May 22, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Psalm 42)

Submitted by Alice R. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Psalm 42

Key Verse

v.1-2

As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?

v.5  Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

God is …

God is a God who is knowable through hardships, pain, sadness and suffering.  Clearly, the psalmist longs for God as the deer pants for water not in the midst of calm and peace, but in the midst of much tears of sadness and discouragement.  But it is precisely in this moment of danger, discouragement and fears that allows the psalmist to turn to and ultimately put his hope in God.  It is in the midst of such sadness and discouragement that God reveals that though the world may be unreliable, taunting and scary, that God is a God who directs his love by day, and by night assures us that He is the God who give us life (v.8).

Lessons for me …

What caused the psalmist to have this level of longing for God?  His soul was “panting” for God, “thirsty” for God.  He could not wait to meet with God.  What a rare picture this is for most people.  For the psalmist however, the only thing he was looking forward to was being with God.

To find myself at a point in my life where my greatest desire is for God alone is truly the most blessed place to be.  There are so many things in this world that compete for my heart’s attention that leaves me less wanting of God.  It actually doesn’t take that much for my heart to cool towards God.  Even though I am not panting after worldly wealth, fame or materialism, it can even be just very mundane things that happen:  when I feel physically quite comfortable and because I have a lot of conveniences in life, I don’t have to push myself much physically; when I receive some kind of praise for something I did well; or when I think that ministry and my personal life seems to be manageable, etc.  It can be anything so subtle and slight that can cause me to easily stray from God and think that my life is okay and it’s under control.  How my sinful nature can so easily move away from God!  So knowing that this is the reality of my sinful heart, how much more then, it is the best place to be when I find myself where I know that God is truly my only Savior and rock.  Those moments of feeling stripped of things that I once found confidence or comfort in, is truly a good place to be.

I am reminded of Pastor Charles Stanley’s message on suffering, when he said that anything that brings us on our knees in prayer before God to depend on Him is a blessing.  I have often reminded myself of this truth and have learned to find this to be so true.  I’ve been able to give God thanks even in times of challenge, setbacks and even failure.  And lately it’s been one of those times once again, as I’ve been facing some painfully humbling truths about myself.  Although there are moments of wanting to just give in to my discouragements and my pessimistic outlook, this psalm powerfully reminds me that these moments of inadequacy and weakness is really a blessed place – even if it painful.  These are moments when I feel like, “who can rescue me from my impossible self?”  Yet, I am so thankful, that I can run to God even in my most unpresentable state.  I am so thankful to know that I have a God that I can cry out and turn to and know that He will also turn towards me and answer me.  He will never abandon me, no matter the state I am in.

Therefore it is so right when the psalmist exhorts himself:  “Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.” Each time I am faced with something difficult, I have a choice to either remain discouraged and in self-pity or choose to put my hope in God.  I am reminded today to not give into my own pessimistic voice that tempts me to believe that my situation is so daunting that there is no hope.  But rather, I am going to choose to put my hope in God, my Savior and my Rock, in whom is the ultimate hope of the gospel that could never be shaken.

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for this timely psalm today.  These are words that I really needed to be reminded of!  As I’ve been faced with some painful realities about myself as well as try to carry various burdens of ministry that at times I feel are too heavy to bear, I refuse to remain downcast but rather put my hope in you, my Savior and my God.  Thank you for allowing me to be at a place where I need you so desperately.  Please keep me in this sweet place of longing for you so that there is no room to long for anything else in this world.  I acknowledge that to be with you, to be near you is the most blessed place to be.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Submitted by John L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Psalm 42

Key Verse

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Savior and 6 my God.

God is …

God is the true source of strength and hope, my salvation no matter the difficulties I face today. It is striking that in the midst of his difficulties, when he is oppressed, struggling with his downcast soul and a disturbed heart due to the circumstances in his life, this Psalmist is able to write these beautiful words of commitment that firmly place his hope in God alone. He is able to “praise” his Savior in spite of his circumstances and reveals the extended history he has with God that enables him to look past his current situation. It’s obvious that the Psalmist is firmly grounded in the faithfulness and love of God. To him, God is clearly his salvation and a source of hope much more reliable than himself or the promises of the world. So when things seem bleak and difficult, the love of the Lord is nevertheless the “rock” of his life. The Psalmist is experiencing hardships and difficulties now, and even though God seems distant or uncaring, he is still able to compare himself as a thirsty deer seeking the spring of water that his parched soul can turn to for strength and life.

Lessons for me …

The words in this Psalm paint a beautiful picture of someone who has fully placed his life in God and even in the midst of oppression and troubles.  The Psalmist is able to recognize the steady love of God that carried him throughout his life.  As I think about these words and the difficult circumstance in which Psalmist is writing them, I’m challenged to reflect on my own response to challenges and difficulties, or even to the daily grind of stress and demands in my life. What is my natural reaction?  When everything is not ok with my life and I face the burdens of various difficult circumstances in life, whether the everyday stresses at work, the different strains I face in my personal life, or even from the consequences of my own character flaws, it’s such a reflex response to turn away from God and even to blame Him.  Whatever my situation, whether or not it was self-inflicted, as it usually is when I am facing the consequences of my sins or character flaws, it’s so natural to feel discouraged and to just allow my discouragement to fester and let my heart drift from God.  But as I reflect on the circumstances that this Psalmist must have faced, I’m reminded that I have to check my default response and not allow my heart to turn cold towards God when troubles hit.  Rather, when I look back on my life, it’s always been the tough times that I experienced God’s faithfulness and love most acutely – like the times when I struggled against deep character flaws or when I felt so helpless when my wife and son were in the hospital.  So when I’m down, when I feel like a failure, when I feel oppressed or just discouraged, I have to remember that God’s faithfulness is my hope and this is an opportunity for me to turn to him again and to reaffirm my commitment to Him.  God has proved his love through and through on the Cross and the steadiness of his faithfulness to me is unarguable.  Like this Psalmist, I must foster the discipline of turning to God and recognizing his presence in my life especially when I do feel the burden and stresses of life.

