Despair

Nick Lees July 16, 2017 Psalm 42-43
Outline

3 Keys to Handling Despair Biblically

I. Recognize the evidences of despair

a. You’re uncertain you will ever be satisfied

Psalm 42:1-2 - 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?

b. You feel an ongoing sense of sadness and loss of hope

Psalm 42:3 - My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Psalm 42:5a, 11a; 43:5a - Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?

Psalm 42:6a - O my God, my soul is in despair within me…

Psalm 42:7 - Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.

II. Understand the source of despair

a. Your response to your circumstances reveals the source of your hope

Habakkuk 3:17-19 - Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.

b. Choosing to despair is ultimately a result of choosing to forget God

Psalm 139:7-12 - Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.

Psalm 121:1-8 - I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.

III. Respond properly to despair

a. Ask yourself good questions

b. Ask God hard questions in faith

c. Remember true things

Psalm 42:4 - 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.

Psalm 42:6 - 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.

d. Speak the truth

Psalm 42:8 - 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.

Psalm 42:5 - Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.

Psalm 42:11 - Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.

Psalm 43:5 - Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.

e. Cry out to God

Psalm 43:1 - Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation; O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!

f. Go to God

Psalm 43:3-4 - O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling places. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God.

Have you ever experienced a time where you felt like you had no hope? You looked at the world around you and you just didn’t see a way forward. Everything seemed a shade darker. Birds weren’t chirping, the sun wasn’t shining, the only thing you could see was another gloomy, hard day ahead. If there was ever someone who would have been justified in feeling this way it was Horatio G. Spafford. Mr. Spafford was a prominent lawyer who was alive in the mid-to-late 1800s. At the end of the 1860s life was good for the Spaffords. He and his wife Anna had five children and he had a successful law practice in Chicago. He was heavily involved in the abolitionist movement in America and an elder in the Presbyterian church. He was friends with evangelical leaders like Dwight Moody. Things seemed to be going well in their lives, until the 1870s that is… In 1870 their 4 yr old son, Horatio Jr. died of Scarlet fever. In 1871 the Great Chicago Fire broke out and destroyed the real estate investments Horatio had made on Lake Michigan just months before…  So, in 1873, the Spaffords planned a trip to Europe to put the past few years of tragedies behind him and to help in the spiritual revival that was going on there. A business emergency came up the day they were to set sail to Europe, so Horatio sent his wife and 4 daughters ahead of him. On November 22nd, 1873 the steamer Ville du Havre (VEEL DEW AVR) was struck by a British iron sailing ship, the Lockhearn. The steamer, with Anna Spafford and her daughters aboard, sank within 12 minutes in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Of his family, only his wife Anna. Upon arriving in Wales, she telegraphed her husband a short message… “Saved alone. What shall I do…”

There is no question this is a story of tragedy and heartbreak. The Spafford family endured trials beyond what most of us have ever faced. Can you imagine losing all 5 of your children? And yet, the history books record that they did not despair. Perhaps you do not recognize the name of Horatio G. Spafford, I doubt I would have a month ago… He is the author of the famous hymn, “It is Well With My Soul.” He penned this hymn the night he sailed over the site where his daughters had went down with the ship just days before. It is said that Horatio’s faith in God never faltered.

Now let me ask you, how could a man respond to such terrible circumstances with such hope? Why did he not crumple under the weight of these tragedies? That is exactly what I hope to unpack with you during our time together this morning. I want you to leave here today with the tools you need to respond to the trials and temptations of life with the same level of hope and faith that Horatio Spafford demonstrated in the face of his whole world being turned upside down. Do you believe that it is possible? I do. Let’s study the Word together this morning and see what we can learn.

In case you’re new with us this morning, our annual theme this year is In Christ Alone and today we’re continuing our series Handling Problems in a Christ-Centered Way. This morning we have the opportunity to look specifically at the problem of despair in a message I am calling Do not Despair, Hope in God.

Today we’re going to look at Psalm 42 and 43 which is on page 410 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. Please turn there in your Bible, your phone, or using the Bible under the chair in front of you. I will read it aloud and you can follow along with me.

