I don’t know why I felt downcast; I just remember frequently feeling so as a young adult. Maybe I didn’t feel strong enough, smart enough, or pretty enough to navigate independent living. Maybe I cowered at the challenges that lie before me. Maybe I feared I’d never find a husband. I don’t know.
I remember frequently seeking comfort in the Psalms. The first time I ran across Psalm 42:5 …
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
… I thought Oh! I’m not alone in these feelings. Then to my surprise, I read those exact same words again in verse 11 and in the following psalm. Wow! Someone was really discouraged.
Many scholars believe David wrote these psalms during the time he had fled from his son Absalom. That would certainly depress a person. Not only was David at extreme odds with his son, he was also driven from his happy place—the tabernacle of God—the place he loved to worship and relish God’s presence.
How many of you have been there? Run off, one way or another, by your children … or spouse, coworkers, church members … You even felt driven from the Lord’s presence. You are not alone. Even David, the man after God’s own heart, experienced this isolation. Maybe it was the isolation that drove Him to search for God’s heart.
In the very next phrase of Psalm 42:5, David exhorts his soul,
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him.
Hope! Nothing lifts a downcast soul like hope.
When you think of hope what do you envision? In what do you place your hope? In whom do you place your hope? There’s only One that guarantees to never disappoint. God.
The book of Psalms (NKJV) uses the word hope 28 times; 8 of those instances occurring in chapter 119 (the chapter praising the importance of God’s word). Wondering what the word hope means in Psalms, I dug out my old Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. First of all, the object of hope is always either God or His word.
- At times hope means a refuge, safety, security and surety. When you feel surrounded with insurmountable schemes of the enemy, God is your refuge and surety.
- At other times hope insinuates a confident trust and assurance, even to the point of appearing foolish. Blind faith in God, though, is not blind even when it appears so to those around you.
- Once in Psalm 119, verse 116, the psalmist uses the word hope as a confidence grown from scrutiny. Hope grows as you study scripture.
- One time the word used for hope is very visual—the image of an unbreakable cord attached to an expectation of the fulfillment of a longing— a hope for which one lives. Are you that confident God will come through for you? Is He the fulfillment of your every longing? Is your attachment to Him as strong as a fetus’s umbilical cord?
Most of the time in Psalms, however, hope means to wait patiently, to hang out and trust, to sit down in confidence that in time God will accomplish His purposes. This is quite a different scene than scrambling around trying to fix things yourself as you constantly fail and get batted back and forth. This is the hope David had in God when fleeing from Absalom. Though he had been rejected by his own son, though he was far from home, and though he couldn’t even feel the presence of God, He knew God would come through. He had no question that some day he would have reason to praise God and celebrate in His presence.
In fact, if you read these psalms you will see how David describes his difficulties and his feelings about them, then turns and worships God while the problems are still active around him. Check out the following chapters: 16, 31, 33, 38, 39, 42, 43, 71, 78, 119, 130, 131, 146, and 147.
The antidote to discouragement, anxiety, loneliness, and emptiness is God. The best way to get to know God is by reading His word. Sounds too simple, I know. There are no guarantees than any of your problems will ever get fixed. The promise, however, is a strong heart regardless.
Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)
copyright March 2016 by Cheri Johnson