Praise him – Day 6
Hope in despair
In the spring when new life in nature reflects a panorama of God’s creative power, one rarely thinks of droughts that can scorch such beauty. When one day it happens, then shrivelled leaves, dead flowers and dry dust blown by the wind, cry out for water.
This is exactly what happens in this poem in Psalm 42. Drought struck the inner being of the author. His barren soul filled with doubts, questions and longing, calls out to God. How could it be otherwise? People ask him spitefully where his God is. He is no longer in contact with God, because he can no longer go to the temple to worship by himself or with others (Psalm 42:2,4). He is in exile in a foreign country (Psalm 42:6). Eventually he reaches the point where he asks God directly: “Why have you forgotten me?” (Psalm 42:9).
But then he remembered: God was present when he experienced so much joy leading people to the temple! Has God now suddenly disappeared? No, God is also present in the strange and evil place where he finds himself. God is also present when people mock him about the “absence” of his God.
Then hope breaks through the dry crust of his drought: hope in God. Hope in his God – his helper and his rock.
This hope motivates him to serious self-examination: “Why are you cast down, oh my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me. Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
Each person experiences similar circumstances in life which disturbs, depresses and crushes one, causing us to fall away and doubt the very presence of God. But is it at all possible for God to forget his child, his very own creation? Not if we listen to what God himself says: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast … Though she may forget, I will not forget you! So I have engraved you on the palms of my hands …” (Isaiah 49:15-16).
This promise should be encouragement enough to give you hope in your circumstances. Follow the example of the psalmist: Talk to yourself and rebuke your despondency urgently and seriously, declare out loud your hope in God’s ability to change things and resolve to praise him – in your present circumstances and also when he changes things.