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Psalm 42 is my assignment this evening.
Listen carefully as we are addressed by God through this Psalm.
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me continually,
"Where is your God?"
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?"
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
"Where is your God?"
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Author Paul Tripp has devoted much of his
life to studying biblical counseling, and has written the finest single
volume I have read on the topic of biblical counseling: Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in
Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (P&R, 2002).
Paul is a true Puritan, a most effective "physician of the soul."
Recently I came across the following insight in Paul's writing. Listen
carefully as Mr. Tripp describes the most influential voice in your life.
I find myself saying it all the time. When
people hear it they laugh, but actually I'm being quite serious when I say
it. Here it is. No one is more influential in your life than you are because
no one talks to you more than you do. You're in an unending conversation with
yourself. You're talking to yourself all the time, interpreting, organizing,
and analyzing what's going on inside you and around you.
You may be talking to yourself about why
you feel so tired. Or maybe you woke up this morning with a sense of dread
and you're not sure why....Perhaps you're reliving a conversation that didn't
go too well. Or maybe [you're] preparing yourself for a conversation that may
be difficult by conjuring up as many renditions as you can imagine, so you
can cover all the contingencies. Maybe your mind has traveled back to your
distant past and, for reasons you don't understand, you're recalling events
from your early childhood....
The point is that you are constantly
involved in an internal conversation that greatly influences the things you
decide, say, and do....
What do you regularly tell yourself about
yourself, God, and your circumstances? Do your words to you encourage faith,
hope, and courage? Or do they stimulate doubt, discouragement, and fear? Do
you remind yourself that God is near, or do you reason within yourself, given
your circumstances, that he must be distant? Do you encourage yourself to run
to God even when you don't understand what he's doing? Or do you give
yourself permission to back away from him when you are confused by the
seeming distance between what he's promised and what you're
experiencing?....When others talk to you, is your internal conversation so
loud that it's hard to concentrate on what they're saying?
Here's the question. How wholesome,
faith-driven, and Christ-centered is the conversation that you have with you
No one is more influential in your life
than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do. You are in an
unending conversation with yourself. This conversation never ceases. It began
when you awakened this morning and it will continue until you fall asleep
this evening. It is actually taking place within you right now, even as I
speak. And this evening we will consider and examine this unending
conversation taking place within yourself, and
within yourself each and every day.
Even though this conversation is
constantly taking place within us, rarely do we examine this conversation or
evaluate the content of this conversation. Rarely do we consider the
influence of this conversation upon our lives. And most of us don't consider
this unending conversation as significant, or serious, or ultimately
influential. But we are mistaken, because this internal conversation has the
most influence on your soul each and every day. You are more influenced by
this internal conversation than you are by your parents, your pastors, your
friends, your teachers, circumstances, and at times even more than God and
his Word. Apart from God's activity in our lives each day, this conversation,
and the content of this conversation, is the difference-maker in your soul
each and every day. And there is a direct relationship between the content of
this unending internal conversation and the state of your soul each and every
So examining and evaluating the content of
this internal conversation in light of holy Scripture, and informing this
conversation with the content of holy Scripture and the gospel, can—and by
God's grace, will—make all the difference in your soul and in your life.
And in Psalm 42, we have the unique
opportunity of listening in on the internal conversation of the psalmist. We
have the unique opportunity to overhear the psalmist as he examines and
evaluates the unending conversation taking place in his soul. The psalmist
records this internal conversation, and he humbly shares this with us. He
shares with us his internal conversation so that we might examine and
evaluate the content of our internal conversation and the influence of that
conversation upon our lives.
1. THE TROUBLED SOUL
As we overhear the internal conversation
present in this psalm, it is immediately obvious to all of us that all is not
well within the soul of the author. The mood of this psalm is obvious
throughout this psalm. This man's soul is troubled, and the conversation
within his soul is troubling. His soul, in verse 5, is downcast. His soul is
cast down. His soul is in turmoil. And there is a repetition in verses 5 and
11. His soul is downcast. His soul is in turmoil.
And perhaps you are familiar with this
experience yourself. Perhaps as we read through this psalm, the content and
mood of this psalm resonated in your soul. Well, to differing degrees I think
we are all familiar with the experience of the soul in torment. And certainly
no one who is present is exempt from this experience. But if you are not
prepared for this experience, you will be vulnerable to temptation and sin
when you have this experience. The psalmist, in effect, prepares us for this
experience. The psalmist identifies with us in this experience, and he
teaches us how to respond to this experience.
