The Troubled Soul

God’s Word and Our Feelings

 

Speaker:

C.J. Mahaney

Date:

May 25, 2008

Location:

New Attitude Conference; Louisville, KY

Text:

Psalm 42

Length:

1:01:50

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Transcript

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.

INTRODUCTION

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 every day?1

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 day.

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 alone.

David Powlison 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 this evening.

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. 1–4)

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 hunters.

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 turmoil?

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 psalmist.

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. 6–7)

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 married?"

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 their soul.

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 Lloyd-Jones writes,

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 circumstances.

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 his Word.

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 said."9

Yes. That is exactly what we are being, in effect, exhorted in this psalm, to talk to God and to remind him of his promises.

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 15:34)

Listen: The psalmist felt forsaken by God. The Savior was forsaken by God.

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 by God.

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).


1. Blog post, "Psalm 27: You're Talking to Yourself" (Jan. 21, 2008), http://paultrippministries.blogspot.com/2007/01/psalm-27-youre-talking-to-yourself.html

2. See Sinclair Ferguson, Deserted By God? (Baker, 1993), p. 59.

3. C.H. Spurgeon, sermon #2798, "Sweet Stimulants for the Fainting Soul" (vol. 48).

4. John Piper, message "Charles Spurgeon: Preaching through Adversity" delivered on January 31, 1995. http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Biographies/1469_Charles_Spurgeon_Preaching
_Through_Adversity/

5. C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1972), p. 160; quoted in John Piper, message "Charles Spurgeon: Preaching through Adversity."

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.

9. C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening. From the Jan. 15 morning entry. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/morneve.d0115am.html.

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