Read Psalm 42-43

      1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,

      So my soul pants for You, O God.

      2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;

      When shall I come and appear before God?

      3 My tears have been my food day and night,

      While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

      4 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.

      5 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.

      6 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.

      7 Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;

      All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.

      8 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.

      9 I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me?

      Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

      10 As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me,

      While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

      11 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 43

      1 Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation;

      O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!

      2 For You are the God of my strength; why have You rejected me?

      Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

      3 O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me;

      Let them bring me to Your holy hill

      And to Your dwelling places.

      4 Then I will go to the altar of God,

      To God my exceeding joy;

      And upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God.

      5 Why are you in despair, O my soul?

      And why are you disturbed within me?

      Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,

      The help of my countenance and my God.

In the time that we have remaining I’d like to discuss 3 Keys to Handling Despair Biblically. Our goal by the time we’re done this morning is to have the tools to be able to face moments or even seasons of despair in our own lives with great hope and to be able to guide others to the same result.

The first key to handling despair biblically is to…

I.             Recognize the evidences of despair

Before you can address a problem, you have to recognize it exists! How do you know if you or someone you know is despairing? What sort of evidence should you look for in their lives? Knowing the answer to these questions is part of the process of handling despair biblically! What evidences of despair do we see in the psalmist’s life? Here is one I’ll draw your attention to…

    1. You’re uncertain you will ever be satisfied

Psalm 42:1–2 (NASB95)

      1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,

      So my soul pants for You, O God.

      2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;

      When shall I come and appear before God?

The imagery used here is of a thirsty deer coming to the stream for a drink. It pants for the water, indicating it’s longing and need for refreshment. Can you imagine if it found the streambed dry? Onward it treks to the next source of water. What if that one appears dry too? Soon it will become more frantic in its search for satisfaction. Have you ever been in a similar situation?

You’re out in the heat, maybe mowing the lawn, cleaning out the garage, working on your car, you pick the scenario… you’re working hard but forgetting to stay hydrated… then all of a sudden it hits you, I’m thirsty! Maybe you feel a little light-headed or dizzy… Where can I get a drink? Immediately you head for the nearest refrigerator or source of refreshment… But what if you don’t have one in easy reach? Perhaps you were out on a run and forgot to pack your liquids… or you’re craving a cold soda but all you have is milk… What then? Oh how the thirsting would continue and continue… it would seem unbearable! I just want ______ and I don’t have it! In this way, the psalmist pants… He is thirsting… He longs for satisfaction… When will his desire be satisfied? He doesn’t know! And that begins to lead him to despair.

Notice also the accompanying feelings to his uncertainty. When we’re left empty and unsatisfied and even wondering if we’ll ever be satisfied again, there are often additional evidences of despair in the form of…

    1. You feel an ongoing sense of sadness and loss of hope

Notice the ebb and flow of the psalmist’s response. Over and over again he uses language that indicates how downcast he is feeling.

Psalm 42:3 (NASB95)

      3 My tears have been my food day and night,

      While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Psalm 42:5a, 11a; 43:5a (NASB95)

      Why are you in despair, O my soul?

      And why have you become disturbed within me?

     

Psalm 42:6a

      6 O my God, my soul is in despair within me;

It’s very clear that something is wrong! The psalmist is deeply troubled! The thing about despair is that it is literally a loss of hope. A despairing person is a hopeless person. When you realize that, it makes sense why they would cry day and night – can you imagine waking up each day to the same feeling of hopelessness? Today is going to be more of the same, no joy, nothing good to look forward to, just more pain and sorrow, more unsatisfied longings. You fill in the blank for why you are despairing… It could be that you are legitimately hurting from the pain of the loss of a loved one, or perhaps you were just fired from your job, or a close friend or family member betrayed your trust…Or perhaps you’re just hopeless when you look at the state of the world we’re in. Reading the news these days doesn’t seem to instill much hope! Whatever your reason, there are many starting points for a person to walk down the path of despair.

Perhaps you feel overwhelmed by your circumstances. That’s how the psalmist describes his situation in verse 7.

