Psalm 42 is a consistent landing spot for me in my own personal devotions and in my counsel to others. For me, this Psalm is the stuff of life. Polished it is not. It is full of questions, confusion, and emotion. David expresses pain, sadness, and despair; yet, in the midst of this soul tsunami he clings to God. When life and emotion point to hopelessness, he speaks truth to his soul.
I find in this Psalm a model prayer for those asking the question, “Where should I serve God?” I hear this question, stated in a variety of ways by all sorts of students, almost daily in the seminary context in which I teach. This question is pregnant with expectations that often are tied to frustration, fear, and, for some, despair. It is precisely during this time of seeking and questioning that one needs to cling to God and speak truth to his soul.
Let’s look at how David handles his time of despair and soul care:
- In verses 1-2, David expresses his deep longing and need for God.
- Verse 3, David is transparent and has no answer for “Where is your God?”
- Verse 4, David remembers the good days when everything was right in the world
- Verse 5, he then recognizes that his soul is disordered and downcast. Instead of allowing the state of his soul to color his entire perspective, David speaks truth to himself: Hope in the Lord and He is still praiseworthy!
- Verse 6, more honesty: David is depressed, yet he chooses to dwell on the faithfulness of God in the past.
- Verse 7-8, David continues to call to the Lord and presume upon the faithful love of God
- Verse 9, David shows us that God is big enough to handle honest, tough questions.
- Verse 10, life isn’t getting any easier and the questions still need an answer, but David once again speaks truth to his down and out soul.
- Verse 11, David recognizes that he is depressed and in a funk, but he knows that his emotions don’t always tell the true story. Even though he has every “right” to be depressed and hopeless, for the third time, David speaks truth to his soul.
So, how can this psalm serve as a model prayer for those in the harrowing time of discerning the future and how God might use you to advance His kingdom?
Maybe something like this:
God, you are a good Father and my Sustainer. I run to you every moment of the day. My desire is to love and worship you with all of my life. Even though I pray, read your Word, and seek counsel, I am confused. People ask me, “Where are you going to serve?” Honestly I have no good answer because you are silent!
I do remember your salvation. There are times when I feel your presence and sense your leading in my life. I can look back over the years and see how I’ve grown and matured in You, but right now I am frustrated, confused, and just wondering why I can’t hear you. Did I do something wrong? I thought you were a good and kind Father, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. I know that you are trustworthy. You are the God of the nations and you want them to hear about you. I will hope and trust in you even though I don’t feel like it.
Just talk to me! Why are you silent? Your Word comforts me and shows me story after story of your great and faithful love. Remind me that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things unseen, because I am struggling to live this out right now. Thank you for your new mercies every morning. Help me to think on things that are honorable, pure, and those things that are commendable.
God, I am ticked that this decision is so difficult. I thought coming to seminary or serving in my church would make decisions like this easier. I’m supposed to be more put together and sure of things than I am. You said to ask You for wisdom and that you would give it. I am asking. Why are you so quiet? My family is wondering. My friends are talking behind my back. How can I tell the lost about a good and faithful God if I don’t even believe that right now? I am depressed and confused, God.
But, I am confident in You. My hope is not in how I feel but in your great and faithful love. I know you’ll be with me in making this decision. I am convinced that you are for me and have my best interests in mind no matter where you send me to serve You. Thank you, my Savior and my God.
God is big enough to hear from us on our most unpolished days. We all have those days. Days when hope is a nice ideal, but is hardly tangible. Days when God seems like He’s hiding from you.
My prayer is that you will speak truth to your soul whether you find yourself in the middle of a soul tsunami as you try to discern God’s call on your life or you are simply in a season of dryness and despair. Use psalm 42 as a model and let it inform some raw, honest prayer to God.