Prayer

Lord, as I face the daily difficulties in my own life, help me to always turn to you and thirst after you just as this Psalmist did in the midst of the dark days he was going through.  You are the one to whom I can turn to when I’m discouraged or oppressed, and you have always been steady and faithful in my life.  Even though I go through the ups and downs of my life, help me to remember that you are my savior who has poured out your love for me, and I confess again that there is no true hope except you – not in what I can accomplish nor anything this world can promise.  When I am discouraged, help me to remember you and find strength and direction as I recall your love for me and place my hope in you. –Amen.

Submitted by Jon F. from Gracepoint Minneapolis

Psalm 42

Key Verse

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,

so my soul pants for you, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?

God is …

God is my lifeline. Just as how water nourishes, restores, sustains, and essence to life, a relationship with God brings all of these things as well. It is with this passage that the term “thirst for God” finally makes a lot of sense to me. It illustrates not simply a desire for God, but a need for God. Even with this knowledge, it is still easy to take God for granted. Often times, I put God on the backburner as I fill my mind with other things like what I need to accomplish by the end of the day–people in my life and my own agenda.  Ever since moving out to Minnesota, I have all the more felt my life kick into overdrive, and this attitude of needing to get things done has been more prevalent than ever. A part of me feels a sense of burden and responsibility to not admit when I am personally struggling or need to slow down because even when we are missing one pair of hands, we all feel it. So my pride tells me that whatever I may be facing personally, just suck it up and worry about it later so I am not “that guy” who isn’t doing his part. But I am thankful for my leaders because through them, I have learned how I need this personal time with God more and more. I need to seek Him out for nourishment, restoration, and sustainability. That without God I am going to eventually burn out. This fact has become so important to me  because unless I am right with God how can I lead students entrusted to me? If I don’t know how to get water for myself, then I am just giving them empty cups and telling them to drink out of it. God is not just my lifeline, but is the lifeline for everyone, and that is a truth that I need to take seriously at a personal level.

Lessons for me …

Much like life in general, Christian life has its share of ups and downs. There are times when I feel like I have a good handle on things, ministry is going well, experience answered prayers and a lot of good news in our specific ministry or our church as a whole, and we get to witness God’s work in people’s lives through Salvation decisions. It is during these times when it is easy to be on fire for God and turn to Him with thanksgiving and praise. But the reality is that on this road that we are on, there are its share of obstacles and speed bumps as well. Times when things don’t go quite as planned, when I may have dropped the ball on something, people that I am ministering to aren’t responding, or when I may be facing some personal issues. These lulls can really wear me down, and cause each day to become a grind.

This psalm speaks perfectly to the kind of relationship with God that I needed and will continue to need to sustain each day as I experience times of difficulty. In verses 5 and 6, I see the psalmist disturbed and downcast. But instead of trying to find an escape, instead of looking elsewhere for things to bring him joy and happiness, he first remembers his relationship with God and God’s goodness in his life. So while he may have been feeling these negative emotions, what that did for him was instill hope for the present and the future. I think it is easy for me to look around for things that will bring me joy when times are tough. More and more, I am realizing that ultimately what I need to do is to turn to my first love. Whether it is reading the bible, going back to my salvation testimony or my testimony to how I volunteered to be a church plant member, or spending extended time in prayer, God has shown to me his ability to sustain through even the most difficult times. These things, however, are not always easy for me. I still would prefer to look for something that simply brings a smile to my face and take my mind off things. But God’s track record in my life does not lie. As life throws a lot of curveballs and things change, God has been that one constant for me that I could lean on. And as we wrap up our second year in Minnesota and enter our third, I really want to stand by this commitment to place where I stand with God on the forefront of everything.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I confess that I have taken my relationship with You for granted. But as you have shown me your goodness and faithfulness in my life time and time again, I pray that I can learn to trust in you when hardship hits. Lord, that you would be my first option before all else as the pillar of strength that I lean on, as my shield, and my hiding place. Much like a deer needs water to be sustained, may I have that same thirst for you. Not because I should, but because I need it. During trouble or difficulty, may I remember you first and foremost. While this world has such an allure and it seems easier to just simply find an escape, help me have the heart of the psalmist that when he is facing a time of need, he not only remembers You but praises You before anything else. That I would not search for a quick fix, but take the needed time to delve into your word. To help me sustain myself through my relationship with you, and draw strength so that I can go out just on fire for you. Not just for the my own sake, but for the ministry you have entrusted to me and for this loving community that you have so mercifully placed me in.

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