Psalm 42:7 (NASB95)

      7 Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;

      All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.

As he longs for and pants for the living water of God, he instead feels like God’s waters are crashing together and the waves are rolling over him. It’s a picture of chaos. He’s being tossed around by what God has allowed into his life. Instead of being refreshed and given life, it feels like he’s drowning!

We see that his despair originates from feeling separated or absent from God. He is longing for the presence of God in his life. That is the desire that is not being satisfied for him. That is what he longs for… And because the desire is not satisfied, he is struggling with sadness and loss of hope! This is a struggle that goes down to the very core of his being… “Why are you in despair, O my soul?” We’re not talking about a minor bout with sadness, we’re talking about something that grips you to the very core of your being. It shapes your view on life.

In his situation, others around him even took the opportunity to rub in his despair – “Where is your God?” they mocked! Can you imagine? How heartless to see someone without hope and go up to them only to push them further along the path of despair! I pray that we would not be like that! In fact, that’s why we’re having this discussion this morning, so you are prepared and equipped to HELP not hinder someone who is struggling with despair.

So, if these are some of the evidences of despair in a person’s life, what should you do if you are or know a despairing person? Well, you need to seek to….

II.            Understand the source of despair

A great question to ask is, “Why are you tempted to despair?” You need to understand that not everyone’s situation is the same. As we just observed, the psalmist’s reason for despairing was his separation from God. Although the path out of despair is the same, the way you speak to him is going to be different than the way you come alongside someone who is despairing because their spouse just passed away. As we seek to handle despair biblically in our own lives or the lives of those around us, we must seek to understand why they are tempted to despair.

Once you have this information, then you can begin filtering it through your grid of biblical truth. Here is what I mean by that. If someone tells you they have no hope because their spouse just passed away or because they were fired from their job, then you now know where they have been placing their hope. The principle at work here is…

    1. Your response to your circumstances reveal the source of your hope

There is no question that losing a spouse or being fired from your job is a legitimate trial. Those are heavy situations that we do not wish upon anyone. However, it is possible to face those circumstances with hope. We see it in the life of Horatio Spafford and his response to his daughters’ unexpected deaths. It was even apparent in the way Doc Smith handled the passing of his dear wife, Leona. Let me tell you briefly about that… Pastor Aaron Birk went to visit with Doc after receiving news that Leona had passed away and he told me that the visit consisted of Doc seeking to counsel and encourage Aaron rather than the other way around! How could Doc respond that way? How could Mr. Spafford respond that way? It all comes back to the source of their hope…

If Doc had been placing his hope in his wife and her ongoing health, then her death would have shaken him to his very core. His source of hope would have been gone. The same would be true for Mr. Spafford if his hope had been in his family’s safety and well-being. But that wasn’t the source of their hope. They were hoping in something or someone else. Can I ask you, where are you placing your hope?

Perhaps you don’t know the answer to that question… Here is how you figure it out – what thing or person if it were removed from your life would put you in the place where you feel like there is no more hope going forward? Would you feel like life was falling apart if you lost your job? Would you feel hopeless if you lost your spouse or your kids? Would you despair if your best friend betrayed you? Now God forbid any of these things happen, again we wouldn’t wish these on anyone, but the hard questions need to be asked… would any of these scenarios or ones like it happening in your life drive you to despair? If so, then you have likely identified where you place your hope.

Now I realize that this has the ability to sound heartless. “Nick, are you saying that I can’t grieve the death of a loved one? Are you saying that I have to pretend that these things don’t hurt?” Absolutely not! I’m not asking you to put on a fake, plastic exterior. What I’m challenging us to do is to get to the place where we respond to these deep trials like the prophet Habakkuk:

Habakkuk 3:17–19 (NASB95)

            17 Though the fig tree should not blossom

            And there be no fruit on the vines,

            Though the yield of the olive should fail

            And the fields produce no food,

            Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

            And there be no cattle in the stalls,

            18 Yet I will exult in the Lord,

            I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

            19 The Lord God is my strength,

            And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,

            And makes me walk on my high places.

