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When life pushes us under Psalms 42 43
by Suzanne R
03/29/07
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The roar is deafening. Flashes of light pierce our oxygen deprived brains. We desperately inhale the life-giving air, only to gag on more water before we’ve had our fill. Again, we’re violently submerged into the icy blackness of this seemingly bottomless body of water.

That’s how life seems sometimes. Work, family, health, finances … even commitments that seemed good not long ago ... seem to suffocate us. We’re simply trying to keep our heads above water but are constantly pushed under by the powerful waterfall. Could this instrument of annihilation possibly descend from that lovely little stream we crossed not long ago before descending to this hell hole?

We’re not alone.

The sensation of being pounded and drowned by life is not a modern phenomena. Three thousand years ago, one of the world’s great kings knew exactly what this felt like. Being a poet, King David expressed his emotions and reasoning in a format which we can read today. Psalms 42 and 43 are a pair, and in them, there is a strong lesson which can apply to each of us, the commonest of commoners and the most regal of kings.
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Many psalms are written in a Hebrew cyclical pattern rather than a Western consecutive format. Imagine a darts board. The whole focus of the board is the bull’s eye in the middle. Similarly, many psalms all radiate in towards a central focus. It seems that Psalm 42 records David’s own thoughts, and is written this way. Psalm 43 follows as a prayer.

Throughout these two psalms, three times, we read David’s refrain. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” (Psalms 42:5, 11, 43:5) This refrain breaks these psalms into roughly equally sized stanzas, with the addition of the ‘bull’s eye’ of Psalm 42.

Stanza one (Ps. 42:1-4): Like an animal which is parched, desperate for water, David is desperate for ‘a touch from God’. To say he is frustrated is an understatement. There was a time that God seemed so near, and David had flourished, but those days seem long gone.

Refrain: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” (Ps. 42:5 NIV)

The bull’s eye (Ps.s 42:6-7): Although it feels like God is far distant, David makes a key decision, a decision which is an act of the will rather than of the heart. He writes, “My soul is downcast with me, therefore I will remember you….” (Ps. 42:6 NIV). He forces his thoughts back to the days when God showed His power in giving His chosen people their land. He remembers the heady glorious days of their national history when the people crossed the Jordan River and slowly but surely took the land, from the heights of Mount Hermon to the small hill, Mount Mizar.

Nothing has changed. David still feels as if he is beaten back as soon as he gets his head above water. Yet in this awful situation, he also sees God’s hand. Interestingly, he seems to attribute the very instruments of his agony to God, referring to them as "your waterfalls … your waves and breakers have swept over me" (Ps. 42:7NIV). Even as he figuratively almost drowns, he states that ‘deep calls to deep’. Regardless of how far away God feels, there is an element of depth in suffering which, in a sense, makes life richer and causes us to call out to the depths of our Creator.

Stanza two (Ps. 42:9-10): David struggles to reconcile what he knows in his head and what he feels in his heart. He recognizes that God is loving, ever present and life-giving (Ps. 42:8). Yet he feels like his prayers aren’t working. Regardless of how he feels, the truth is that God has given His song to David, and this 'song' prays for him (“… at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life” Ps. 42:8b NIV). Despite this truth, David still feels abandoned and in agony, and makes no effort to hide that fact.

Refrain: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” (Ps. 42:11 NIV)

The prayer (Ps. 43:1-4): David goes to the root of the problem rather than focusing on the specifics. He has been treated unjustly. He pleads with God for vindication. Moving on in an attitude of prayer to Almighty God, he states truths about who God is as well as his own feelings. The result is that he emerges from his prayer with a sense of hope for the future.

Refrain: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” (Ps. 43:5 NIV)
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When life seems to be pushing us under, when everyone seems to be against us, and God seems far away, what should we do? David’s psalms give us an example to follow.

Recognize our pain. There is no sense in keeping up the ‘good Christian façade’ to ourselves and to God. Tell it like it is. God knows. Although it hurts to focus on the pain, allow yourself to feel the ‘depth’ which calls to ‘deep’.

Focus on God. We might not feel like God is near, but the fact is that He continues to direct his love and to place his ‘song’ within us. This song is a prayer to the God of our lives. We who are God’s have His Spirit living within us, and the Spirit prays for us (Romans 8:26). We should also remind ourselves of our experiences of God in the past.

Pray Scriptural truths. David gives us a good example of a prayer which focuses on God’s nature rather than on us and our problems. David doesn’t ignore the problem, but neither does his prayer focus on it. As a result, David emerges from his prayer time with his problems still unsolved, but confident in God’s ability to care for him.

Speak positive truth to ourselves. When we feel that life is suffocating us, rather than focus to an unhealthy degree on the issue itself, we should take ourselves in hand and remind ourselves of truths that build up. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”

Whatever the specifics of our experiences at the base of the waterfall, we can take comfort in knowing that we’re not alone. We have been given an impressive example of a godly reaction to such experiences.
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The roar is deafening. Flashes of light pierce our oxygen deprived brains. We desperately inhale the life-giving air, only to gag on more water before we’ve had our fill. Again, we’re violently submerged into the icy blackness of this seemingly bottomless body of water.

Deep calls to deep.

These facts remain. God is present, loving and life-giving. He has acted in the past and will do so again. God will restore us in His good time. So although we may feel like our situation is hopeless, let’s put our hope in our Saviour and our God.

He is trustworthy.


If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW

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