Why So Downcast?
A funny thing happened on my way to bed several days ago. Not hilarious. Odd. Thought-provoking. Writing-provoking.
As I was scrolling through the 285 messages in junk mail to make sure something important hadn’t gone astray, a message flashed across the side of my screen: “Why are you so downcast my soul?” Before I had time to read more, the message disappeared. I stopped scrolling. That question had me by the throat.
I knew I was in a bad mood, but suddenly I realized it was more than that. My soul was downcast. Why? Because…
- I’m behind on the manuscript changes I owe my editor.
- my MS has slid downhill.
- I wasted an hour trying to correct a billing problem-the fourth time in two months
- my taxes are in a stack on the kitchen table.
Those answers, it turns out, were just the beginning. As my mind moved beyond my immediate concerns, more answers came. Because…
- a good friend can’t find affordable housing.
- politicians have forgotten the concept of compromise.
- children are hungry in Syrian refugee camps.
- we skipped winter in my state this year.
I stopped listing reasons. That question had struck a deep chord, but what made it pop up on my computer screen? I went to my email and found it in a message from Paul Stroble, letting me know the scripture verse he was focusing on in his reflection-Psalm 42:11.
An Age-Old Question
Bible scholars believe David composed Psalm 42 when he was fleeing from his son Absalom, about 1023 B.C. Eventually David’s question became part of the Hebrew song book and later our Old Testament, so people have been asking this question for at least 3,000 years. The answers vary from generation to generation, but the question remains.
Another translation, the Voice, asks the question this way: “Why am I so overwrought, Why am I so disturbed? Why can’t I just hope in God?” That’s the real question for me. I have years of experience of God’s care in distressing situations, so why can’t I just hope in God?
In Spite of Emotions
Like most psalms, Psalm 42 answers its central question at the end. The Voice answers this way: “Despite all my emotions, I will believe and praise the One who saves me, my God.” In other words, my emotions keep me from hoping in God.
Paul explains this way: “Rejoice in the Lord always…Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
Hillsong United, a music group, puts it like this: “And I will call upon Your name/And keep my eyes above the waves/When oceans rise/My soul will rest in Your embrace/For I am Yours and You are mine.” [Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)]
We have a choice. When we find our souls downcast, we can stay discouraged, or we can pray with thanksgiving. We can despair, or we can praise God. We can be depressed, or we can rest in God’s embrace. In spite of our emotions, we can hope in God.
Dear God, When I am downcast, help me praise You, knowing You will save me. Help me hope in You. Amen.