Updated: Apr 25, 2020
We are in a series in which we are considering our emotions and how to deal with them in a wise manner. Our emotions can be sneaky and unreliable and have the potential to make us do things that we will later regret. Having said that, we are made in the image of God so our emotions are God-given. Matthew Elliott: “Emotions tell us the truth what we believe and what we value.”[i] You do not get emotional or passionate about something that you do not believe in or value. So far, we have looked at anger and fear. Today, we take a look at sadness.
Where does sadness come from? Here are a few possibilities.
From me, the way I was made, my DNA. My disposition could be towards being “melancholy” or my perspective towards being a glass “half-empty” person.
Things I’ve done—consequences of my sin.
Things done to me—or said to me…perhaps mean, hateful, hurtful—resulting in me feeling sad.
Things that just happen—(life); or perhaps did not happen. Maybe you lost a loved one. Maybe you missed a big opportunity.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter the cause. You’re sad. You’re depressed. You’re grieving. So today, I want to show you how to care for your soul when you’re sad. When it comes to sadness, how should you respond? Is there a way out? Is there a path forward? If you have your Bible or electronic device, meet me at Psalm 42. Just to set the tone of how the writer of this Psalm is feeling and what he feels he is up against, check out Psalm 42:5-7.
Psalm 42:5-7—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
His soul is “cast down” or bent low in despair. He is discouraged or depressed or sad and can “feel” it in his guts. His circumstances are overwhelming him. He is moving toward desperation. So that’s where he is. Have you ever been there? It is a tough place to be. It is a place that we all have experienced at some level, but is it a place you have to stay? In our sadness, what is our greatest need? How should we respond? Let’s dig in to the Psalm—actually two Psalms. Psalms 42-43 are often joined together and cover the same theme. When we start from the top, we notice that the psalmist is—
Longing for a Fresh Connection with God (42:1-5)
Psalm 42:1—As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
The idea here is that the “panting” will continue until the need is satisfied.
Psalm 42:2—My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
It seems that there is some separation between the psalmist and God. But the psalmist has a longing or yearning to be in God’s presence again. He understands that like water gives life and vitality to the deer, God is his source for spiritual life and vitality. His imagery is probably driven by where he is located. He hears the nearby water that flows to form the Jordan River (verse 6). His natural thirst reminded him of his greater spiritual thirst.
Psalm 42:3—My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
His “tears” show the depth of his longing. He is experiencing grief and sorrow all the time. Additionally, he is being taunted by those not of his faith. “Where is your God?” They are saying: “Where is your God when you need Him?” or “Where is He now?” Note the problem is not where God is (His location), but the fact that the psalmist can’t get there (his location). Now God is omnipresent, so the disconnect is on us. God is at the Temple, but not confined to the Temple. In his sadness, the psalmist begins to respond.
Psalm 42:4—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.
He looks to the past to remember. He wants to be mindful of the past so he can have confidence in the present that the future will be better. His memories of worshipping at the Temple inspire his prayers. He pours out his soul (“pour out my soul”)—his whole being to God. He is recalling the mass of people on their way to the sanctuary. They are glad and loud and exuberant in song and service. In sadness, one needs to remember rightly and not try to go it alone.
Psalm 42:5—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.
Happy is not the place as he begins to talk to himself in verse 5. The conversation seems to have two parts. The first is a rebuke for despairing. “Why” are you low and mourning—discouraged in your guts? Don’t you remember what you just remembered? The second is more positive. He commands himself to “hope.” It is an instruction to wait patiently but expectantly for God to work. It is an anticipation that God will show up. Sometimes faith requires us to wait for God to act. The psalmist looks to the future and sees that he again will “praise” God, his deliverer. But that is in the future. In the meantime, there is sadness…the psalmist is
Lamenting Overwhelming Circumstances (42:6-11)
Psalm 42:6-7—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.
The language here depicts the overwhelming trials of life. Again, using water as a descriptor, we see that life-giving water can also be a force of destruction. “Deep”—could refer to pools of water that form along the rapids of the Jordan. It usually refers to the depth of the sea meaning death and chaos. “Roar”—refers to the sound of a waterfall.
The psalmist is giving an ominous tone to what should be a place of refreshment and beauty. In verse 7: “all your breakers and your waves have gone over me”—The psalmist is saying, “I’m am being washed over by the difficulties that You are sending and this is not a pleasant experience!” Difficulty after difficulty is overwhelming, discouraging, depressing…and sad. We desire refreshing water and it seems like all we are getting is washed away! But notice if God is doing the sending: “your waterfalls,” “your breakers,” and “your waves”—then no one working against us can frustrate God’s plan. The psalmist doesn’t lose faith. He continues to trust.
