“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” – Ps. 43:5a-b
I am a freelance religion reporter, so I often have to cover news about churches that have nothing in common with me. Obviously, I can’t always report on my own church – or the churches that are very similar to my church! I love my job so much, but sometimes the stories I have to cover test my faith and challenge my soul.
Today was one of those days. I won’t go into the details, but I had to cover a story that just didn’t sit right with my spirit. In fact, it seemed to cast a shadow on me all day long and put me in a funk that I just couldn’t seem to shake. As soon as I got the kids down for their naps, I dove into the Word of God to seek His face. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you may remember that one of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”
I’d like to say that this was one of those times when God showed His face to me, whispered peace into my soul, and turned my gray skies to blue. But instead, I heard crickets.
Do you ever feel like God is just not listening to you? Where is He when I can’t hear Him? So I turned to the Psalms, which are full of songs of mourning, discouragement and cries to God. Psalms 42 and 43 are often considered one psalm in many Hebrew manuscripts. I can see why. Three times – in both chapters – the psalmist asks the exact same question:
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (Ps. 42:5, 11; 43:5)
The psalmist seemed to be under a great deal of oppression from his enemies. They consistently taunted him with the question, “Where is your God?” And the psalmist longed for God to come swooping in like a super hero to save the day! But God doesn’t work in our timing, does He? He isn’t susceptible to the thoughts and opinions of man. And sometimes He makes us wait. Sometimes we just have to have faith in Him when the world is taunting us with the question, “Where is He? If He’s so great, then why are you enduring these trials?” Those are hard questions to answer when you can’t even hear God yourself!
When I am feeling particularly low or alone, I am often reminded of the well-know poem, “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson:
One night I had a dream–
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord
and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints,
one belonged to me and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you would walk with me all the way,
but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
“I don’t understand why in times when I needed you most,
you should leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never, never leave you
during your times of trial and suffering.
“When you saw only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”
The truth is that sometimes we are talking too much to hear God; sometimes we need to go through trials and testings to trust God more fully; and sometimes God is just waiting for us to lean on Him.
The psalmist doesn’t leave our question without an answer. It’s the reason we can endure temptation, face persecution, deal with the lows and highs of life, and just simply get out of bed in the morning:
“Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God” – Ps. 43:5c
When we turn our focus back on God, we can praise Him because He is our Savior and our God. He gives us hope where otherwise there would be none. He knows my comings and my goings, and He loves me! And finally my soul has rest.