"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 42:5
In a fog, some objects which would guide and please us are concealed, others are magnified or distorted. In the approaching friend we fear a foe. A beautiful shrub, or the sign-post pointing homewards, may provoke terror. So in our seasons of sorrow we are sometimes perplexed, anxious, perhaps desponding as to our path. It is well to ask whether there is valid reason for this; to interrogate ourselves, as the Psalmist when he said, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disturbed within me?"
We may be victims of a morbid imagination—fancying poverty, sickness, unkindness, which have no reality. We may dread something future which may never become present; a dark cloud in the distance which may soon become radiant with beauty, or altogether disappear. "Many of our sorrows are purely homespun, with a pattern of our own invention, like certain painters who delight in heavy masses of shade." (C. H. Spurgeon) Our fears are often greater than our misfortunes. If not a present reality, why be cast down now? The trouble may be self-caused, and should be self-ended; arising from my own improvidence, injudicious or unkind treatment of others, unreasonable demands and expectations. Let me stop the leak of my fault, and so prevent the outflow of my disquiet. Perhaps, on consideration, I may be convinced that my trouble arises from some contemptible trifle, which I may be ashamed to acknowledge even to myself.
Still there may be a great trouble, unavoidable and distressing. But why so disturbed, O my soul? You have experienced trials before; no strange thing has happened to you. They are far less than your faults deserve; they will not last long. Why then be cast down?
Above all other arguments of comfort, "Hope in God, who is the health of my countenance and my God." Bodily health is one of the best of earthly blessings, for without it no other can be fully enjoyed. But God is my true health. Without Him nothing else can fill my heart with peace, and make my countenance radiant with joy. When Stephen was maligned, condemned, about to be stoned, his face shone as an angel's, because he beheld his Lord, the health of his countenance. Whatever else I lose, having Him, "all things are mine." He is not a strange deity; not merely the universal Ruler, but "my God," my very own, with whom I am on covenant relations—my Father!
"Hope in God." He overrules all events. No trouble comes to you accidentally. All things work together for your good. If He wounds, it is to heal. If He impoverishes, it is to enrich. "I shall yet praise Him." Be not impatient, hurting your wings against the cage which He, who watches the sparrows, is on the way to open for you to soar into the blue heavens. At evening time it shall be light. "It is when the hour is darkest, when the clouds are thickest, and the hollow moaning of despair is awakening on the chill night breeze, that He interferes, to whom time is not, save as the setting wherein He has been pleased to place His work." (Wilberforce.) When Cuthbert, missionary to Northumbria, was driven on the coast of Fife, he said, "Snow closes the road on land and storm the sea, but still the way of heaven lies open." Why then so cast down? for at the worst you will be at the best—at home. "I shall yet praise Him."
My distress may be spiritual. I fear I do not rightly believe, love, and obey! O my soul, hope in God. His love, not your own feelings, is your health. Your fear reveals a desire for Him, which He inspired and accepts. Take your unworthiness to Christ, and cast your burden on the Lord.
Have you no enjoyment in religion? Still "hope you in God." The mountain of God's grace, on which you have often gazed with delight, has not melted away in the mist that conceals it. Remember Him from "the land of Jordan;" how He brought you out from Egypt and the wilderness, and opened a way through torrents of fears and temptations, into the fair Canaan of promise. Remember Him of whom our fathers have told us what things He did in their days, and in the old times before them—all recorded blessings to His children in all ages, and the still more numerous blessings unrecorded. Remember Him who blessed you in former days, whether on some great mountain like Hermon, or on some little hill Mizar; in great or little troubles. Remember all your delight in communion with Him—in the church, or the chamber; on some high mountain of adoration, or a little hill of trust and love; in the palace of privilege, or the prison of privation. Yes, Lord, though disturbed about myself at present, I will bear in grateful remembrance the past, and remember You. "Though deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls," Your love is deeper than any sorrow of my soul, and if, through depth of sorrow, I reach depths of love, "I shall yet praise You."
Yes, I will remember You, O Savior!—how You did weep and agonize in Gethsemane, how Your prayer was heard, how You did drink the cup of sorrow for me! I will remember You from the hill Calvary, where Your blood was shed for my sins, and from the hill Olivet, whence, Victor over death, You did ascend to the throne on which You are seated for evermore—"mighty to save!" "I will remember You, the health of my countenance and my God!" "The Lord will command His loving-kindness in the day-time," and if sorrow still casts its dark mantle over me, yet "in the night His song shall be with me."
Are you grieved because of yielding to temptation? It would indeed be a reason to mourn if sin caused no sorrow. If I am indulging in any wrong I may well be disturbed. There can be "no peace to the wicked," until he repents; and none to God's children while cherishing any evil in the heart. Unreserved surrender is the cure of such disquiet.
But ceasing to do evil does not remove the guilt already incurred. Does past sin weigh heavily?—"Hope in God;" cast your burden afresh on Him who says, "Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." You shall yet praise Him. You may at once. He says to every penitent seeker—"Your sins are forgiven, go into peace."
Yes! though my tears have been my food day and night, though all Your waves and Your billows have gone over me, the night will soon be over, the battle ended, the victory won; I shall yet praise You. Yet? I will praise You now! Now in the fight, now in the furnace, now "in the night His song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disturbed within me?" God is more than circumstances, more than all things visible, more than my changing ideas and feelings respecting Him. He abides ever, Infinite in goodness. I will "try when I have comforts to find God in all; and when I have no comforts to find all in God." (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Why cast down? Hope in God;