Even though the prophet was going through incredibly hard times and it seemed as if nothing was going right in the world, he did not lose hope. In fact, he was able to rejoice in God. Responding to deep trials this way is only possible when the source of our hope is God. Which brings us to the second key piece to understanding the source of despair….

    1. Choosing to despair is ultimately a result of choosing to forget God

In this psalm the theme of memory and remembering is brought up multiple times. When the psalmist is tempted to despair he chooses to remember true things. We see it in verses 4 and 6 of Psalm 42. We see it in the way he speaks about God and his character throughout the psalm. We’ll look at those in more detail in a few moments, but for now what I want you to realize is that in the midst of the temptation to despair there is a choice to be made – you can either choose to remember or choose to forget God.

You see when you say there is no hope, you are essentially saying there is no God. (Repeat) How can I say that? Because the testimony of Scripture is that God is with His people and that He cares for them. And if God is with you and for you, then there is always hope, no matter what the situation or circumstances. Consider Psalm 139:

Psalm 139:7–12 (NASB95)

      7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?

      Or where can I flee from Your presence?

      8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there;

      If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

      9 If I take the wings of the dawn,

      If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,

      10 Even there Your hand will lead me,

      And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

      11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,

      And the light around me will be night,”

      12 Even the darkness is not dark to You,

      And the night is as bright as the day.

      Darkness and light are alike to You.

If that is true, then there is never a situation that is too great or too powerful for Him. There is not a place you can go on this earth where he will not be present with you. There is not a single moment of the deepest, darkest trial that is beyond our God’s control. He is able to bring you through the darkest of nights and the deepest of waters. He knows the depth of your suffering and will meet you in it and bring you out of it. That is a source of great hope! The Israelites often sang Psalm 121 which says:

Psalm 121:1–8 (NASB95)

      1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;

      From where shall my help come?

      2 My help comes from the LORD,

      Who made heaven and earth.

      3 He will not allow your foot to slip;

      He who keeps you will not slumber.

      4 Behold, He who keeps Israel

      Will neither slumber nor sleep.

      5 The LORD is your keeper;

      The LORD is your shade on your right hand.

      6 The sun will not smite you by day,

      Nor the moon by night.

      7 The LORD will protect you from all evil;

      He will keep your soul.

      8 The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in

      From this time forth and forever.

You have a choice in how you respond to your circumstances. No one is minimizing the depth of the pain you are going through, but we do want to love you enough to point you to the way out of the pain. The darkness does not have to endure. It is possible to have hope in the midst of the hurt. The path to that hope is choosing to remember God.

Do not buy into the lie that your situation is unique and too great for God. Recognize that God is present in your trial. He is not far from you! Do not forget His character or His promises. Doing so is the surest way to continue down the path of despair.

So now that you’ve recognized some evidences of despair and sought to understand the source of despair, what should you do next? Well, you need to…

III.          Respond properly to despair

This is my favorite part of the message because we get to focus on the practical application and takeaways. This is where the rubber meets the road and you really get to see if you’re serious about living out your faith. So what can we learn from the psalmist about how to respond properly to despair? There are six takeaways that I want to draw your attention to this morning.

The first is…

    1. Ask yourself good questions

Notice the pattern that the psalmist engages in throughout the psalm. Multiple times he questions himself, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?” (v5, 11, 43:5) Now you might read that and say, “So what, what’s the big deal about these questions?” Well, I’ll tell you what! This man is actively engaged with what is going on in his life. He isn’t choosing to sit idly by and let his circumstances dictate his responses. He’s trying to figure out why he’s despairing.

So if you’re here this morning and you are currently in a state of despair, have you asked yourself, “How have I gotten here? What is keeping me from God?” Perhaps you’ve made some decisions that have led to you forgetting who God is… or perhaps there are other circumstances in your life that are hindering you from drawing near to God. In the psalmist’s situation he had likely been physically removed from Jerusalem due to exile. That means he was no longer able to access the temple and come into God’s presence. This is part of why he is struggling with despair and it’s good that he recognizes it! He allows these questions to redirect his focus back to the hope he has in God and the hope that he has of future deliverance. You must do likewise. You need to ask the questions that will reveal why you are in a state of despair and seek their answers.

