Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Why are you downcast, O my soul?"

Day #140

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 42 - 44 …

You and I need God every day of our lives.  We have neither the wisdom nor the strength to survive spiritually, emotionally or even physically in this world without the grace of God, our Creator.  Even those who do not know Him or believe in Him exist by His will and take their next breath by His sovereign decree.  Were He to withhold His hand from us entirely we would simply cease to exist.  For many, this is a frightening thought, but for those who have come to know God as "Abba, Father," through the work of His Spirit within us, this is the greatest of all comforts!  For God has sent a Redeemer, One who has both the wisdom and the power to save us, to rescue us … and His name is Jesus!

The writers of Psalms 42-44 did not know the name of Jesus, but they knew the name of God.  They were among the privileged few in the world at this time, approximately one thousand years before Jesus' birth, who had heard of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  They sang songs of worship to Him and had seen His arm displayed in strength against their enemies.  Theirs was a God who was real, who was alive and who was with those who cried out to Him.  Yet, now it seemed that He was hiding His face, that He had rejected His people, that He had left them alone.  Why?

How many of us have FELT alone, even if our minds tell us otherwise?  In moments of trial and suffering, and especially during times of extreme tragedy, the temptation faces us to believe the lie that God has somehow left us; that He has turned His face away from us and is ignoring our cries. Psalm 42 begins with such a state of mind:  "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (42:1-2).  He goes on to express his deep sorrow:  "My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'" (42:3).

Still, his soul does not give in to the temptation to lose all hope.  "Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will YET praise Him, my Savior and my God!"(42:5).  He remembers the things God has done before and declares, "By day the LORD directs His love, at night His song is with me - a prayer to the God of my life" (42:8).  Even though he doesn't "hear" from God, he questions what he is thinking and feeling and declares again, "Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will YET praise Him, my Savior and my God!"  (42:11).

You and I who believe in Jesus Christ and who know the true and living God are called to live by FAITH!  As we live in this world we all too easily begin to think that "things" will or should go smoothly every day.  Some actually think that believers, Christians, should have an easier life than those who do not know God through His Son Jesus Christ.  Where do people get this idea?  It has never been so.  Jesus said it WOULDN'T be so!  Jesus told His followers that they would have trials and they would suffer for His Name's sake, that we would be persecuted and that some would be put to death.  All over the world this is happening, and yet we often react to trials by questioning God … … there is a better way …

Rather than questioning God, we should question ourselves!  "Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?"  That's the real question, isn't it?  He declares, "You are God my stronghold" (43:2).  But then he asks, "Why have you rejected me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by my enemy?" (43:2).  So many find themselves in this back-and-forth reasoning that leads to confusion and sometimes to despair.  You believe in God … BUT …  As someone has said, “What you really believe comes AFTER the ‘but’!”   When you say, "I trust God, but …" you really DON'T trust God.  What you really believe comes after the "but"!

People sometimes say, "I believe in God, but I don't know why these things are happening to me."  That seems innocent enough, but it reveals that you are living in a state of doubt rather than in a state of faith.  How much better to say, "I don't know why these things are happening to me, BUT, I believe in God and I KNOW that He is with me!"  Our lives and our words are a testimony to what we really believe every single day.  In Psalm 43, verse 3, the Psalmist prays, "Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell."  God's truth points us to HIM who is the SOURCE of our hope!  Through Jesus, we who believe have access to the very presence of God!!

Even though Psalm 44 and others speak of God's judgment and His discipline of His people, it is the knowledge of the one, true, living God that brings hope.  The Psalmist knows the God who gives victory and why:  "… for You loved them" (44:3).  "In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise Your name forever" (44:8).  "For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered … Rise up and help us; redeem us because of Your unfailing love" (44:22,26).

God's love in Christ Jesus IS unfailing toward those who have received His grace, in whom His Spirit dwells, and who live by faith.  Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:7:  "We live by faith, not by sight."  We live in this world, trusting God to provide today, to watch over us, to protect us and, if in His wisdom and plan it is time for us to go home to be with Him, to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil, for our Shepherd is with us.  Our hope is in the LORD, the Maker of the heavens and the earth.  So, "why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God!"
"My gracious God and Father, YOU are my hope in times of trouble and my praise in times of joy.  I will praise You as long as I live and then, when my eyes see Your glory, forever and ever, throughout all eternity.  Give me strength to live by faith, trusting in Your unfailing love, knowing that I am redeemed by the blood of Jesus and I am, now and forever, YOURS!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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