There are those who experience seasons of persistent sadness from the result of lingering adverse circumstances or personal crises.
The writer of Psalm 42 indicates that he experienced a persistent sense of sadness. He says, “Deep calls unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts. All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.” The emotional distress he experienced continued wave after wave, just like the incessant, unrelenting movement of the ocean tides. It is such a powerful description he gives about his situation. Perhaps the same may be for you, and you long for relief from the Lord.
It is at this point we can learn several vital spiritual truths from the Psalmist. The beginning point involves the identification of inadequacies in his soul. He emphasizes the inadequacies of his soul in five ways. There are the panting soul (v1), the thirsting soul (v2), the poured-out soul (v3), the cast-down soul (v4), and the disquieted soul (v5). Each of these conditions of the soul combined to contribute to his persistent state of sadness.
When he confesses that his soul pants after God, he suggests that he is spiritually out of breath. How can one possibly be spiritually out of breath? It happens particularly when one allows themselves to be consumed with sadness to the point that the daily necessity of being filled with the Holy Spirit is forgotten. All too easily forgotten is the exhortation of Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit,” through which we may otherwise thrive spiritually.
The other inadequacies of the soul to be identified involve the thirsting soul, which, being out of water, lacks the joy of God’s salvation. The poured-out soul is out of focus, which suggests not keeping eyes on Christ. The cast-down soul is out of strength for not staying in touch with the real power of God. The disquieted soul is out of rest. God gives refreshing spiritual rest to those who advantage themselves with it.
Thus, seasons of persistent sadness require an honest identification of the inadequacies of the soul. By doing so, one may prayerfully and Scripturally compensate and correct.
Within the context of resolving persistent sadness, the Psalmist reveals the necessity of not forwarding accusing questions.
The Psalmist directs three questions to God: “When shall I come before you, God?” “Where are you, God?” “Why have you forgotten me, God?”
These are questions typically accusatory of God. Such questions cloud judgment in such a way so as to wrongly implicate God for sadness. Accusatory questions disrespect the Lord’s love for us.
Another clue the Psalmist gives to help us involves the practice of worship. “I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day.”
It is incredible that people place worship at the bottom of the list of priorities when they experience a time of crisis. Rather, we should rush to worship where we can corporately come into contact with God.
Another clue is found in his determination to remember God. Said the Psalmist, “I will remember thee from the land of Jordan.” Our point of remembrance reference should always be the Cross of Jesus Christ. Though Christ was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief, we should always “Look unto Him, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
If Jesus Christ joyfully overcame the rigors of the Cross, it should be readily recognized that we, too, can overcome any source of sadness that confronts us.
One last clue the Psalmist reveals to us is to hold onto the hope. He speaks to his own soul, and says, “Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is the health of my countenance.”
The countenance of God is a holy quality that rubs off on us. It is comparative to being around one whose joyful character is contagious. One cannot help being the same.
In much the same way, God’s countenance is a help to us. His countenance is the source of health for our own countenance. The quality of His hope rubs off on us to negate nagging sadness. God loves you. Do not be always sad.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.