Psalm 42:8—By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
God’s love is loyal. It protects and provides for those who are His. Then, in the darkest hour—night, the psalmist sings in response to the provision and protection from God. God has given him a reason to sing. He is confident in God…who can be confident while being overwhelmed by life?!! He is confident that God is with him and his prayer is an act of praise. Faith is forward looking…to a better place. But he’s not there yet.
Psalm 42:9—I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
Again, we pick up the plight of the psalmist and see the tension between strong faith and deep despair. It looks like he is saying, “God you are my strength and protection” (rock) and “Where are you?” “Forgotten”—carries the idea of evidence of forgetting—God has not acted on his behalf. God has not forgotten He is omniscient. But, it “feels” like He has forgotten because He has not responded to my pleas in my way or in my timing. Do you ever “feel” that way? God’s lack of response “feels” like He has forgotten you, that He does not care. How will you respond? The temptation will be toward impatience, which is a form of unbelief. “It’s what we begin to feel when we start to doubt the wisdom of God’s timing or the goodness of God’s guidance.”[ii]
John Piper writes: “The opposite of impatience is not a glib denial of loss. It’s a deepening, ripening, peaceful willingness to wait for God in the unplanned place of obedience, and to walk with God at the unplanned pace of obedience—to wait in his place, and to go at his pace.”[iii] How will you respond to being in a place you don’t desire or moving at a pace that you do not like? The psalmist is mourning. He is mourning because of the gigs of his enemies. He goes on…
Psalm 42:10—As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
His enemies are implying that his God has abandoned him, or perhaps is unable to help. As a result, it “feels” like he is being killed. He is in agony as his bones are being crushed. He “feels” like he is being squeezed.
Psalm 42:11—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.
In his agony, he talks to himself, see verse 5. In the uncertainty, he hopes in God and trusts Him for his future. The psalmist responds to sadness by—
Looking to the Future with Hope (43:1-5)
Psalm 43:1—Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!
Here the psalmist begins a prayer of expectation. First, he asks for God to “vindicate” him—to make a right judgment. He is asking God to set things right—solve this problem. Second, he asks God to “deliver” him. He wants God to rescue him and bring him to safety.
Psalm 43:2—For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
He is still struggling. He is sad and feels rejected. This seems to increase the urgency of the prayer. “For you” seems to display a confidence in God. He is displaying faith as he tells God that He is his source of safety. He is saying, because You are God, I should not be doing the sadness shuffle and my enemies should not be beating me down.
Psalm 43:3—Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
Here is a call for immediate action—send out! Send out what? The first call is to send out light. Light often represents life, joy, or salvation. The second call is to send out truth. Truth refers to that which is reliable and dependable. God’s light will illuminate his path and aid him on his journey to Jerusalem and back into God’s presence. God’s truth will vindicate him and set him free to go.
Psalm 43:4—Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
His future hope comes with expectations that include joy, worship and music all flowing from a sacrifice made at the altar.
Psalm 43:5—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.
He is not there yet. He is still in a place of sadness. But notice he is not passive. He has been fighting. He is hopeful. He is putting is faith in action. He realizes that how he should respond, what he needs most when sad is a right relationship with the right Being. What is our greatest need in times of sadness and despondency? OUR GREATEST NEED IS TO BE RIGHTLY RELATED TO THE GREATEST BEING.
We turn to Him with faith. Then we fight for the future with hope. Here’s how we can do that.
1) Talk to yourself, don’t listen to yourself.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones famously writes: “Have you ever 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 was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why are thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.’[iv]
You must exhort yourself, remind yourself of who you are in Christ—remembering what He has done for you!
2) Listen to others, don’t struggle alone.
Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)—Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Galatians 6:2 (ESV)—Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
3) Talk to others, get the help you need.
For me it was following some advice from some friends and finally going to a counselor. I needed help process a series of lost dreams and deep hurts. I need guidance on how to deal with sadness in a healthy way. One of my key takeaways from that experience was a comment that my counselor made. He told me, “God has been kind, gracious, and merciful to you, perhaps you should be to yourself.”
John Piper offers this advice: “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. The wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”[v]
In seasons of sadness, discouragement, and depression, OUR GREATEST NEED IS TO BE RIGHTLY RELATED TO THE GREATEST BEING. Turn to Him. We have access to Him because of what Jesus has done. Sad maybe a season, but it’s not forever! The best is yet to come! Let’s celebrate!
This sermon was originally preached on October 7, 2018 at Connect Church.
[i]Matthew Elliott, Faithful Feelings (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006), 143.
[ii]John Piper, Future Grace, rev. ed. (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2012), 167. [iii]Ibid., 167. [iv]D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Printing Company, 1965, reprinted in 2000), 20-21. [v]Piper quote from Twitter—Desiring God.