If you are familiar with a downcast soul,
this psalm informs you that your struggle is not unique and you are not
has said, "The Psalms have always been favorites of God's people because
they express honest human experience and emotion in the context of faith. In
the Psalms you meet God where you are."
Yes, they have always been favorites
because they express honest human experience and emotion. In this psalm we
obviously have honest human experience and emotion in the context of faith.
So prepare this evening to be freshly introduced to God right where you are
Now, it would appear that the author's
soul has been troubled by three different experiences, experiences that we
are all familiar with.
A. Troubled by the Absence of God (vv.
The author of this psalm is a godly man.
He is numbered among the sons of Korah. He is
numbered among the Levites who were involved in leading temple worship.
Please note that the psalm does not begin
with a reference to his troubled soul. Instead, at the outset of this psalm
we encounter a thirsty soul. "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so
pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?" (vv. 1–2)
Initially the psalmist portrays himself as
thirsty for God, not cast down or troubled in his soul. The author is
passionate about God, and the author of this psalm is passionately pursuing
God, not indifferent to God, not maintaining a distance from God, not openly
or secretly pursuing sin against God. No, there is a pronounced thirst for
God in his soul. And this passion for God is so pronounced that he likens it
to a deer desperate for water in a time of drought or when pursued by
The opening lines seem to reveal an increasing intensity. He begins with a
reference to God, and then he references the living God, and then finally he
cries out, "When shall I come and appear before God?" (v. 2) The
author has an intense, impressive, compelling appetite for God. He is thirsty
for God, yet his soul is downcast and in turmoil. How can that be present
simultaneously in this man's soul? Why is he downcast? Why is his soul in
Well, his soul is downcast and in turmoil
because, even though he longs for God, he feels distant from God. Though he
is thirsty for God, he feels alienated from God. He longs for God, yet he
feels forgotten by God. He is passionate for God, yet he feels abandoned by
God. Meet a man who desires God's presence, but feels God's absence. Meet the
His sense of estrangement from God is only
heightened by his geographic separation from the temple and its worship. He
writes in verse 6 from Palestine, and he remembers the joy of former days:
"how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house
of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping
festival" (v. 4). He passionately desires a renewed experience of that
very special communion with God that he experienced in public worship during
the appointed festival season. He is thirsty for this, but it ain't happening!
It is quite possible to be thirsty for
God—to seek God and to serve God—and yet at times not sense the nearness of
God and instead feel the absence of God, resulting in a downcast and troubled
soul before God.2
Would you be surprised tonight to learn
that those we rightly respect and revere in and throughout church history are
familiar with this experience?
Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892)
Charles Spurgeon wrote the following:
Why, I tell you, young Christians, that
the most experienced believers, the men who have great doctrinal knowledge
and much experimental wisdom, the men who have lived very near to God and
have had the most rapt and intimate fellowship with their Lord and Savior,
are the very men who have their ebbs, and their winters.3
And Spurgeon himself was very familiar
with those ebbs and the winter season of the soul. John Piper, in giving a
biographical address about Mr. Spurgeon, noted his recurrent battles with depression.
John Piper writes,
It is not easy to imagine the omni-competent, eloquent, brilliant, full-of-energy
Spurgeon weeping like a baby for no reason that he could think of. In 1858,
at age 24 it happened for the first time. He said, "My spirits were
sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not
what I wept for."....
He saw his depression as his "worst
feature." "Despondency," he said, "is not a virtue; I
believe it is a vice. I am heartily ashamed of myself for falling into it,
but I am sure there is no remedy for it like a holy faith in God."4
Spurgeon would once write, "This
depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for
my ministry."5 Charles Spurgeon
was very familiar with a downcast, troubled soul.
Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758)
So was Jonathan Edwards. In his biography
on Edwards, George Marsden writes, "We know that he [Edwards] also
suffered from depressions throughout his life....Even as he kept the
disciplines of the faith, he was frequently afflicted by times of spiritual
deadness."6 Jonathan Edwards
was frequently afflicted by
times of spiritual deadness.
