The Cure for Discouragement
Psalms 42-43

A. Do you ever get discouraged?
1. We are all discouraged at times.
a) We get down in the dumps.
b) We sing the blues.
c) We feel that God has forgotten us and that we will never be able to get on track with God again.
d) It is a condition the old mystics accurately labeled “the dark night of the soul.”
2. It is a puzzling condition too.
a) We wonder why it is happening, especially if we are Christians.
b) We identify with Erma Bombeck, who asks in the title of one of her best-selling books, If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, Why Am I Living in the Pits?
3. When you get this way I urge you to turn to a psalm that asks honestly, “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” (42:5).
a) You will be encouraged when it answers hopefully, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (42:11; 43:5).
b) “I will yet praise him!” These words mean that your downcast mood is not the final act of your life’s drama.
c) Oswald Chambers “When a man gets to despair he knows that all his thinking will never get him out. He will only get out by the sheer creative effort of God. Consequently he is in the right attitude to receive from God that which he cannot gain for himself.”

B. Psalms 42–43
1. Psalms 42 and 43 need to be taken together for several reasons
a) in a number of the Hebrew manuscripts the psalms are joined together as one unit;
b) Psalm 43 has no introductory title, although every other psalm in book two, except for Psalm 71, does
c) The phrase “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” ties these two psalms together (42:5, 11; 43:5).
d) The main reason for taking the psalms together, however, is that both deal with spiritual discouragement.
2. What are the causes of spiritual depression?
a) There are surely more than these psalms list, but the place to begin is with the causes that are here.
b) They give at least six reasons for it, and they also show us the cure.

I. The Causes of Spiritual Discouragement
A. God seems far away when you need him (42:1–3)
1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

1. For one thing, God seemed far from him in his hour of need (42:1–3).
2. We do not know who the particular person was who wrote these psalms.
a) But whoever he was, we know the chief thing that was bothering him.
b) He felt himself to be cut off from God.
c) The psalm begins with his panting after God “as the deer pants for streams of water” when he cannot find it.
d) The writer felt like a thirsty deer in the desert, searching for water.
e) But the Lord is never far away;
f) He is near even when you do not recognize Him (Isa. 41:10; Heb. 13:5; Ps. 46:7).
3. So the psalmist feels that he is far from God.
a) It is not that he does not believe that God is everywhere, or that God is not with him.
b) He is praying to God in these psalms, but his feeling that God is not near has gotten him down and caused him to feel that God is absent.
4. There is another dimension to this sense of alienation.
a) He also felt an absence from his work for God and therefore from his sense of being useful.
b) Feeling far away from God reflected on his whole purpose for living.
c) If you feel like God is not near, then you feel that your useful days are done.

B. The taunts of unbelievers (42:3, 9-10)
3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
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?”

1. The discouraging talk of others was another contributing factor (42:3, 9–10)
a) “Has God forgotten you? Where is your God?”
b) The answer for us is pretty clear!
c) We need to listen to God and not to the foolish talk of men.
2. When you are surrounded by a world of unbelievers who taunt you and the things of God, it hurts!
a) “Where is your God?” This must have hurt him a lot, because he repeats the line twice in just this one psalm.
b) In ancient times almost no one was a true atheist so the taunt meant, “Where is your God when you need him? Where is your God now?”
c) When you are discouraged, it is easy to think, “Why doesn’t God seem to hear my cries? Why doesn’t he intervene to change my circumstances?”

C. Memories of better days (42:4)
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.

1. Being discouraged can also be aggravated by looking back at “the good old days” (42:4–6).
a) Change in life can be discouraging!
b) Sometimes retirement or a change of residence will make people discouraged.
c) The older we get, the less we enjoy change.
d) The psalmist was also troubled by memories of better days.
2. There is a proper use of memory in times when we get discouraged.
a) You need to remember all of God’s past acts as an encouragement to believe that he will act for you again.
b) But that is not the first use of memory we find in these psalms.
c) What we find here is the writer’s wistful remembrance of the good days when he
(1) used to go with the multitude,
(2) leading the procession to the house of God,
(3) with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
(4) among the festive throng (42:4).
3. For many Christians some of their very best memories are of worshiping with other believers in church.
a) Especially at Christmas or Easter.
b) The absence of these times as well as their remembrance can contribute to discouragement.

D. The trials of life can overwhelm you (42:7)
7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

1. Then the writer speaks of the overwhelming trials of his life, referring to them as “waves and breakers” that have swept over him.
a) We do not know what these trials were, but we can imagine because we have them in our own lives.
b) We all have trials in our lives and they can be very discouraging if you feel like God is far away from you.

E. Sometimes God does not to act as quickly as you want (42:9)
9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

1. Verse 9 is a painful cry to God for having forgotten him.
a) It reminds me of Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
b) Jesus actually said these words as a fulfilment of the prophecy in Psalm 22:1.
2. It is not unusual for a discouraged person to feel forsaken by God.
a) But we need to remember that God has said in several passages in the Bible:
b) Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

F. When ungodly, wicked people attack you (43:1)
1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!

1. One of the most discouraging times in our lives with when we are attacked by wicked, ungodly, and deceitful people.
a) These are probably the same people who taunted the psalmist earlier, asking, “Where is your God?”
b) When they attack it seems like it is always unjustly and that makes it even more discouraging!
c) So you pray for vindication and plead your cause by God.
2. It is not unusual to be attacked unjustly when you try to live for God.
a) Jesus said, “You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.… If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:19–20).
b) Maybe you have some things of your own to add:
(1) A great disappointment in life
(2) Some personal failure
(3) The burden of getting old
(4) The list is probably endless!

