Psalm 42-43

When You Are Deeply Discouraged or Depressed in Life, 42:1-43:5

(42:1-43:5) Introduction: surely there is no greater tragedy than a person’s committing suicide. Every year, thousands of people choose death over life. Many of these suffer from deep depression and can find no hope for the future.

Depression affects nearly all of us at some point in our lives, if only to a minor extent. Indeed, the illness has many causes, and science has proven that physical or chemical factors in our bodies and minds can contribute to depression. As a result, many drugs have been developed to help with these deficiencies. Doctors, therapists, and counselors are trained to help people cope with depression. In many cases, long-term treatment is required.

Scripture is not silent about depression, discouragement, or despair. In fact, some of God’s greatest heroes battled depression. The Bible records that Moses, Elijah, and Jonah suffered through times of discouragement so deep that they desired to end their lives (Nu. 11:14-15; 1 Ki. 19:4; Jon. 4:8).

The author of Psalms 42 and 43 was battling depression when he penned these psalms. Exiled from home and oppressed by cruel enemies, he cried out to God for help. He confronted his downcast soul in a refrain that establishes the theme of these psalms. He was totally disheartened and recognized that his only hope was in the Lord.

Most scholars agree that Psalms 42 and 43 were originally one song. Three strong signs supporting this opinion are ...

We do not know why or when the song was divided into two psalms. However, it appears this way in the Septuagint,

Psalms 42-49 are attributed to the sons of Korah (see Psalms, Introduction). Whether these songs were actually written by the sons of Korah or for their use in temple worship is unclear. However, most scholars conclude that the psalms were written by the sons of Korah. Some think, though, that David wrote them and instructed the sons of Korah to sing them. Others believe that the sons of Korah wrote the psalms but that they based them on the events of David’s life. These psalms are unquestionably written in David’s style and reflect his zealous love for God’s house.

Some who hold that David is the author believe the occasion for writing was his son Absalom’s rebellion against him, which forced King David into exile. The great nineteenth century preacher Charles Spurgeon argues this position passionately:

Although David is not mentioned as the author, this Psalm must be the offspring of his pen; it is so Davidic, it smells of the son of Jesse, it bears the marks of his style and experience in every letter. We could sooner doubt the authorship of the second part of Pilgrim's Progress than question David's title to be the composer of this Psalm.

Another belief is that the author was a Levite worship leader, perhaps a son of Korah who had been exiled to a Gentile nation, maybe as a hostage in time of war. Still others suppose he was one of Korah’s sons who accompanied David into exile.

The fact is, we do not know for certain who wrote these songs. But we do know the purpose for Psalms 42 and 43: they are maschil psalms, songs of instruction and teaching. Whatever his circumstances, the author was suffering through a period of intense trials, trials so severe that they plunged him into deep depression. Psalms 42 and 43 are inspired by God’s Spirit to teach us what to do when we find ourselves in the same pit of despair. This is, When You Are Deeply Discouraged or Depressed in Life, 42:1-43:5.

1. Tell God how deeply you yearn for His presence (42:1-5).

2. Remember God no matter how desperate your situation (42:6-11).

3. Pray for God to defend and deliver you (43:1-2).

4. Ask God to restore you (43:3-4).

5. Encourage yourself in the Lord: Put your hope in God and praise Him, for He is your Savior and your God (43:5).

1. (42:1-5) Tell God how deeply you yearn for His presence.

The dejected psalmist used a vivid image to express his intense need for God’s touch: Like a parched hart or deer searching desperately for water in the wilderness, his soul craved the energizing strength, hope, and joy found only in the Lord. Emotionally and spiritually dehydrated, he cried out to God from the bottom of his heart.

a. Because you feel alienated from God, cut off from His presence (v. 2).

The psalmist desperately longed for the Lord to rejuvenate his spirit. But he was far from Jerusalem and the temple where God’s presence dwelt. Because of this, he felt unable to connect with God.

Under the old covenant, God’s presence dwelled in one specific place: the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle (and, later, the temple). The psalmist felt alienated from God because he was away from this sacred place. Therefore, he asked God how much longer it would be before he would be able to return to Jerusalem to stand before Him.

Under the new covenant, God does not abide in a specific place but in His people. Through His Holy Spirit, the Lord lives within every true believer (Rom. 8:9; 2 Cor. 6:16). Although God’s presence is always within us, we may at times feel disconnected from God just as the psalmist did. Any number of factors can cause us to feel far from God, including ...

b. Because your heart is broken by unbelievers taunting and ridiculing you (v. 3).

The psalmist was under enemy oppression (43:2). One way these hostile unbelievers tormented him was by ridiculing his faith in God. As he continually cried out to the Lord, his circumstances remained unchanged. It seemed as though God did not even exist. This provoked the psalmist’s foes to taunt him mercilessly. Hence, their jeering multiplied his pain, causing his tears to flow even more.

