It is amazing to me how the words of Psalm 42 speak, with such relevance, to us today. The number of new cases of depression is skyrocketing. Loss of jobs, loss of income, and loss of social interaction are just some of the reasons why many are moving from discouragement, to depression, to despair. The American Pediatrics Association has raised concern and says that the increased level of family stress coupled with the interruption of regular routine (scouts, little league base ball, family vacations, etc.) is taking a toll on the children of our country. A friend of mine, who is a therapist with one of the larger Christian Counseling centers in Tulsa, told me in the past thirty days they have had over 100 new client intakes, mostly dealing with depression, substance abuse, family stress and violence. I believe that the words of the Psalmist (identified as the Sons of Korah) in Psalm 42 are words we need to hear...
In Psalm 42 (and 43) the writer describes challenging and stressful times. In these two Psalms the writer discloses an inward personal struggle with discouragement, depression and despair. Still, in the midst of these difficulties, the Psalmist also describes for us a Path to Joy. In essence, the writer gives us four words of advice:
1. Be Honest With God. The Psalmist is straight forward in sharing his emotions. He clearly reveals his inner struggle when he says, "I'm depressed." In fact he says, "My tears have been my food day and night." (vs. 3). In vs. 4 he raises the question, "Will I ever be in worship and have fellowship again?" The Psalmist is not afraid to tell God exactly how he feels. We too, in our time of prayer, need to develop the practice of being completely honest with God. Being honest with God is the first step in our Path to Joy.
2. Commune With God. The Psalmist describes his quest for God in these words: "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." (vs. 1 & 2). When trials and heartache come our way, our souls long to find comfort and renewal through intimacy with our Creator. "Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me." (v. 8). Like rain pouring down on parched land, through communion with God our souls can be replenished by the streams of His Spirit. These are indeed times for us to come to God, sit in the presence of God, listen to God, and pour out our hearts to God.
3. Let Your Hope Be In God. In the midst of trials, tragedies, and traumas, we put our hope in many things: the medical community, political leaders, school systems, and churches. But three times, in Psalms 42 and 43, we are exhorted to "Put your hope in God," (vs. 5, 11; 43:5). In other words, God is the one, ultimately, who will see us through.
I remember years ago, as a young pastor, doing a funeral with an older, more seasoned pastor, and as we came to the time, at the graveside, for the words of committal, I watched as he turned to the grieving family and said, "We've gone with Bill as far as we can go. We entrust him now to the hands of God." I was struck by those words, because they are reminders that as clergy (doctors, politicians, community leaders, etc.), in the midst of personal tragedy and strife, there is only so far that we can go. From that point on we have to put our faith in God. And that is, in fact, the fourth word of advice the Psalmist gives us...
4. Trust God. Again, in Ps. 42: 5, 11, and 43:5, coupled with the exhortation to "put our trust in God" we hear this promise, "for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." The Psalmist looks forward, with confidence, to a new day in which sorrow will be turned to joy. Our job, is simply to walk this path that leads to joy and to trust that God will be true to His word.
No one is exempt from the stresses imposed upon us by the covid-19 virus. Some are coping better than others, but almost everyone I talk to admits that they are growing weary of threats and life changes that have come their way. Still, in the midst of difficult times, there is a Path to Joy. The Psalmist describes it for us, and God invites us to walk with Him every step of the way.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.