Psalm 43 strikes us exactly where we live. The writer felt deep, abiding conflict. On the one hand, he seemed confident that God would vindicate, defend, and deliver him (v. 1) because he had taken refuge in God (v. 2a). On the other hand, he felt as if God had rejected him, causing him to go around mourning the oppression of his enemies (v. 2b). He simultaneously expressed abiding confidence and agonising confusion. Can you relate?
Do you know what it is to have your theology and your theory straight, knowing that God is for you and that nobody can really be against you, but at the same time find yourself wondering why God has seemed to forsake you? It is a tension that is difficult to come to grips with, but one in which we live far too often.
If you know that tension, Psalm 43 is written to help you. Having expressed his confused confidence (vv. 1–2), the writer knew what he must do to return to a sense of stable faith. He did two things to help himself in vv. 3–5: He spoke to God (vv. 3–4) and he spoke to himself (v. 5).
The writer’s prayer to God is theologically rich: “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God” (vv. 3–4). No longer did the psalmist plead for vindication from his enemies. He had seemingly asked for that (vv. 1–2) and then moved on. In these verses, he seems to have understood that there is something far more important than personal vindication. He prayed, instead, that he would know God, experience joy in God, and express the joy of God to others. He took no delight in the oppression of his enemies but realised that it was far more important for him to change than for his enemies to change.
Does this attitude guide your prayers when you are perplexed? When you feel as if God has turned away from you, is your only prayer for relief and vindication, or do you ask God to change you in the midst of your feelings of alienation? Do you pray that God will use the time of seeming isolation to teach you more about himself so that you can experience more of him and express that joy and confidence to others?
But the writer spoke not only to God; he spoke also to himself: “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” (v. 5). He knew that he would not return to a sense of hope if he did not preach truth to himself. He knew, as we often say, that he must preach the gospel to himself.
In his book Spiritual Depression, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones captures the importance of preaching to yourself:
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: “Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.”
It is the privilege of local church elders to see that the gospel is preached in the church, but it is yourresponsibility to ensure that you preach the gospel to yourself. As you reflect on this short psalm, pray that God will give you the ability to preach truth to yourself so that your soul will be returned to a place of stability.