My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 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. 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. Psalm 42:3-5
The Psalms express the gamut when it comes to emotions. There are psalms of praise and thanksgiving, but there are also starkly honest psalms of lament, or complaint. Psalms of lament usually begin with a desperate cry, a description of a crisis, or a haunting question. Then there is a turning point when the writer stops looking at his sorrow and turns toward God. By the end of the psalm, there is an affirmation of trust in God even though there has been no immediate deliverance from trouble.
It is important for us to learn to lament well. The Psalms show us that honest expressions of hurt or grief before God are perfectly acceptable. We don’t always have to fake it and convince ourselves and everyone else that we’re “fine”. Unfortunately, we often get stuck in the complaint stage and resist making that turn toward God.
In today’s passage, the writer did two things to help him snap out of his gloomy mood. First, he recalled back to happier days when God did feel near; he reminisced about times when fellowship was rich and joy was abundant. Second, he preached to himself. After questioning the state of his own heart, he encouraged himself and determined to praise God regardless of his situation.
The Psalms teach us to acknowledge and name our pain, but to not get stuck there. It is possible to move from hurt to joy, from darkness to light, from desperation to hope.
Lord, it often seems like everyone around me has it all together and I don’t measure up. Thank You for permission to be honest about my struggles. Help me to turn toward You when I’m hurting and put my hope in Your love.