Full of Hope: Encouraging One Another with the Word of God

Ep. 5: A Tool To Use When We Are Discouraged

March 27, 2020

Topic: Encouragement Passage: Psalms 42–43

Hello, Hope Fellowship! Welcome to our podcast “Full of Hope: Encouraging One Another with the Word of God,” where we seek to regularly equip the people of Hope Fellowship with truth from Scripture.

Last time we looked at Psalms 42 and 43 and the way in which the psalmist speaks truth to himself when he is discouraged. We thought about, from the beginning of the Psalm, how reminding our hearts that we have once been satisfied in God helps us to take our eyes off of our present circumstances and put them where our true hope resides: in God himself. 

This time, we’re going to continue in Psalms 42–43 and look at what we need to speak to ourselves when we are discouraged: 

Self, remember specific truth about who God is and what he has done.

Listen to verse 6: “My soul is cast down within me.” 

The reality is, all of us grow discouraged. It just looks different for people. Some are discouraged because of their circumstances. Some are discouraged because of loneliness and it makes them want to withdraw more. Some are discouraged because of chronic sin in their lives that keeps rearing its ugly head. Some are discouraged because of unmet expectations. And some are discouraged because of the weariness of life or a chronic, long-term illness. 

Discouragement isn’t just for a few people that we once knew. All of us grow discouraged. And how much more today in isolation in our houses. What might have been a low-level discouragement in January is now a full-blown constant pity party in our minds. 

But look what the psalmist does—he doesn’t just say, “my soul is downcast” and get sullen or irritable or weepy about it. He inserts a “therefore”: “Therefore I remember you.” (v. 6) 

We all need a mechanism that we use in our hearts that helps us insert the “therefore” right smack in the middle of our discouragement. 

My sister helped to lead adventure trips. During her training at the NOLS course on Mount Rainer she was trained how to self-arrest her fall should she start to slide down the mountain on the ice. This is an essential technique for those who climb on ice because it is one of the leading causes of death. So they would send her sliding down the ice with crampons on her feet and a pickax. When someone is sliding, they are supposed to use the axe to bite into the ice in such a way that arrests their fall and keeps them alive. 

We all need to have a tool in our minds that we use to slow our slide when we are discouraged and downcast. That tool, it says here, is “I remember you.” The only thing that is going to bite into the icy slope of discouragement is truth about who God is. 

Last time we said we need to remember that we have once found satisfaction in God. That helps us recognize that our thirst for him will be quenched. But we need to get more specific.

Look at the truth about God in these Psalms: “the living God,” (v. 2) “my salvation,” (v. 5) “my God,” (v. 5) “God of my life,” (v. 8) “my rock,” (v. 9) “my refuge” (43:2).

One Puritan said, “There is more comfort in this word “my God” than in all the words in this world. For what is God to me if he be not my God and so make me his?” (Works of Richard Sibbes, Vol. 7, p. 62) 

But the psalmist here mixes this truth in with the despair he feels at being so overwhelmed it feels like he is drowning. 

We see this in verses 7–10. It’s almost as if we can see him sliding down the slope both overwhelmed with discouragement and trying to get his ice pick to catch in truth about God. “Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me” (v. 7–8). There is a picture here of waterfalls and waves which represent chaos—he feels like he’s drowning—even though he recognizes that God is sovereign over his situation. Notice how he says “your breakers and your waves.” God is sovereign over the good days and the bad. He is always in control—but even in the midst of that knowledge, the psalmist feels like he is sinking down. 

Then you almost get whiplash going to verse 8: “By the day the Lord commands his steadfast love and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” So there is chaos and water and waves then love and song to the God of his life. Then back to verse 9 which is an accusation, “I say to God, my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me?’” He then tells of the enemies that taunt him and who are against him. 

It almost feels like he is bobbing up and down in the waves of discouragement and every time his head comes up for air he is saying something about God and to God. Almost with the same breath he says both, “Your steadfast love is great” and “Why have you forgotten me?”

Can you relate to this Psalmist? I can. 

I feel like a wreck sometimes. I’m all over the place emotionally. I can be discouraged. At one moment I’m singing praise and the next I’m crying out to God for why he doesn’t change my situation.

When this is true of you, take comfort in the fact that Jesus is known as the Man of Sorrows. You might feel forsaken by God, but there has been Another who truly was alone and cried out to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You might feel deep sorrow, but there has been Another who told his friends on the night of his betrayal, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to the point of death.” 

Here is the beauty of the gospel: Jesus has endured more anguish and sorrow, having sins laid upon him and having experienced truly being forsaken by God, than we will ever experience. He did this so that we might never say, “God has forgotten me,” and have that be true. So that we might never say, “God doesn’t understand my pain.” 

Here’s the amazing thing we can never say if we know forgiveness through Christ—we can never say “I’ll never be happy again.” 

Which is where we’ll turn next time. We’ll spend time talking about the hope that we have in the future and how that can encourage us today. 

See you next time. Remember, we have hope in Christ. “et’s encourage ourselves with this hope by speaking truth to ourselves and by making that hope known in a struggling world. 

Music by Joseph McDade. https://josephmcdade.com. Used with permission.

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