Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Wouldn’t you admit that there have been moments in your life where it felt as if God was nowhere to be found? You knew in your head it wasn’t true, and you never dared to say it out loud; but your emotions were screaming out to you, “God is not here. He’s forgotten me. He’s forsaken me.”
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The Quiet Place, for Wednesday, April 10, 2019.
Nancy’s bringing us part two of a series called “Dealing with Depression and Doubt.”
Nancy: We’re looking this week at a pair of psalms—Psalm 42 and 43—that I think minister real encouragement to those of us who know what it is to go through desperate, difficult, distressing circumstances.
We’ve seen that the Psalmist, probably David, feels that he’s in a time of drought, dryness, desert, and also that he’s in a season of life that he feels like he’s drowning. He’s overwhelmed by the circumstances of life.
We started yesterday to look at what some of those circumstances were that had caused him to become depressed. It had caused him to go through doubt. Doubt of God, doubt of himself, doubt of the things that he thought he knew to be true.
We said that he was in a time of life where he was cut off from fellowship with the people that he had known who had walked with God and that he was having to live far away from Jerusalem. He had to move, for some reason, up to the north of Palestine and was not able to go the house of God to worship the Lord and was feeling keenly the loss of that fellowship with God and with others.
He was in a place in his life where he had no visible means of support for his faith.
We said that God sometimes allows us to even, can I put it this way? He puts us at times in places where He knows we will not have to lean on the things that have become symbols of our faith but are not God Himself.
God is wanting to move the Psalmist and to move us to a place where our hope is fully grounded in who God is and not in any visible evidence of God’s presence in our lives.
Now, today we want to look at some other reasons that David was feeling depressed, that He was going through doubts. The first three days of this series can actually seem pretty negative. I kind of hate ending each day the way that we are because so much of this psalm is the Psalmist crying out about his distressing circumstances.
You’re saying we’re spending three days on the negative part of this but isn’t life like that? We like to have our problem for two minutes and then get it solved by the end of the program. That’s the way TV is, but life isn’t that way.
The Psalms aren’t that way. The Scripture doesn’t promise us that the circumstances that have been distressing to us was going to go away any time soon. In fact, some of those circumstances may not go away this side of heaven.
You’re going to have to choose. Am I going to live the rest of my life depressed and in doubt? Or are there some choices I can make that will enable me in the midst of the distressing circumstances of my life to walk in faith?
Now we’re going to see later in this series that there are some choices we can make, but I want us to focus today on some more of the circumstances that the Psalmist was facing.
Let me read again beginning in verse 1 of chapter 42 of Psalms.
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
Or as one translation says it, “When shall I see the face of God?” That’s what I really want.
My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, “Where is your God?” (vv. 1–3).
Now that gives us a clue into some of the circumstances the Psalmist was facing. He was surrounded by unbelievers. They’re taunting him, and they’re insisting that God has abandoned him. Continually, I mean this isn’t just one shot. All the time, continually, they’re taunting him. “Where is your God?” Look down at verse 9.
I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy. As with the breaking [or the shattering] of my bones, my enemies reproach me [they revile me]. While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (vv. 9–10).
He’s surrounded by people who are not people of faith. It may remind you perhaps of the place where you work, perhaps your family. His friends have concluded that God has abandoned him. That just adds to his distress and to his affliction. They try to shake his confidence in God.
I think of a friend who is one of the very few believers in a large unbelieving family. When she goes to be with her family for family gatherings or reunions or whatever, there’s all kinds of profanity, immorality, and it just surrounds her, and they don’t understand her faith. They don’t share her faith, and that’s a hard set of circumstances to face.
It makes going home for Christmas hard. It makes holidays hard. She knows it’s the right thing to do, but there’s a natural response of depression and doubt when you’re having to be surrounded by unbelievers.
Then we see in verse 4 of chapter 42 that the Psalmist has memories of past mercies and joys. He remembers what it used to be like. He says in verse 4,
I used to go with the multitude. I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with the multitude that kept the pilgrim feast.
You say, there was a day when it was different. There was a day when I had warm Christian fellowship. But now, that all seems to be in the past. It all seems lost. It all seems gone.