Martin Luther (1483–1546)
And so was Martin Luther. On one particular occasion when he was greatly
discouraged—which was not unusual for Luther—he was forcefully reminded of
this by his wife, Katharine. Seeing him unresponsive to any word of
encouragement, one morning she appeared dressed in black mourning clothes. No
word of explanation was forthcoming, and so Luther, who had heard nothing of a bereavement, asked her, "Katharine, why are you
dressed in mourning black?"
"Someone has died," she replied.
"Died?" said Luther. "I
have not heard of anyone dying. Whoever can have died?"
"It seems," his wife replied,
"that God must have died."7
Luther got the point.
These men were familiar with the
experience of the psalmist. And if this is your experience at present, or
when this is your experience in the future, these stories should give you
hope. And most importantly, we should derive hope from the divinely inspired
author of this particular psalm. His soul is downcast. He is thirsty for God.
He is passionately seeking God. He longs to experience communion with God.
And yet his soul is downcast, in turmoil, and troubled because it seems God
has forgotten him. He is more aware of God's absence than he is of God's
presence, and the result is a troubled and downcast soul.
B. Troubled by the Presence of Trials (vv.
Secondly, his soul seems to be affected by
the presence of trials. Rather than the joyful sounds of temple worship that
he identifies in verse 4, all the psalmist seems to hear is vividly described
in verse 7: "Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your
breakers and your waves have gone over me."
These waters symbolize trials and
suffering. These waterfalls, waves, and breakers are continuous, relentless,
and overwhelming. And the sound of this waterfall and these breakers is
deafening. He is not only aware of the seeming absence of God, he is very
aware of the presence of trials in his life. "All your breakers and your
waves have gone over me."
Perhaps tonight you in some way can relate
to the psalmist. Perhaps you are lonely. Perhaps you came to this conference
alone. It doesn't appear you have friends. It appears to you that everyone
else has friends. You, in the midst of this large congregation, feel alone.
You are intimate friends with loneliness on a daily basis.
Or perhaps you thought you would be married
by now. Yet lately you have begun to think, "Will I ever get
Or perhaps this evening you are familiar
with chronic debilitating sickness in some form, quite uncommon for someone
your age. At an age when most are experiencing the fullness of youthful
strength, you have a chronic, debilitating illness which makes even the
simplest task each day very difficult.
Your soul is downcast. It is troubled. You
are in turmoil. Trials like waves, like breakers, ceaselessly and endlessly
overwhelm you. The psalmist, though thirsty for God, is downcast because of
the seeming absence of God and the presence of trials.
C. Troubled by the Opposition of Man (vv.
3, 9, 10)
Finally, it appears he was affected by the
opposition of man. He is familiar with opposition. "While they say to me
continually, 'Where is your God?'" (v. 3) "Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?" (v. 9) "As with a deadly
wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually,
'Where is your God?'" (v. 10)
His soul is downcast and troubled because
of the opposition of man. And for us, that opposition can come in a spiritual
or supernatural form. It can come in the form of the demonic. It can come in
the form of fiery darts from the evil one taunting us on a daily basis,
arguing with us that not only is God invisible, he appears to be quite
inactive in your life.
You appear to be abandoned by God. You
appear to be forgotten by God. And we, too, are familiar with those
tormenting thoughts, those secret fears that we are suspicious at times might
be true, because they in some ways seem to be true as we evaluate and assess
our circumstances and trials that we are experiencing.
And the opposition comes in the form of
individuals as well. And if you are a college student—and the majority
present are college students—you will know opposition. If you identify
yourself as a Christian, if you identify yourself with the gospel of Jesus
Christ, if you identify yourself with the authoritative content of holy Scripture,
you will experience opposition, because this culture is hostile to God and
his Word. And regardless of how humbly you hold your biblical position, you
will experience, to some degree, opposition from this culture.
The Inevitability of Hostility
Opposition is inevitable. We live in a
culture hostile to all we believe and proclaim; hostile to masculinity and
femininity as defined in Scripture; hostile to the commands of God forbidding
fornication, adultery, and homosexuality; hostile to the prescribed commands
of God for sexual purity prior to marriage and fidelity in marriage; hostile,
most of all and most importantly, to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and his
death on the cross as the
way to be reconciled with God.
Regardless of how humbly you hold those
positions—and I pray you do hold them humbly, and from my observation I
commend you for holding those positions humbly and not self-righteously—you
will know opposition. You will know opposition from relatives, teachers,
employers, and coworkers. You will know opposition, and that opposition can
affect your soul.