Not only do you need to ask good questions of yourself, you also can…

    1. Ask God hard questions in faith

The psalmist isn’t afraid to ask God, “Why?” Namely, "Why have you forgotten/rejected me?" (v9, 43:2) and "Why do I go in mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" (v9) These are overstatements of what the psalmist is feeling. We know that because just a verse before in v8 he remembers God’s lovingkindness (hesed), His covenant love for him. He knows God is there BUT it feels like he’s not! He feels forgotten. He feels rejected. And to feel that way is hard and he acknowledges that by asking God WHY!? He legitimately wants to know what God is doing in this!

This is helpful to us as modern day readers because it gives us a pattern to follow. You can ask God the hard questions, he’s not afraid of them. He’s ready for them. He hasn’t forgotten you either. Just like the psalmist, you need to move from asking hard questions to…

    1. Remember true things

In the midst of the pain and the hurt of despair, the psalmist remembers the things that are true. If despair is the choice to forget God and therefore have no hope, then fighting despair means you’re actively choosing to remember God and the truth.

How does the psalmist do that? In verse 4 he remembers the value of godly community!

Psalm 42:4 (NASB95)

      4 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.

Those were the good ole’ days. When he was with the congregation of worshippers heading to the house of God, singing and worshipping God. He remembers the value that this community had on his life. This is important for us because it highlights the value of Christian community in your life today!

When the psalmist was in his faith community he had access to resources that helped him defeat despair and have hope! So too does the church do that for you today! When you are down and tempted to despair, other believers can remind you of what is true, even when you’re struggling to believe it!

So let me ask you, do you value godly community? Here are some questions to evaluate whether you do or don’t…

  • Are you involved in the local church?
  • Are you connected to it?
  • Would the people in the church notice if you were gone?
  • Would there be anyone close enough to you who would notice you’re gone and then follow up with you?

If the answer to these is “no”, then you’ve probably not valued godly community in the past and you’re not currently connected to it like you ought to be. I can say with conviction as a pastor that we don’t want you to stay there! We want this to be your church home. We want you to be active and involved and a part of this faith community as we seek the Lord together. God wants you to be connected to a local church. Do you agree with Genesis 1 when it says that he made you in his image? If you do, then you need to realize God is a relational being… Guess what that means, it means you were meant to be a relational being! You need godly community.

If you’ve never taken any steps to being connected here, I want to encourage you to take step one, which is to fill out the connection card on the back of the seat in front of you. Then I want you to take that to a pastor after the service and introduce yourself. That’s the start of a conversation that will help you be connected to the church.

If you’ve already taken that step, then I want to encourage you to take one of the following next steps:

  • Sign up for the next Intro to Faith class and begin taking steps towards joining the membership of the church
    • Did you know that the New Testament knows nothing of a person who says they’re a Christian but not part of a local church. Membership is a key component of being connected somewhere!
  • If not that, then join an ABF (FE) or a Faith Group (FW). These are the mechanisms we have in place for developing community within our church body. Introduce yourself to some folks and go from there!

These are all steps towards valuing Christian community in your life so that when you’re tempted to despair there are people around you who will walk with you and speak truth to you.  This is a good lesson to learn from the psalmist. But the psalmist did not only remember the value of community, more importantly, he remembered… God!

Psalm 42:6 (NASB95)

      6 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.

Even more important than community is the One for whom that community is gathered. It is God’s presence and character that the psalmist calls to mind when his hope is fleeting. Even though it seems like things are chaotic in his life (v7) he knows the Lord… and that knowledge leads him to…

    1. Speak the truth

In verse 8 he affirms God’s sovereign love towards him.

Psalm 42:8 (NASB95)

      8 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.

As he remembers God, he speaks the truth to himself of God’s covenant love towards him, he chooses to sing and pray to the God of his life! The One whom he earlier referred to as the “living” God. When you’re tempted to despair it’s important to not only remember true things, you must also speak true things to yourself. Often times these true things are going to be about God and how we respond to him.