II. The Cure for Spiritual Discouragement
A. He takes himself in hand.
1. The most important thing to be said about the approach to discouragement in this psalm is that he does not give in to discouragement or self-pity but rather takes himself in hand and wrestles through it.
a) He reminds himself of what he really knows.
b) He finds that “no reasons for being cast down are as strong as those for joy and calm hope.”
2. What should you do when discouragement starts to control you?
a) “Hope in God” (42:5, 11; 43:5).
b) Look to the future and not at the past.
c) If you feel drowned by circumstances, keep in mind that they are His waves and billows (42:7), and He knows what is best for you.
d) Stop feeding on your feelings (42:3) and start feeding on His Word (43:3).
e) God will guard you and guide you, no matter how miserable you may feel.
f) God is greater than your feelings.
g) Walk by faith and He will see you through.

B. He challenges himself to do what should be done.
1. Challenge yourself to do what the spiritual self knows should be done: “Put your hope in God.”
a) There can be no lasting hope in anything else in this sinful, failing world.
b) There never has been. There never will be.
c) You have put your trust in God in the past and He has never let you down!
d) God has not changed!
e) He can and will do so again.

C. He reminds himself of a great certainty.
1. The great certainty that you need to remind yourself of is that “I will yet praise him.”
a) This is a great certainty. God has not changed.
b) That means that His purposes for you have not changed.
c) He has led you to uplifting victories in times past.
d) He will do so again.
2. So instead of looking at your failures in the past, look at the many good things yet to come from God.
a) Your life and the Bible are filled with examples of these victories!
b) Just think of people like Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and David.

III. Go to the Altar of God
A. Ask God – vv. 3-4
1. verses 3–4: “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 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.”
2. This is an amazing prayer.
a) It reveals a man with much rich spiritual experience.
b) His words, his view of reality, the sequence of his thought, the God-centeredness of his goal, the acquaintance with the sanctuary, the emotional outcome anticipated.
c) All this shows a man who has lived with God and knows God – just like you!
d) Is it not amazing that this man and you can feel that God is distant, as if he has rejected him?
3. “Our altar is Jesus Christ crucified and risen and standing before the throne of God.”
a) Learn from this psalm to do what he is doing.
b) This is how you learn from the believers who have walked with God a long time and know him well.

B. Praying for Spiritual Light and Truth – v. 3
1. verse 3: “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me.”
a) He confesses that he needs God to lead him. Why? Because he is in the dark.
b) He knows he is in the dark because his heart is divided.
c) God is his refuge, but he feels forsaken and rejected.
2. You know better, but where are you going to find the Truth?
a) Go to God’s Word,
b) Psalm 23:3 “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
c) Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
d) John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
e) And of course, Jesus is the Word, He is the Truth, He is the Way, He is the Life. John 14:6
f) God does not reject those who take refuge in him. “He is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).
3. When you know that you are in this time of darkness the first thing you should pray for is for light and truth.
a) This is the way Paul prayed for us, in Ephesians 1:18, “[May] the eyes of your hearts [be] enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.”
b) The eyes of your heart need light. Spiritual light. Light from God.
c) And you will always find it in God’s Word.

C. Coming to the Altar of God – vv. 3b – 4a
1. By this light and truth God will always bring you to God’s holy dwelling — the sanctuary and the altar of God.
a) Verse 3b–4a: “Let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God.”
b) Now the altar is the place where the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled to make atonement for the people and where God forgave the sins of his people.
c) In other words, the light of God leads you to the truth of your sinfulness and takes you to the place of atonement and forgiveness.
2. On this side of the cross of Jesus Christ today we know where the altar of God is.
a) It’s not in the temple. It’s not in any house made with hands.
b) Hebrews 13:10 says, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.”
c) The altar of God is Jesus Christ crucified and risen and standing before the throne of God.
d) The light of God that leads us is today “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
e) The light of the gospel leads us to Christ, to the altar, to the cross.
f) And there your heart is further illumined to see your sin wonderfully forgiven by the blood of Jesus!

D. Experiencing God as Exceeding Joy – v. 4
1. Then this light and truth will take you to God as your exceeding joy.
a) Verse 4: “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy.”
b) The final goal of life is not forgiveness or any of God’s good gifts.
c) The final goal of life is God himself, experienced as your exceeding joy.
d) Very literally from the Hebrew, “God, the gladness of my rejoicing.”
e) God, who in all my rejoicing over all the good things that he had made, is himself, in all my rejoicing, the heart of my joy, the gladness of my joy.
f) Every joy that does not have God as the central gladness of the joy is not real joy and in the end will burst like a bubble.
2. Isn’t this amazing!
a) Here you are discouraged and threatened and feeling danger, and yet you know that the ultimate battle of his life is not the defeat of your enemies.
b) It is not escaping natural catastrophe
c) It is not being healed from cancer.
d) The ultimate battle is: Will God be your exceeding joy?
e) Will God be the gladness at the heart of all your joys?

E. Expressing This Joy in God
1. The final result of your prayer is that this light and truth will lead you to express this joy that you feel in God.
a) Verse 4: “And I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.”
b) Real joy in God will always overflow with praises.
c) C.S. Lewis says in his book on the Psalms, “we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”
2. It’s not wrong to say, “We were made for God.”
a) It’s not wrong to say, “We were made for joy.”
b) It’s not wrong to say, “We were made to praise.”
c) But it is more fully true to say, “We were made to enjoy God with overflowing praise.”
d) This is the ultimate goal of life!
e) “The final goal of life is God himself, experienced as your exceeding joy.”
3. We all want to know the constant uninterrupted experience of God as his exceeding joy.
a) But in reality, there are times when we feel forsaken.
b) We know in our heads that God has not forsaken us.
c) But it feels like He has.
d) So your best and deepest and most fulfilling strategy to get out of this miserable feeling of discouragement is to pray,
(1) “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 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.”