Words to Ponder
COVID-19 news, social restrictions, and alterations to our lifestyles may be starting to get to us. As this race turns into a marathon, some of us may be discovering that we are better sprinters. Rev. Dr. Richard Phillips, Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC, penned a few words of encouragement from Psalm 42.
Psalm 42 is especially valuable to Christians who are struggling with a downcast soul. There is little doubt that many Christians have this struggle in times when the daily news presents alarming figures and scenes of dismay. Psalm 42 addresses how to respond to spiritual or emotional depression. It twice presents the refrain: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps. 42:5, 11). The answer it gives to this condition may be helpful to us as we endure lengthening days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.
The first thing for us to note is that the psalmist does not yield to his depression. Instead, he challenges the downcast tone of his heart. Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments: “This man was not content just to lie down and commiserate with himself. He does something about it, he takes himself in hand.” Instead of letting his soul dictate to him, the believer begins dictating to his soul. Charles Spurgeon says of the psalmist: “His faith reasons with his fears, his hope argues with his sorrows.” There will be times in the coming days and weeks when many of us will need to follow the psalmist’s example.
The best reason why Christians should not be content with spiritual depression – even in the worst of times – is because of the truths that we know about God. The psalmist reasons: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Ps. 42:6). Notice that he does not deny the threats to his well-being, nor does he simply think, “I can handle this.” Instead, he preaches the truth that he knows about God to his soul. First, he remembers that God is a mighty Savior: “my salvation and my God.” He knows that God is faithful and steadfast to deliver. In the storm he faces, he finds God’s saving power to be an anchor for his soul. Second, he rejoices in God’s sovereign grace: “By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me” (Ps. 42:8). In other words, he recalls that in Christ God’s will is committed to his salvation and that God’s will cannot be overcome any earthly threat. The one thing he knows will not fall to his trial – or our trial in the coronavirus – is God’s “steadfast love.” Third, he remembers to turn to God’s Word as a source of spiritual encouragement: “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and your dwelling!” (Ps. 43:3). We will likewise be especially encouraged in these trying times by frequently drinking from God’s Word.
There is nothing wrong with feeling anxiety in times like these. But let us not leave our souls in a downcast posture. If we exercise our faith, preaching God’s truth to our souls, we can say with the psalmist: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1).
 Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, 20.
 Spurgeon, Treasury of David, 1:2, 272.
 It is my view that Psalms 42 and 43 are actually a single composition.