Longing, Doubting, Hoping, Rejoicing
The writer of Psalm 42 has a real problem. He wants, he needs, he thirsts to worship God. He remembers when he not only could go to the House of God, but in fact led a whole procession of worshipers in the midst of boisterous celebration as they headed there. Though he can remember the joy of those days, he no longer senses it: he now is surrounded by enemies who all day long taunt him repeatedly: “Where is your God?” It’s bad enough that the enemy harass him, but he also is tortured by the sense that he is abandoned, cut off from God. Where, indeed, is his God?
Have you ever felt this way? You pray sincerely, repeatedly, but apparently get no answer. I have, and it’s a hard, hard experience. The psalmist knew the answer to his dilemma, repeating to himself: “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him.” But it seems he couldn’t quite believe it. In Psalm 43, a continuation of 42, the same writer in the end is certain that God has been there all along. He may not know why he has had to go through all that pain and doubt, but God’s light and truth will lead him and bring him to the place where he can again worship God, his “exceeding joy.”
Isaiah in our second reading reinforces the truth that God is a God of redemption, just waiting to do his children good, foretelling a time when God’s goodness will be seen in their prosperity, healing, and rejoicing, and punishment for those who oppose God and His people. We, too, can wait confidently for the goodness of the Lord to be seen in our lives, and worship Him in hope and rejoicing.
Why should I be anxious, I have such a Friend
Who bears in his heart all my woe;
This Friend is the Savior, on him I depend,
His love is eternal, I know.
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
(Katharina von Schlegel; Jane L. Borthwick, tr.)