Psalm 42: Holding on to Hope

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Psalm 42

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
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.

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.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and 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 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?”

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.

Neighborhood Trees #10 | Cypress, TX | January 2023

What gives you hope? What takes your hope away? What is your hope quotient? Is hope a good thing, or do you subscribe to the wisdom expressed by Morgan Freedman’s character in the Shawshank Redemption movie? “Hope!” He says, “Hope is a dangerous thing.”

Hope alone is a dangerous thing. But this psalm urges a different approach. I’ve referenced the Stockdale Paradox in a recent blog post. The idea is that surviving the most grave and daunting difficulties is possible if we face the brutal facts while holding on to hope. This is nothing new. It’s at least as old as this psalm. For this psalm begins with an expression of deep yearning, my soul pants for you, O God. This is an admission of the brutal fact that David is thirsty for God. He is in urgent need of God’s refreshment. He is calling out for God to come to him, be with him, and comfort him in time of need.

But right along with all that, notes of hope are sung. God’s steadfast love is confessed. God is his rock. He recalls times of praise on the way to worship. His final word is a call to hope:

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

A hope devoid of lament is shallow and easily set aside. It sets us up for catastrophic disappointment. Lament without hope is a prescription for depression. It robs us of the joy of God’s salvation. God calls us to both lament and hope, and this psalm expresses that beautifully. Let your cries of anguish, pain, discouragement, and lament call out to God. But in the end, join David in speaking of our eternal hope, found in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. This will be fully experienced on the Great Last Day when the salvation of God will be fully and completely revealed. Then hope will become reality.

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