Psalm 42 reflection
Tabitha Rao, curate of Toxteth St Bede with St Clement, responds to Psalm 42
The writer of this psalm is isolated, and he longs to be in God’s presence. And yet, as with most psalms like this, the psalmist has a hope of better days ahead. Along with his sad words about his soul, is an expression of hope- “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God”.
The psalm is relevant for such a time as this when COVID-19 is making us all a bit sad and helpless — the grieving, the sick, the isolated, the workers on the frontline and everyone in-between. Some of us have questions which, still unanswered, makes God seem far away. Some of us even find it difficult to pray at this time. The words of the psalmist could as well be our words:
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?” (verse 3)
It is hard not to get worked up emotionally when going through a hard time. I have been there. However, the beauty of psalms like Psalm 42 is that, while they acknowledge that we will experience difficult times, they would not leave us in the pit of hopelessness. The switch came for the psalmist in verse 5 (and repeated in verse 11).
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.
What changed? The psalmist stopped listening to himself and started talking to himself instead. Indeed, we tend to wallow in sadness when we keep listening to our self instead of talking to our self. The challenge is for us to take those negative thoughts that come to us captive in obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). The psalmist does this by talking to himself: “Why, my soul, are you downcast?” he asks. And he tells his soul what to do: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”
In this life, there is hope for our souls in the living God. A hope to be found in Christ alone. No matter our circumstance, God is always with us. There, in the presence of God, you can find joy and peace. Jesus offers us words of hope and comfort when we feel downcast and facing an impossible situation in Matthew 11: 28 – 29; Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”.
The challenge for us, therefore, is for us to respond to this invitation from Jesus. Go to him with your worries. Spend time with him and his Word. (The Psalms are helpful for this.) And as you see his promises of Hope in his Word, speak it to yourself and let your heart be revived. If you will desire God as the psalmist did, you will find the reassurance that he found.
Psalms Summer Reading Challenge
Join Archdeacon Simon in this year’s Summer Challenge reading the book of Psalms together. Sign up to this course and you will receive weekly emails encouraging you in your reading. The Psalms are the hymnbook and the prayerbook of the Temple, and of the Church. In these 150 songs the Psalmist explores the whole range of human experience, with all its highs and lows, of human life lived in the presence of God, and sometimes the experience of the apparent absence of God too. Find out more about the challenge and how you can get involved.Course 19 PartsTotal current bookmarks 13