Those memories that could bring him joy, in fact, add to his despair because everything has changed. You can just sense the hopelessness. “I’ll never experience that again.” It must be what he was feeling.
Then he realizes that it’s not just people who are oppressing him. He realizes that the storms are actually coming from God. That, in a sense, may be harder to endure.
He says in verse 7, “Deep calls unto deep at the noise of your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me.” He’s out in this little boat as we said earlier this week. The downpour is coming from the sky. The heavens have just opened up, and you say, “It’s God water spouts.” God is the one who controls that rain.
Then he says, “All these waves and these billows that are tempestuous are threatening to overcome me, they’re God’s waves and billows.” Who made the sea? Who stirs up the storm? Who sends the rain?
It’s one thing to have people or circumstances in your life that are overwhelming. They’re painful. They’re grievous, but at least you can look at them and say, “It’s their fault.” You take some small comfort in that.
But when you step back and realize that nothing comes into the life of the child of God that is not ordered and ordained sovereignly by the hand of God Himself, that there really are no second causes, then you’ve got an issue with God.
You say, “Lord, I’m in this trouble, in this mess, and it wasn’t directly my sin that got me here.” And you look back and you say, “Lord, You’re in charge of this.” Then the temptation is to get angry, to be bitter at God.
“Lord, You made this child who’s got a physical disability. The doctor didn’t do this. You could have made this child different.”
“How did You let my husband get into this addictive habit? You could change his heart, but You haven’t.”
“This child I can’t control. Lord, You could change my circumstances, but You haven’t.”
So we start to realize that it’s not just man and circumstances that are pressing us, it’s ultimately God who’s got His hand in this.
That can create a sense of greater despair until you step back and look at who that God is.
One commentator says about this verse, we need to remember that sufferings are not the touch of an alien hand. The very thing that brings us distress as we see that it’s God hand that is behind our circumstances, is also the thing that can bring us comfort in the midst of those circumstances.
We’re going to see that as the psalm unfolds. So in the midst of this storm, it seems as though as if God has forgotten and forsaken him. That’s the way he feels.
But wouldn’t you admit that there have been moments of your life when it felt as if God was no where to be found? You knew in your head it wasn’t true, and you never dared to say it out loud. But your emotions were screaming out to you, “God is not here. He’s forgotten me. He’s forsaken me.”
He says in verse 9 of chapter 42, “I will say to God my Rock [my steady one, my steadfast one], ‘Why have you forgotten me?’” That’s what his emotions are telling him.
Chapter 43, verse 2, “Why do you cast me off?” God, why have You forsaken me?
Wasn’t that the supreme anguish that the Lord Jesus Himself went through on the cross? He entered into our despair. He entered into our storm. He took upon Himself all the wrath of God against our sin, and he came to the point where he felt abandoned. In fact, God the Father did have to turn His back on His Son. The Psalmist says, “This brings me to despair. This brings me to depression. This brings me to doubt.”
Then, the problems are relentless. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. They’re not going away. Verse 3 of chapter 42, “My tears have been my food day and night, they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’” Verse 10, “My enemies reproach me, they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’”
This is not just a problem that comes in a little squall on the sea of life. This is a storm that stays. So what does the Psalmist do? He is faced with some choices, some actions that he can take that help deliver him and walk with him through this distressing, depressing, season of life.
I want you to see that he first talks to God. He talks, but before he talks to anyone else, he talks to God. In fact, the very first verse, “As the deer pants [or longs] for the water brooks, so longs my soul for You, O God” (42:1).
He turns his heart, his eyes, though they may be filled with tears, toward God.
Aren’t we so prone to want to talk with someone else first? I mean, we want someone we can see. So we call a friend, or we make an appointment with a therapist, call the pastor. Thank God for friends; thank God for pastors.
But if you’re not talking to the Wonderful Counselor, you’re not going to find the ultimate grace that you need. The people that God puts around you won’t be able to be as much help as they could be if you’re not first turning to God. He talks to God.
He calls God in verse 2, “the living God.” In verse 6, he calls Him, “my God.” Verse 8, “the God of my life.” Verse 9, “God my Rock.” And verse 2 of chapter 43, “God of my strength.”
