Pastor Marc Likins
In Psalm 42, we find a man who is struggling with what some have called spiritual dryness. He feels as though he has lost the face of God; the relational experience of God’s presence is nowhere to be found. His prayers are hitting the ceiling so to speak.
How does he bring water into the desert of his soul? Last week, we observed a few steps this man took to reverse his spiritual dryness and get back on track, and this week we will observe a few more.
HE IS NOT REDUCTIONISTIC
At its heart, reductionism is an attempt to explain something that is complicated in a simpler way, and Americans have a terrible habit of being reductionistic concerning who we are on the inside. Those that are secular tend to see all inner problems as physical and will often offer a purely physical solution to someone who is discouraged, depressed, anxious, etc. They might say something like, “Sleep more, eat better, and take your medicine. See if you don’t feel better after that.”
Those that are religious tend to see all inner problems as moral and will often offer a purely moral solution to someone who is in the same scenario. They might say something like, “Go to church, read the Bible, keep praying, pull yourself together, and stop sniveling.”
You find that the Psalmist pays close attention to his prayer life and his spiritual lines of thinking, but he also recognizes the physical when he says, “My tears have been my meat day and night.” In other words, “I am only eating tears over here; I have lost my appetite. I have stopped sleeping; I’m weeping all night.”
This man is not going to accurately treat his overall condition unless both the physical and the spiritual are dealt with simultaneously. We do well to understand this. The solution to postpartum depression is not as simple as more prayer. The solution to a midlife crisis is not as simple as eating better. And the solution to spiritual dryness involves both the physical and spiritual more often than not.
HE RELOCATES HIS HOPE
To combat his spiritual dryness, he dives into the art of self-awareness. He examines himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me?” And as he was searching for a reason, he found his hope being migrated back to God. “Hope thou in God” he proclaimed both in verses five and eleven, as if reminding himself that his soul may be uncertain but there is always a reason to hope.
And when he reminds himself to relocate his view, there is much good to be reminded of.
HE PREACHES TO HIS HEART
On one hand, the Psalmist is unashamed to be open and honest. He cried out, “God, where are you? You feel distant, and I’m in a rut.” Yet, on the other hand, he isn’t going to allow his feelings to dictate his life pattern.
He, in a sense, forces himself to talk through how good God has been and how good He will be. Have you ever done this….spend time preaching or coaching yourself with truth? This is what he did! “….therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan….” Or when he says, “Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime….”
This is crucial! In the beginning, he was listening to his heart, but now he refocuses and tells himself to listen to truth. If at times you are talking to yourself and feel a bit crazy, you’re not alone! The Psalmist is in your company.
The biggest problem during times of dryness is to feel like God has left you, to feel like you’re alone, to feel lost. At this pivotal moment, stop, redirect, and speak truth into your life. Look back and see God’s love and forgiveness. Look around and see His goodness.
Preach truth to yourself and see God give you hope for your future.
1. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
2. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
3. My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?
4. When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.
5. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.
6. O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.
7. Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
8. Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.
9. I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
10. As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?
11. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
Part 1 of this series can be found here. Both of these blog posts are influenced heavily by sermons preached on Psalm 42 by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Timothy Keller.