Where is your God? is a question that the idolatrous Gentile nations commonly asked the Jews (Ps. 79:10; 115:2; Joel 2:17; Mic. 7:10). When God’s chosen people faced trouble, unbelievers mocked their faith in God, just as they do today. We must remember that the presence of problems in our lives does not indicate the absence of God. Believers will always face trials and tribulations, but this does not mean that God has forsaken us or that He does not exist. We serve a God who promises to be with us at all times, especially in the midst of trouble. He will strengthen us to endure whatever trials confront us, and He will carry us safely through them.

Let your conversation [conduct] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isa. 41:10).

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isa. 43:2).

c. Because you can no longer go to the house of God (v. 4).

The psalmist’s spiritual suffering was compounded because he could do nothing to change his distressing situation. He could not return to Jerusalem to worship with God’s people. Memories of better days—past celebrations in God’s house—only intensified his craving for the Lord’s presence. There had been a time when he was the most excited of worshippers, leading the joyous procession to God’s house. Now, lonely and depressed, he yearned to be among the congregation again as they marched to the temple on the holy days, the days of celebrating the feasts ordained by God under the law. How he ached to be with the people of God, dancing and singing in praise and worship to Him!

d. Because your soul is downcast, disturbed, deeply troubled (v. 5a).

For the first of three times in these psalms, the author addressed himself. He described the troubled state of his soul (42:11; 43:5), the seat of his emotions, as both cast down and disquieted. Cast down (shachach) literally means bowed down or sunk low. Disquieted (hamah) means in an uproar or in turmoil. Simply put, the psalmist was trapped in the mire of depression. Feelings of despair and hopelessness raged within him, keeping him in spiritual and emotional turmoil.

e. Because your hope is still in God: He is your God and your Savior (v. 5b).

Notice how the psalmist sought to take control of his emotions rather than allow his emotions to control him. In an attempt to lift himself out of the depths of depression, he encouraged himself in the Lord (see 1 Sam. 30:6). He exhorted his soul to hope in God. In his darkest hour, the psalmist spoke to himself in faith rather than doubt, reminding us of Paul’s testimony in the midst of his fierce trials:

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you” (2 Cor. 4:8-14).

Just as Paul believed that God would deliver him through his trials and spoke accordingly, the psalmist spoke in faith. He believed that God would help him. He praised God from the pit of despair. When he could not go to the place where God’s presence dwelled, he believed that God would come to him. He would be helped by God’s countenance (paniym) or face, which refers to God’s presence.

The word hope in Scripture means something much stronger than what it often means today. When we talk about hope, we are usually speaking of a positive attitude toward the future, or a wish or desire, as in, “I hope what I want will happen. ...” But hope in Scripture is a firm assurance that God will do what He has promised, according to His perfect timing. Hope is the reality of what is yet to come. It rejoices in promises God has not yet fulfilled. This unshakable confidence strengthens us to wait and endure until the Lord performs what He has promised.

Verse 5 is a refrain that declares the great lesson of this song: in times of severe trial, when we find ourselves getting disheartened or discouraged, we need to proclaim our faith in God. We need to encourage ourselves in His faithfulness and find strength in His promises. Lifting up our praises to Him can drown out our cries of despair from within.

Thought 1. When is the last time you yearned for God, when you fervently desired His presence? Too often our prayers are consumed with what we need from God rather than for God’s presence. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with asking God for what we need. In fact, Jesus taught us to do so (Mt. 6:11). But we must realize that the greatest need of our lives is for God Himself, His holy presence. We were created for a relationship with Him. Through Him, we have lasting satisfaction and fulfillment. We have joy, peace, security, and strength.

Imagine how you would feel if your children only talked to you when they wanted something from you! Imagine how you would feel if they never climbed into your lap, or begged you to play with them, or put their arms around your neck and kissed you! Surely the heart of God must break when we, His dear children, desire only what He can give us. Surely He grieves when we do not yearn for Him and for His assuring presence!

The great reward for seeking God is finding Him (Jer. 29:13). But we must seek Him with all of our hearts, as this psalmist did. When we genuinely and wholeheartedly yearn for God, we will find Him. He will hear and respond to us and, in Him, we will find everything that we need.

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Mt. 5:6).

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (Jn. 7:37).

“O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Ps. 63:1).

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).

Thought 2. Notice how the psalmist longed to worship God with the congregation (v. 4). He was truly grieved because he could not be in God’s house with God’s people. Sadly, many professing believers today do not share his passion for assembling with God’s people for worship. To many, church attendance is a dreaded duty rather than an anticipated delight. Tragically, the zeal for corporate worship that David and the early church experienced is missing in many hearts today (Ac. 2:46-47, Ps. 122:1). Yet God’s command regarding assembling with His people remains unchanged:

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).

Note the clear exhortation of this verse: as we draw nearer to Christ’s return and the day of God’s judgment, we should assemble with God’s people more, not less. We need the encouragement of God’s people and the preaching of His Word to help us remain faithful to Him during the perilous times in which we live (2 Tim. 3:1). We have to resolve to be faithful to God’s house and make gathering with God’s people a foremost priority in our lives.

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Ac. 2:46-47).

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25).

“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1).