Imagine this. Your country has been overrun and conquered by a foreign power. Those not killed during the siege are chained together and marched far from home as slaves. You are expected to merge into their culture, their ideals, their way of life, and to worship their gods. Everything that once brought joy has been turned to dust. Where’s B.B. King and Lucille to sing the blues when you need them?
While those Jewish folks enslaved to a foreign conqueror did not know the rhythms and soulful sound of modern day blues they did sing about their despair and their hope. Consider Psalm 42.
As the deer pants for the water brooks So my soul pants 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 day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life.
I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.”
(Psalm 42, NASB95)
Did you catch the notes of despair? The lament over those things lost but still remembered? The pain of feeling abandoned by God? The deep blue depression that they couldn’t seem to help? The conflict between mind, soul, and spirit as they wrestled with reality, promise, hope, and oppression. But even in the midst of his turmoil, the psalmist clings to faith. Instead of abandoning God he thirsts and yearns like a parched deer seeking a life-giving stream. He keeps reminding himself to hope in God. He remembers the beauty of the promised land and gathers faith from God’s promises. Lastly, he binds hope to his battered soul and declares – for I shall continue to praise God no matter what.
Feeling blue today? Does life seem to be a series of endless conflicts? Perhaps there is even a sense of being abandoned by God and those that matter most. A despair or depression that is ever constant but that you can’t quite put your finger on. Perhaps there is even a little shame involved because Christians are not supposed to feel this way. I’m not going to tell you to take a happy pill or to get over it. I’m not here to encourage a mask of “everything’s fine even when it’s not”. I’m not going to promise that everything will be better tomorrow, next week, or next year – the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish folk lasted for seventy long years. I am instead going to encourage you to follow the wisdom of the Psalmist. Hold fast to God, seek Him even though He feels far away right now. Recognize your very real feelings and pour them out before God like the psalmist. Determine that you are going to praise God, no matter what, right now and forevermore. Can’t think of anything good to praise God for? May I suggest this little tune to get you started
Jesus loves me this I know
for the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
I am weak but He is strong
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so
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