Notice the refrain of the psalmist in 5b, 11b, and 43:5b…

Psalm 42:5 (NASB95)

      Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him

      For the help of His presence.

Psalm 42:11 (NASB95)

      Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,

      The help of my countenance and my God.

Psalm 43:5 (NASB95)

      Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,

      The help of my countenance and my God.

In the face of his despair, the psalmist is speaking true things to himself over and over again. Here’s how Preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones explains this verse:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says,: “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.” (Spiritual Depression, 20–21)

Pastor John Piper takes this a step further in a challenge for Christians when he says:

On this side of the cross, we know the greatest ground for our hope: Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and triumphant over death. So the main thing we must learn is to preach the gospel to ourselves:

Listen, self: If God is for you, who can be against you? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for you, how will he not also with him graciously give you all things? Who shall bring any charge against you as God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for you. Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:31–35 paraphrased)

Learn to preach the gospel to yourself. If this psalmist were living after Christ, that is what he would have done.

This is what it looks like to speak the truth as you wrestle with despair. Do not let despair have the last word! In Christ Alone you have great hope in the face of despair! And as you wrestle with despair, be sure to follow the psalmist’s example in 43:1 by…

    1. Cry out to God

Psalm 43:1 (NASB95)

      1 Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation;

      O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!

After the back and forth ebb and flow of the inner battle with despair in Psalm 42, now the Psalmist is crying out directly to God to intervene. He’s done his part of asking hard questions, remembering true things, and speaking the truth to himself, now it’s time to call in the reinforcements!

Vindicate me – Clear me of blame! Declare me righteous!

Plead my case – Argue for me God!

Deliver me – Save or set me free!

All of these are pleas from the psalmist to God. He is demanding God take action. He is depending on God to act. He needs God to act. This is an indication that his hope is alive and well and that it’s centered in God. He is pleading for God to save him!

If you’ve never reached the point in your life where you’ve recognized your need for God to save you, then this is where I want to challenge you today. At the end of the day, even if you tried to implement all of the questions and resources that we’re talking about this morning in your battle against despair (or worry, anger or any of the other topics we’ve discussed in this series) you will fail. It won’t work because you are doing it in your own strength. You are trying to make a change that only God can effect in you. This entire series about handling problems in a Christ-centered way revolves around you having a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ. That means that there has been a point in time in your life where you’ve acknowledged your sin, asked for forgiveness from God, and confessed your belief in Jesus Christ as the only way to change, to be able to be with God. If that has not happened in your life, then I want to encourage you to get that settled today. I want you to have the hope of overcoming despair or anger or worry or whatever issue it is in in your life.

Christians, when you’re wrestling with despair, don’t hesitate to call for help! God is the one with infinite resources at his disposal to help you. He is the One who can ultimately address the root of your despair. In the case of the psalmist, He was the one who could vindicate him and justify him and deliver him from the ungodly people who had brought him into exile. So too can God work in your life to deliver you from the source of your despair. He is the One who can provide hope in the most hopeless of situations. But this requires you to take one final step. Like the psalmist, you need to…

    1. Go to God

Psalm 43:3–4 (NASB95)

      3 O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me;

      Let them bring me to Your holy hill

      And to Your dwelling places.

      4 Then I will go to the altar of God,

      To God my exceeding joy;

      And upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God.

God is the source of hope in the psalmist’s life. Is he the source of hope in yours? If so, when you cry out to God, don’t be surprised when he answers. He knows your every need. When you see His light and truth again, allow them to lead your life. Let them bring you to God’s presence. He is the source of your exceeding joy, even in the face of incredible trials. Take up your song of praise again and worship His holy name.

Nick Lees

B.S. - Computer Information Technology, Purdue University
M.Div - Faith Bible Seminary

Pastor Nick Lees and his wife, Micaela, have been a part of our staff since Fall 2010.  Nick oversees the College, Wedding and Faith Church West Children’s Ministries, as well as Faith West Ministry Housing.  Nick is also an ACBC certified counselor.  He and Micaela have four daughters, Anniston, Eden, Haddyn and one still in the “oven”.