One of the common questions of life is: “What do I do in times of internal trouble?” We sometimes find ourselves in distress, disappointment, despair, discouragement or depression. Life always has its ups and downs. While life has many victories, it also has losses. A team can’t win every game. A salesman can’t make every sale. It is not daylight all the time – the darkness comes. It is not beautiful, cool, sunshiny weather everyday – there is rain and range in temperatures. Life isn’t always lived on the mountaintop – we do have the valleys.
The psalmist David encountered this in Psalm 42. It came at a tough time in his life. He confessed in verse 3 that “his tears had been his food day and night.” He describes in verse 6 that “his soul is in despair within him.” He describes life in verse 7 as “the waves have rolled over him.” In verse 9 he talks about “the deep state of mourning that he is in.” Verse 10 describes how “his bones are shattered and his adversaries rule over him.” He describes his condition in verse 11 as “despair.”
All of us have to confront these times in life. Economic setbacks, illnesses, unexpected deaths, devastating acts of nature – all these do occur in life. How do we handle them?
David not only describes the tough situation that he is in, but he knows the right answer. He talks to himself and reminds himself that his hope is in God.
Learning to talk to ourselves constructively is an important exercise. Many people talk to themselves about how bad things are and how much worse they are going to get. What we say to ourselves not only determines our attitude, but our future action.
David had some other options to talk to himself about. He could have talked about having hope that the military might be able to reverse conditions and he and his people could be free. He could have told himself that the economic situation would change and he again would be prosperous. He could have talked about some kind of medication to ease the pain. He could have suggested some rehab course that could help him. He could have suggested to himself that he needed to make better choices. He could have suggested that he make better friends.
All of these suggestions have some merit in times of distress – making better choices, helpful medication, professional help, etc. – all of these can be helpful. But these do not reflect the answer that he gives.
David knew that his ultimate hope was in God. He knew that God had created him and that God was bigger than his situation. While being tempted to talk about his enormous problem, he elected to focus on the possibilities of what God could do!
He suggests in verse 5 that when he hopes in God, he will again praise God. In verse 11 he recognizes that his countenance could be changed by God. He speaks in verse 6 about remembering what God had done in the land of the Jordan and his rich heritage. He knows that his answer is in his seeking God first. In verse 1 he describes this as a deer that is extremely thirsty and pants for the water brooks. He sees this image as his soul panting for God.
The tough times come in varying degrees. Sometimes they are minimal – sometimes they are extreme. Regardless of the severity of the distress, David found the answer to be the same – hope in God.
Whatever your situation, there is hope. David discovered it. We can too.