Lifting the Downcast

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. (Ps. 42:11)

It is a wondrous thing that our God grants peace and quietness of soul to His own. Indeed, He has promised this to all who belong to Him in Christ — “The Lord will give strength to His people, the Lord will bless His people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11). In fact, the greater part of the Psalms is taken up with the praising of God that results from this very fact: God is faithful to deliver His people, to give them strength and peace, and to quiet their souls within them no matter the circumstances of life. And so, as we read this most familiar Psalm we can hear the frustration of the writer as he interrogates his own soul, searching out why the ordinary experience of the redeemed is not his present possession. Here we have the twofold testimony of the Psalmist: first, that the child of God can be discouraged and cast down in this life; and secondly, that in such times, one must be reminded that there is really no reason for such a condition, when the promises of God are rightly considered. And they are rightly considered when they are embraced by faith.

Every believer surely knows what it is to experience discouragements in this life only to be graciously reminded by God, in His providence, that hope still remains and God’s promises are true—even as Christian came to hope in the depths of Doubting Castle as he pulled from his bosom the reminder of God’s faithfulness. And there are many things that believers experience which can certainly lead to a soul being cast down. We face great temptations and dark providences, a weakness in our faith and a lack of assurance, the consequences of our own sins and a sense of being deserted by God. The Psalmist speaks as one who is separated from Jerusalem, the very place God chose to make His throne. His soul thirsted for God. In this Psalm we have what one writer said every believer must know: what it is to feel like you have lost Christ and what it is to know that you have found Him again. To know that you have found Him is to have your faith graciously renewed. It is faith which lays hold of Christ and all of God’s promises in Him. It is the grace of saving faith which was renewed in the Psalmist’s heart.

William Bridge, in his excellent book entitled A Lifting Up For The Downcast, underscores the place of faith in such times of great trial. It is faith in Christ that bears up the believer’s heart against all discouragements. It is faith which looks beyond the present to a time when we shall yet praise Him! In his book he writes the following:

“Now it is only faith that shows a man the end and the issue of all his troubles. It stands upon the high tower of the threatening and promise, seeing over all mountains and difficulties; it sees into the other world; it sees through death and beyond death; it sees through affliction and beyond affliction; it sees through temptation and beyond temptation; it sees through desertion and beyond desertion; it sees through God’s anger and beyond God’s anger; I say, it sees things past, present and to come. If a man had such power as to be able to recollect all his former experiences, to see things present as they are, and to see all the events and issues of things to come, would he not be quiet notwithstanding all that might arise for the present? Thus faith is able to show a man things past, present, and to come; and to show him greater matter of comfort than the matter of his troubles is; and in so doing it must needs quiet the soul.” (p. 269-70).

One of the great encouragements to true, saving faith, is the reality and promise in the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is that reality that establishes our hope and confidence in God and speaks of better things to come, guaranteed and secured for us by our ever-living Savior. Faith then for the Psalmist and every believer is strengthened by various trials and difficulties of this life (1 Peter 1:6-ff) and is enabled to say with confidence, “My hope and my trust are in my God!” And the Christian then is able to say boldly to his own soul, “Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” True saving faith can speak no other words to the downcast soul. The resurrection of Jesus and our union with Him in that reality is why we are able with the Psalmist to say, “For I shall yet praise Him!” And so as you come this Lord’s Day to the Table Christ has set before us, come with faith in your hearts, believing the promises of God, trusting in His finished work on the cross on your behalf, and in His being raised again from the dead. Come ready to receive that grace promised to all who truly and sincerely look to Christ in faith. And by that grace, may your faith be strengthened and your soul find its true and everlasting rest in Christ Who loved us and gave Himself for us. For He is alive now and forevermore and ever lives to make intercession for us at the right hand of God, our Father.

Praising Him, the help of my countenance and my God,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar


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