It was affecting the soul of the psalmist.
Aware of those taunts, aware of the opposition, he was downcast. And he was
troubled in his soul. As he conversed with himself in his soul about the
seeming absence of God and the presence of trials and the ridicule from those
around him, his soul was troubled and in turmoil as a result. These themes in
his life formed a ceaseless conversation within him.
But by God's grace, they did cease.
It is particularly noteworthy and
instructive for us to study how the psalmist responds to this unending
conversation within his soul.
It is particularly noteworthy and
instructive for us, as we overhear his internal conversation, to look
carefully at how he responds to his troubled soul, because what is remarkable
about this psalm—and critical for us to recognize and ultimately emulate—is
how the psalmist addresses his troubled soul and ultimately the God of his
soul. And that brings us to point 2.
2. THE HOPEFUL SOUL
When your soul is troubled and in turmoil,
when you are longing for God but do not sense the nearness of God, when you
are overwhelmed by trial and opposed by others, what is the appropriate response?
Well, the psalmist models the appropriate response. And if the psalmist were
present, he would tell you personally that when your soul is troubled, when
your soul is in turmoil, the appropriate response is (A) talk to yourself,
and (B) talk to God.
A. Talk to Yourself (vv. 5, 11)
First, talk to yourself. The psalmist does
not repeatedly and endlessly review and rehearse and describe the state of
his troubled soul. He does not ignore his soul. He does not excuse his soul.
No, instead, he interrupts his soul. He interrupts this unending conversation
taking place within his soul. He questions his soul. He interrogates his
soul. He challenges his soul. He rebukes his soul. And he exhorts his soul to
trust in God. And this, ultimately, makes all the difference in his soul, and
this will make all the difference in your downcast soul as well.
Too often this practice of talking to
yourself and talking to your soul is neglected by those who are troubled in
I first became aware of this practice years
ago, years ago while reading a book called Spiritual
Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure (Eerdmans,
1965), which I highly recommend. In it, Dr. Martyn
I say that we must talk to ourselves
instead of allowing 'ourselves' to talk to us! Do you realize what that
means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual
depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead
of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far
from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized
that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are
listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts
that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not
originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems
of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is
talking to you. Now this man's treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of
allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. 'Why art
thou cast down, O my soul?' he asked. His soul had been depressing him,
crushing him. So he stands up and says: 'Self, listen for a moment, I will
speak to you.'....
The main art in the matter of spiritual
living is to know how to handle yourself. You have
to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: 'Why art
thou cast down'—what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on
yourself, upbraid yourself,...exhort yourself, and
say to yourself: 'Hope thou in God.'8
That is exactly what we must do.
"Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the
fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?"
Let me ask you: Have you realized? Have
you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to this reality,
this fact, that you are listening to yourself
instead of talking to yourself?
See, what we have each day is an internal
conversation that never ends. It is ceaseless. It continues always within us.
And so each day, throughout the day, we have two simple choices: We can
either spend the day listening to ourselves, listening to ourselves in our
constantly changing feelings and circumstantial interpretations, or we can
spend each day talking to ourselves. We can talk truth to ourselves. We can
preach the gospel to ourselves, and we can address our troubled and tormented
soul with Scripture and ultimately the gospel.
Effort, Practice, and Perseverance
Now most of us have spent years listening
to ourselves and have rarely talked to ourselves. Talking to yourself is a learned skill. It is a learned skill
requiring practice and it involves effort. This will not happen effortlessly.
Talking truth to yourself requires effort that is
motivated by, and dependent upon, the grace of God. But one conversation with
yourself normally won't be sufficient to alter your troubled soul.
Our troubled souls aren't immediately
cooperative. Our troubled souls are not instantly transformed. Our troubled
souls need more than a single exhortation. Our troubled souls need continuous
addressing with truth and with the truth of the gospel. And that, actually,
is illustrated in this psalm. Please notice, in verse 5,
he begins to talk to himself. "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why
are you in turmoil within me?" Keep reading: "My soul is cast down
within me; therefore I remember you" (v. 6). And then verse 11:
"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."
You want to note the repetition of the
psalm. Talking to yourself requires perseverance. It
requires repetition. Like the psalmist, you must persevere with this practice
and in this practice in order to experience the transition from troubled soul
to hopeful soul.
