God knows that, brothers and sisters. He knows exactly where you're at - and where you need to be. Don't worry. He will get you there in HIS perfect timing.
I know what those night seasons feel like - when it's hard to even pray, to even ask for the help you need. In all honesty, I think I've spent at least portions of the last four years in that dark place. It was perhaps darkest these past months. My youngest daughter left for college, and a month after that, my father was burned to death. I have finally gotten to the place where thinking of him doesn't immediately put me back to the horror of that hospital room, watching him die. Now, I just cry - but, still, that's progress.
God knows about sorrow. The Father watched His Son die, knowing He was literally suffering hell during that time.The Bible is filled with examples of people who struggled - physically, spiritually and even emotionally. Look at Elijah! He had this incredible, literally "mountaintop" experience, humiliating the prophets of Baal - and where is he afterwards? Hiding in a cave, depressed. Jeremiah spent much of his life depressed, earning him the nickname, "The Weeping Prophet." Even our own Lord said his soul was "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." In each of those cases, God handled it differently. Elijah got scolded, comforted and was prescribed rest and then exercise and was given work to do. Jeremiah was given strength to carry on despite his emotional turmoil. God the Father sent angels to strengthen Jesus.
The writer of Psalms 42 and 43 went through various stages to come back to rejoicing, and shows us a promise in the midst of depression:
Psalm 42:1 For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.
5 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 6 my God.
My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon — from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me — a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" 10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
11 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.
The next Psalm, Psalm 43, is actually a continuation of the same song:
Psalm 43:1 Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men.
2 You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?
3 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.
4 Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.
5 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.
God felt far away to the writer of this song. "Where are you, God?" he's crying. "I feel like you've left me!" Look at verse 7 of Psalm 42: Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. What is he saying? He's overwhelmed - and so deep in despair that he's drowning. The "deep" here is tehowm (teh-home'). It means those extra deep parts of the sea - in the abyss. The word translated "waterfalls" in the NIV or "waterspouts" in the King James carries the idea of great floods of water coming from the deepest part of the sea. Jonah actually says something very similar, in a literal sense. The Psalm writer is echoing the same idea, only figuratively:
Jonah 2:1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the deep, (same word) into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.
4 I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.'
The Psalm-writer is saying, "I can't see you. I can't feel you. I'm too deep, and I can't find my way out." Then, verse 8: By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me — a prayer to the God of my life. What does that mean? It means the day comes - either literally or figuratively - and God "directs" His love to come. That word "directs" is tsavah (tsaw-vaw'). It means to "command," like when a military leader gives a command. God commands His love to come. The word the NIV calls "love" is "lovingkindness" in the King James. God IS love, and in commanding His love to come, He's sending more than just a feeling.
This son of Korah cries out to God, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" The enemy here is not necessarily a man, but the enemy of our souls. Remember that this crying out to God is actually a step up from the drowning where he couldn't even do that. God sent a reminder of His love, His mercy and all that He is to this son of Korah, and that allowed him to cry out this question: Why have you forgotten me? Perhaps at the time, he didn't even realize that the ability to cry out was actually a gift - a step up from the abyss where he had been. And then God answers him with this promise, which he speaks to himself:
Psalm 42:11 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.
The word "hope" here is yachal (yaw-chal'). It means to wait expectantly - for God to come, to act, to change things. It's not hope the way we use it. It's not "I hope it will rain," and maybe it will - maybe it won't. No, this is hope that trusts that God has a plan - a knowing that God will act in your life and make things work out. God is giving a promise - both to the son of Korah and to all of us who have felt overwhelmed to the point of drowning - that it will not last forever. There will come a time when we will yet praise Him. God understands that there are times when joy and praise are beyond us, but not forever. There will come a day when we will praise again. I find that comforting on so many levels.
In Psalm 43, (remember this is all one song) the writer has taken another step up:
Psalm 43:3 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.
4 Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.
Now, he's ready for light and truth again. He's ready for God's Word to guide him again - back into God's presence. He may mean this entirely figuratively or he may be referring to literally being with God.God doesn't leave, but when we're troubled, it feels like He does. He feels very far away - and yet He isn't the one that left. I have prayed, even recently, "Lord, you feel so far away. I know that it's me that left, not you, but I didn't mean to, and now I don't know how to find my way back. Please come and get me, because I want to feel you near me again."
And, even though one way to get back is to immerse yourself in God's Word, sometimes it's just hard to get to that point. In these two Psalms, the writer goes through a process. First, he's so lost in despair that he feels like he's drowning in the abyss. He doesn't cry out to God; he's too busy drowning. God commands His love to come and the writer is reminded of all that God is. Now, he cries out - and God answers with a promise: this won't last forever. You can't praise Me now, but you will. The writer is able to pour out his heart in his song, and he realizes he needs God's light and truth to guide him back to rejoicing.
