one our soul thirsts for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
    • He is living because He is the starter and source of life.
    • He is living because His words have truth and power over the wind and waves.
    • He is living because He conquered death through the resurrection.
    • He is living because His promises are sure and His hope is everlasting.

 

Romans 8:31-32, 35-39
31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
39  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ps 34:18 “The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s