Don’t know exactly the nature of the trouble the songwriter was experiencing which inspired him to pen Psalm 42, but you sense it was trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with D, and that stands for despair.
Relentless, flooding despair. As if “deep calls to deep” and invokes the waters of a “roaring waterfall” to crash over the songwriter as “breakers and waves.” Drowning the soul. Taking away its breath. Causing it to flail as it struggles to break the surface of the overwhelming flood in order to catch a breath (42:7).
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
(Psalm 42:5a ESV)
And the floods of despair resulted in a drought of desire.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
(Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)
Waters of despair can create a desert for the soul. The only liquid the songwriter consumed served but to create a more arid and desolate condition.
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
(Psalm 42:3 ESV)
Tears day and night. Such was the normative state of this season in the psalmist’s life. How does one survive such a season? What’s the anchor for such a storm? When all you can manufacture are tears day and night what’s the counter? What’s available to water the dry and desperate soul so that its life is not left completely withered and depleted?
By day the LORD commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
(Psalm 42:8 ESV)
Daily tears are countered with the daily reminder that each day there is a fresh dispatch of God’s steadfast love ordered out of heaven. That His steadfast love never ceases. That His mercies never come to an end and are new every morning. The reminder that God’s faithfulness is great (Lam. 3:22-23). And that His grace if sufficient, His power made perfect in our weakness (2Cor. 12:9).
Nighttime waterworks are supplanted with nightly melodic memories of deliverance. God’s Spirit reminding the downcast soul again of God’s past deliverance. Songs of victory sourced in the finished work of the cross. Tunes of remembrance, the lyrics of which are inspired by themes of past redemption and reconciliation.
And along with these “golden oldies,” the playlist also includes fresh songs based on the promises for a new beginning in a new place. For a deliverance yet to be realized. A time when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
And where do these daily provisions and these nightly supplies come together? How are they converted into nourishment for the downcast, thirsting soul. For the songwriter it came through prayer. A prayer to the God of my life. A prayer finding form in a song. A song acknowledging the reality of a dry, dry season, a tear-filled time, and yet taking God’s steadfast love and His never ending song, and converting them into life-sustaining expectation.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
(Psalm 42:11 ESV)
Steadfast love by day. His song at night. Hope for the future.
By His grace. For His glory.