12th Psalms’ post: psalm 42-43

Whenever i even glance at Psalm 42:1, I immediately start to sing (at least in my mind) the chorus popular several years ago. Such a nice song; too bad neither its words nor accompanying music had anything to do with the lament of psalm 42. So instead of the Google pictures of deer at a stream, I rather chose this depressing shot from a cell. Since this twice repeated refrain also ends the next psalm, many believe the two form one message, perhaps were once one psalm. Let’s read them that way.

Typical with many laments the psalmist has a (1) distance problem: his god is nowhere to be found, and an (2) enemy problem: he suffers from their oppression. The writer’s distress likewise manifests in his poem’s cadence: a line of lament is followed by a line of fond remembrance, inner turmoil returns an remembrance, lament is followed by an affirmation of confidence. Up and down this roller-coaster ride reflects the psalmist’s life: the past was solid, worshiping God at the temple, being with God on the heights, experiencing God’s protection day and night. But now fraught with doubt the author can neither manage the current situation nor perceive a way out of his predicament.

The refrain reflects inner turmoil, a conflict between hope and despair. It relays what should be, but what isn’t. It’s as if the psalmist is trying to talk himself into living a better life, but it just doesn’t happen.

What does the psalm(s) say to us through its disquieting refrain? First is a word of caution: life’s struggles do not pass upon turning to God; even one’s relationship with God may not be rosy after sincerely offering the appropriate lament. Hopefully we have seen that the lament psalms offer spiritual victory in spite challenging physical/emotional/ psychological circumstances that remain. Like psalm 88, here the writer clings to the intangible beyond the norm: despair may return; the future may hold no prospect of success; but God always appears on the horizon, at the bottom of the pit, on the edge of fracturing ice–proving again and if necessary again, that he is bigger than life, even if it’s just barely bigger.

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8 Responses to “12th Psalms’ post: psalm 42-43”

  1. The turmoil mentioned by the poster is all too evident for me. As I deal with the mixed emotions of the process of the immanent death of my mother, I cannot shake the fact that God is there – oddly enough. To see God is in the mix during this disturbing time of confusion with the right brain battling the left brain; forebrain battling the aftbrain. In all of this, God is still giving quiet confidence. However, it still sucks what I have to go through. She will not be healed. The hope is that the Hope will be fully realized and those of us yet behind on this terrestrial orb will be able to successfully negotiate this.

    • Losing a mother is hard to deal with, and even though it’s been since 2004 for for me it’s still something that is rather sensitive. Sometimes I want to yell why? Then again it’s not above our God. As my grandfather now is on the downward slope I see more clearly God is here in this trial though I did not so much in the past.

    • It’s awful to see someone experiencing a death, but it’s amazing to see when one’s focus is on God throughout the whole thing. I’m so glad that you can see the hope through the hard times in life. I pray that you perspective on this situation will be a witness to someone who doesn’t believe, and that God will continue to show you hope, peace, and love through your trials.

      • Bradley Zembower Says:

        I agree with Mandy. Death is such a hard thing to go through. There will always be loss and pain in this life that we aren’t prepared for, but God has given us a hope that we are expectantly waiting for. One day that hope will be fully realized. I have been blessed with a great family. My Pap has had cancer for about 6 years now and he has used his cancer as an opportunity to share the gospel with others. For a couple years, it wasn’t looking good, but my Pap never lost hope. He was ready to go if God chose to take him home. I have never seen a faith like that before. He never complained while he was going through chemo and radiation.

  2. I like the outline of the Psalm you present Dr. Snyder. It’s rather often over this past semester that I’ve really felt that God was just bigger than my problems. I think that a lot of times I have a hard time seeing God all the way through. The laments have been a source of great comfort in that I know others have been overloaded as I have also been.

  3. As simple as this may sound, I’ve noticed in my life that this perspective is impossible without faith in God. People who don’t have faith in God, don’t understand that there can be peace when life is completely horrible. They are missing out. The hope and peace received because God helps us negotiate through our problems is astounding! My problems may be big, but my God is bigger!

  4. Ryken Ruuspakka Says:

    Sometimes in our distress, it hurts more and sharpens the pain of the moment to think about and remember God in light of his absence. One remembers that God is able and powerful enough to make the particular problem disappear. The faith in God is apparent throughout, and happiness, deliverance, and/or stability desired in this situation is translated as worshiping God in the homeland.

  5. Bradley Zembower Says:

    I lost my Uncle over the summer to cancer. It was quite a shock to my family because he seemed to be doing so well just 2 weeks prior to his death. It was at that point that I found myself asking God, “where are you?” I didn’t know what to think. I was actually with God for a while. It was particularly hard to take in because my cousin Terri was getting ready to start college and she lost her Dad so unexpectedly. This was all very hard, but I am reminded of the beautiful story of my Uncle Randy’s salvation. He had a disorientation to reorientation experience. He was diagnosed with cancer 8 years ago. He was unsaved, never went to church , and never really cared to go. My Pastor went to visit with him a few times and witnessed to him. I’ll never forget the day my Uncle accepted Christ. On that day he said this, “I would rather die today feeling the way I do now than to have lived the rest of my life the way I used to.” Now it’s my family’s turn to go through this process of disorientation-reorientation. God did not take away the physical problem that my Uncle had, but God never left. He was always there. My family is closer than ever now. God showed up.

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