And understand that many present are reaping the effect in your soul and upon
your soul of listening to your soul for years rather than talking to your
soul. But the good news tonight is this: This evening, this moment, you can
begin to talk to your soul. You can begin sowing truth to your soul. And if
you begin this very evening, this will ensure that you will reap the effect
of truth in your soul at some point in the future. If you are convinced—and I
assume you are convinced by the psalmist—of the importance of this practice,
and if you employ this practice, by God's grace this will have a transforming
effect and make a noticeable difference in your soul.
What Do I Say to My Soul?
Now, perhaps you are convinced of the
practice but now ask, "What do I say to my soul?"
Here is the good news. The good news is
that the psalmist really provides us with, in effect, a starter's kit for
talking to your soul. The content of your conversation with yourself is
explicitly presented in this psalm.
Notice in verses 5 and 11: "Hope in
God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."
Here is the content of your conversation
with your troubled soul: "Hope in God." It begins by addressing
your soul to look outward and to look upward. It begins with addressing your
soul to hope in God. He exhorts himself to hope in God.
The psalmist is aware of the sovereignty,
the faithfulness, and the kindness of God. And the psalmist is certain that
God himself will intervene and in his good timing fulfill his promises in the
life of the author. He refuses, in this moment, to be governed by the
subjective. He refuses to be troubled by the subjective or by his
Troubled souls cannot be trusted. And
circumstances often lie to us. They lie to us, informing us that God isn't sovereign, God isn't wise, God isn't kind, God isn't
active, God isn't present, God isn't for us—in fact, he has forgotten us.
We, by the grace of God, must not be
governed by our troubled souls. We must not be governed by our faulty interpretation
of circumstances. We must hope in God. We must wait on God. We must be
certain, as a result of hope, that God is sovereign and he is faithful and he
is kind. We must be certain and convinced that he will intervene, that he
will fulfill his promise and his purpose for our lives. The psalmist
addresses his troubled soul and exhorts his troubled soul to hope in God.
The psalmist determines in verse 6 to
remember God. God hasn't forgotten the psalmist. It is the psalmist, in
effect, who has forgotten God. And he exhorts himself to remember God.
"Hope in God." Remember God. This forms the content of your
conversation with your soul and your exhortation to your soul.
And the psalmist asserts, "I shall
again praise him."
I love that phrase. "At some point in
the future I will behold the goodness of the Lord. I shall again praise
him." Circumstances presently hide his hand, but hope assures the soul
that you will eventually see and discern his hands.
Spurgeon said, "When you cannot trace
God's hand, you must trust God's heart."
"I shall again praise him, my
salvation and my God." He states it twice. He reminds himself of his
relationship with God. My God will save
me. The God who initiated this relationship with me, the God who revealed
this relationship, the God who established covenant with me, this God will
save me. He is my God, and he has pledged himself to me, and he will be
faithful to act on my behalf.
This forms the content of what you say to
your soul, and certainly you can expand on this content. What do you say to
your soul? Well, in some ways it depends on what is troubling your soul. What
you can begin doing tonight is search the Scriptures for the appropriate
promises that address the turmoil in your soul, that address the trials in
your life, that address the opposition you are experiencing. Find your way to
these promises in Scripture and then, by the grace of God, speak to your
soul. By the grace of God cease listening to your soul and instead speak to
your soul with the promises of God, and these promises will transform your
soul from a troubled soul into a hopeful soul. Talk to yourself.
B. Talk to God (v. 8)
In verse 8, the psalmist turns his
knowledge of God into a prayer and ultimately into a song: "By day the
Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer
to the God of my life."
The psalmist remembers God's Word,
rehearses God's Word, prays God's Word to God, and he sings God's Word to
God. And his troubled soul becomes a hopeful soul as he addresses God with
And I love the reference to singing. I
love it because you have really already experienced the fruit of talking to
God and talking to your soul through singing. That's what we have been doing
for two days together. Troubled souls become hopeful souls as we sing truth
to our souls.
The reason we are rarely troubled in the
midst of corporate worship is because we are talking to our soul and singing
truth to our soul, talking to God, and rehearsing the truth of the gospel and
the promises of God to him. And the effect of that upon our soul is hope,
joy, affection, an awareness of God, and trust in God. There is an effect.
So each time we sing together we really
are experiencing the fruit of this practice, talking to ourselves and talking
to God. God desires that we humbly but boldly remind him of his promises, and
rehearse his promises before him. He invites us to do this.