When you cry out to God, remember that being able to do that shows that He is already at work, restoring you. And the day will come when you WILL praise Him again. The Bible is full of assurances that the "night seasons" do not last forever. Here is one of many:
Psalm 30: 4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. 5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning .
Jesus says to us:
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Why does He say that? Because our hearts do get troubled, and we are afraid. Yet, sometimes that "peace" seems awfully out of reach. If my heart is in turmoil, and I spend part of every day crying, I may very well be wondering, "Where is this peace you promised?"
Isaiah 26:3 (NIV) You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Or, an even better understanding from the New Living Translation:
Isaiah 26:3 (NLT) You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!
The literal translation is a bit obtuse, but worth picking apart:
Isaiah 26:3 An imagination supported Thou fortifiest peace — peace! For in Thee it is confident.
The one who has a steadfast "mind" is kept in perfect peace. That "mind" is yetser (yay'-tser). It means more your thoughts and imagination. It comes from the word yatsar (yaw-tsar'), which means to mold pottery, to shape something out of something previously unformed. It refers to the thoughts you form in your mind.
The word "steadfast" or "fixed" is camak (saw-mak'). It means to support or to lean against, like in a bearing weight kind of way. It would be like when your leg is broken and crutches support your weight - or you start to faint, and someone catches you - or how a bearing wall holds up the weight of your second story.
So, what is this saying? In order to have perfect peace, each one of our thoughts - each part of our imagination - needs to be fully resting on God. We need to put the "full weight" of them on God, so they are steadfastly "stuck" on Him. The "trust" there is batach (baw-takh'), to fully trust, to be absolutely confident. The "you know that you know that you know" trust - that God loves you, will take care of you, has a plan for your life, is truly Good, Right, True and in full control of the world.
God will keep us in perfect peace when we keep our thoughts, our imaginations, fixed on Him. I can personally attest that letting your imagination run wild is a pretty sure road to despair. Is my husband late? In just seconds, I can come up with dozens of scenarios, each one more bleak than the last. What happens? I'm a sobbing mess, for no good reason.
In 1917, Philip Mauro, a lawyer, wrote about his depression in the book "LIFE IN THE WORD":
- "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee." Another marked result of believing "the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son" (1 John 5:9) has been the complete deliverance from the spells of mental depression , which were rapidly developing into a state of settled melancholia, or what is called "nervous prostration," from which so many are suffering in these times of high pressure, and concerning the cause of which they are totally ignorant. The mind cannot be kept in perfect peace that is "stayed" upon material and perishing things. It is manifestly a satisfactory and sufficient explanation of peace of mind that it is "stayed" upon the unchangeable God. This deliverance from mental depression was not immediate, for I did not learn at once to stay my mind on Him; but the change began immediately and progressed until settled peace became the normal mental condition."
When I'm feeling depressed or anxious and overwhelmed, I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing or where I'm supposed to be going. I feel like I'm in the middle of a huge, empty field, with no discernible paths anywhere. I could go anywhere or no where. I don't know what to do, but I feel like if I could just figure it out, I would be OK. I would find the path and be OK again. Yet, remember this verse?
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.
That "Lean not on your own understanding" is the same idea. Instead of putting my "weight" or "fixing my thoughts" on my own understanding, I just need to trust God and let Him handle it. He WILL direct my paths. That "trust" is not a feeling. It is a decision. It is saying, "I will trust, regardless of how I feel. I will believe God is near even if I can't feel Him. I will depend on Him to work things out, even if I don't understand what I'm doing or where I'm going." Letting go of being in control is rarely easy for most of us.
So, where are we so far?
1. If you are so far down that you feel as though you are drowning, God will remind you of His love.
2. If you can cry out to God, He is already working in you.
3. God promises that your sorrow - or anxiety - or whatever - will not last forever.
4. When you understand that you will yet praise Him, it's time to get back into God's Word, which, in time, will lead you back to rejoicing.
5. You can avoid going back down (to that drowning point) if you will keep your thoughts firmly fixed on God and trust Him fully. Take every thought captive, as Paul advises us. Understand that Satan will use your imagination against you every time. He wants to take you further and further from God, and if he can keep you from being effective by making you feel anxious and overwhelmed, he will.
This blog is meant to help people get ready for Jesus' coming. However, the intent is NEVER to make you fearful of that day. Wake up - yes. Fear - no. And, if you are in a bit of an abyss right now, just cry out. He will help you out and get you to the point He wants you to be. God is never late. Trust Him (a conscious decision based on all that God is - not a feeling). Crying out for God to help you is actually the first step in being able to praise 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.
The thoughts here are continued in this study, Trusting God during a night season and afterward. As always, I'd love to hear from you. If not here, feel free to e-mail me.