“Having a Bad Day?” (Psalm 42 and 43) ( John MacDiarmid 5 August 2018)

Talk given by John MacDiarmid at Poole High School for PCF on Sunday morning 5 August 2018

Listen to this talk (or download – right-click here and ‘Save as’):

 

We continue our series in the Psalms under the heading “Songs in the Key of life”.

As we have seen whenever we have looked at the book of Psalms, it is a song book written by ordinary believers who wrote about the ups and downs of living for God in a hostile world. It’s a song book about their challenges. It is therefore a song book about your challenges and the issues you face in your life.
Psalm 42 and 43, which we take together, are the song of a believer who is having a bad day – maybe a bad period. So how does he deal with that, and how should you deal with that?

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
By day the LORD directs his love,
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 must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

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.

Psalm 43

Vindicate me, my God,
and plead my cause
against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
deceitful and wicked.
You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?
Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
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.

Clearly our singer is having a bad day – how doe he deal with it?

1. A History with God

Fundamental to the singer’s lament is the fact that he has a strong history with God. His service for God in the past shines out through the verses:

These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.

And

therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

Having a history with God enables you to cope with whatever the present throws at you. It can be easy to only turn to God in times of trouble. But a daily , consistent ongoing relationship with God is what enables you to stand when the storms come.
So , let us all ask ourselves, are we doing the Christian disciplines day by day throughout our Christian life? Today, you build up your history with God. Is your life marked by regular Bible reading, prayer, service, giving, trusting and obeying, so that when the storms come, there is a history to look back on?

2. A Thirst For God

A history with God gives you a thirst for God.
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

The longer your experience of God, the more you realise that in fact you can do nothing without God. So our ability to do anything in life becomes more and more dependent on our experience of God. The singer has put all his eggs in the God basket.

We need to ask God to give us a hunger and a thirst for Him and for His presence. Not for the trappings of the Christian life, great thought they, but for God Himself. As God said to Abraham “I am your reward”. As David said in Psalm 16: “Apart from you I have no good thing…you fill me with joy in your presence”, and as Asaph said in Psalm 73: “Earth has nothing I desire compared with you”. This sounds wonderful…but what happens when it all goes wrong?

3. An Experience without God

The trouble is that our singer’s life is just not matching up to that at present. He is in what a friend of mine used to call “the reality gap”. The gap between what we know about God and what we experience of Him.
He feels a millions miles away from God.

When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food Day and night

And people are being less than helpful:

while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

He feels downcast:

My soul is downcast within me;

He feels under attack from the enemy:

Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?

He is ill:

My bones suffer mortal agony

He knows that God himself is behind his suffering:

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

So – what is going on?

We will see a bit later what to do – but it is important that we have a balanced theology of suffering. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, we see that God brings His people through trouble through battles to glory. That doesn’t mean that we take everything lying down, but that teaching that a god-fearing believer is spared trouble is cruel and wrong. As James said: “Consider it pure joy…when you face trials of many kind” Why because God is at work in our lives. Paul said he delighted in trials – because it enables God’s power to be shown through Him.

When our experience is poor – it doesn’t mean that Go dis not with us, it doesn’t necessarily point to sin..it may point to God being at work in your life. Look at all the great saints of God, in the |Bible or not in the Bible and you will find those who suffered as they served Gods.

4. A Belief in God

Now we move towards the “what can we do about this”? bit.
Note how our singer pours out his heart to God:

I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”

And

You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?

These “whats happening God?” – “why are you doing this to me God” – questions that we feel so guilty asking , and no problem to God. Quite the reverse in fact because they show that we believe that He has to power to do something about it. It shows that we know that He has to power to deliver, to heal to save – so, yes, cry out to God to change the situation, come to Him on the basis of what you know about Him and implore Him to act. He doesn’t get cross when His people come to Him with cries of faith!

And as the song develops you can sense the singer’s faith raising as he opens up to God believing the God will rescue him from his current plight and saying:

Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.

Although our singer is confused and helpful, he has no doubt in the ability and desire of his God to rescue him and to restore him

5. A Cry to the Heart

We now come to the chorus of this song. It occurs three times.

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

This is the answer to the question: what do I do when I’m on a downer?
a. Talk to yourself – not the first sign of madness: here It’s the first sign of sanity! We need to remind ourselves who we are, what God has done for us, and that us feeling downcast is not consistent with the reality of the universe!
b. Consciously and deliberately put things into the hands of God. “Put your hope in God”
c. Deliberately turn to God in worship and praise – “I will yet praise Him”
d. Remember who God is. Nothing will help our more when we are downcast, than the thought that God is bigger than the universe, wider than the sea, and that He is for us.

And if He is for us who can be against us?

John MacDiarmid
August 2018