Cash the Banknote of Divine Promise
Mr. Spurgeon understood the importance of
faith toward God. It seems to me he had a gift of faith. I can't read his
writings without experiencing a transfer of faith to my soul. Spurgeon wrote
the following about God's promises, which we are to rehearse before him:
God's promises were never meant to be
thrown aside as waste paper; He intended that they should be used.... Nothing
pleases our Lord better than to see His promises put in circulation; He loves
to see His children bring them up to Him, and say, "Lord, do as thou
hast said." We glorify God when we plead His promises. Do you think that
God will be any the poorer for giving you the riches He has promised? Do you
dream that He will be any the less holy for giving holiness to you? Do you
imagine He will be any the less pure for washing you from your sins? He has
said, "Come now, let us reason together, saith
the Lord, though your sins...be red like crimson, they shall be as
wool." Faith lays hold upon the promise of pardon, and it does not
delay, saying, "This is a precious promise, I wonder if it be
true?" but it goes straight to the throne with it, and pleads,
"Lord, here is the promise, do as thou has said." Our Lord replies,
"Be it unto thee even as thou wilt." When a Christian grasps a
promise, if he does not take it to God, he dishonours
Him; but when he hastens to the throne of grace, and cries, "Lord, I
have nothing to recommend me but this, Thou hast said it;" then his
desire shall be granted. Our heavenly Banker delights to cash His own notes.
Never let the promise rust. Draw the word of promise out of its scabbard, and
use it with holy violence. Think not that God will be troubled by your
importunately reminding Him of His promises. He loves to hear the loud
outcries of needy souls. It is His delight to bestow favours.
He is more ready to hear than you are to ask....It is God's nature to keep
His promises; therefore go at once to the throne with, "Do as thou hast
Yes. That is exactly what we are being, in
effect, exhorted in this psalm, to talk to God and to remind him of his
Listen: The more time you spend talking to
yourself and speaking to God, the more time you spend speaking the gospel to
your soul and humbly reminding God of his promises, the less time you will
spend listening to your soul, and the more you will experience a joyful and
hopeful soul rather than a downcast and a troubled soul.
The Troubled Soul of the Savior
One cannot read this psalm without remembering
someone else whose soul was troubled: our Savior's uniquely troubled soul as
his death on the cross drew near. As the hour for which he came drew near, it
would appear that he was alluding to this psalm when he said, "Now is my
soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But
for this purpose I have come to this hour" (John 12:27).
And in the Garden of Gethsemane,
we overhear a similar cry: "My soul is very sorrowful, even to
death" (Matthew 26:38, Mark 14:34).
The Savior's soul was uniquely troubled and sorrowful as he contemplated his
impending encounter with the wrath of God as our substitute for our sin. On
the cross he would be crushed by the Father with his wrath for our sin. He
would be forsaken by the Father, and he would cry out in indescribable agony,
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark
Listen: The psalmist felt forsaken by God.
The Savior was forsaken by
The psalmist was troubled in soul because
he felt the absence of God. The Savior was troubled in soul as he
contemplated being crushed by the righteous wrath of God and truly abandoned
The psalmist's soul was downcast. But the
Savior's soul would be crushed with the full, furious, righteous wrath of God
against our sin.
The psalmist's soul was temporarily and,
one might argue, superficially downcast. The Savior's soul was uniquely
troubled and tormented so that the souls of sinners like us would know
freedom from the fear of eternal torment of soul in hell.
He was forsaken so that we might be
forgiven. He was forsaken so that we might never be forsaken. Because of his
sacrifice on the cross, we can sing about the steadfast love of the Lord.
Because of his sacrifice on the cross, we can say with the psalmist, now informed
by the cross, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in
turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation
and my God" (vv. 5–6).
2. See Sinclair Ferguson, Deserted By God? (Baker, 1993), p.
3. C.H. Spurgeon, sermon #2798, "Sweet
Stimulants for the Fainting Soul" (vol. 48).
5. C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1972), p. 160; quoted in
John Piper, message "Charles Spurgeon: Preaching through
6. George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale,
2003), pp. 112, 113.
7. This conversation is recorded in Ferguson, Deserted By God?, p. 16.
8. D. Martyn
Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its
Causes and Its Cure (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans,
1965), pp. 20–21.
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