In his depressing, distressing, discouraging circumstances, He remembers who God is. He turns and talks to the God who he cannot feel is there, but by faith, he knows is there. He tells God his problems.
In verse 1 he says, “My soul is thirsty for You, O God.” In verse 3, he talks about his enemies. “They’re continually saying to me, ‘Where is your God?’”
In verse 6 he says, “O my God, my soul, is cast down within me.” He doesn’t just go tell a friend, “I’m depressed.” He turns to God and says, “God, my soul is bowed down. It’s weighed down with what’s going on in my life.” He tells God his problems.
And I think of that old hymn stanza:
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless paid we bear,
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer.
(“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by Joseph Scriven)
I have a little sign on my desk that says, “Have you prayed about it?”
How often I find myself distressed, worked up, overwhelmed, talking to everybody else about the stress in my life, but forgetting to bow my knee and say, “Lord, let me tell You about it.” He tells God his problems.
He asks God his questions. Verse 9, he says,
I will say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? (42:9)
You are the God of my strength so why do you cast me off? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? (43:2)
He’s honest with God.
A number of years ago my family and I buried a brother, my brother—number six of our seven children—who had been killed in an automobile accident. I’ll never forget at the memorial celebration, one of the men who spoke there said, “It’s not wrong to ask God why,” as the Psalmist does here, “as long as we ask not with a clenched fist but with a searching heart.”
That’s helped me to know that God can handle my questions. Now, I don’t believe that it is right ever to shake my fist in God’s face. There are times when we want to; there are times when our emotions feel that way, but God is always God. He is always sovereign, and we are always under His authority. We are His creation.
But I believe that God can handle our questions; He can handle our doubts. I’ve gone before the Lord many times and many different ways and said, “I just don’t get it. Can You help me understand?”
In fact, one the things I pray almost every morning before I open the Word to read in my quiet time, I pray from Psalm 25, “Show me Your ways, O Lord.” I’m really saying, “Lord, I want to understand anything that can be understood about You. I know that You are too big to understand, but would You show me Your ways.”
I’m not asking God to answer all my questions, but I ask the questions realizing that some of those questions God will not be pleased to answer this side of eternity, realizing that God doesn’t have to answer my questions.
I think that sometimes we have this mistaken notion that when we get to heaven God’s going to pull out a Power Point presentation and pull down a screen and just put out all the answers on that screen of all the questions we’ve ever had about anything that’s ever happened to us in this life.
I really don’t think that it’s going to be that way because when we see the King, He’ll be answer enough. We won’t have the questions any more. We’ll just know, “Lord, You did all things well.”
So now we walk by faith. We take by faith what we will then know by sight. But in this life we do ask the questions. We say, “Lord, I don’t understand. Please help me understand Your ways. If there is something You’re wanting to reveal to me about Your heart and Your ways, please show it to me.” It’s not wrong to ask God why as long as we ask with a searching heart.
Then as David is talking to God, he asks God to restore communion and fellowship that he has been missing. Fellowship with God is his supreme objective.
He says in verse 1 of chapter 43, “Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation. Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.”
Then he says in verse 3, chapter 43, “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me.” He’s asking God, in effect, to send out a search and rescue party. “Send out Your truth; send out Your light. Let them lead me.”
He’s saying, “I’ve lost my way; I’m confused. I don’t know which way to go; I don’t know which way to turn. Lead me home.”
In fact, that’s what he says in verses 3 and 4,
Send out your light and Your truth. Let them lead me; let them bring me [now watch the progression here] to Your holy hill [that’s Jerusalem], and to Your tabernacle [that’s Your dwelling place]. Then I will go to the alter of God, to God my exceeding joy.
You see the progression there? First, I’m going to go to Jerusalem, then I’m going to get closer to You, Lord, I’m going to go to the place where You live. And I want to get closer yet. I want to get to Your alter. And then what I’m really longing for, he says, is for You, Yourself. “Take me to You, God my exceeding joy.”
I can remember a season in my life when I was praying about a major decision about ministry, direction, and what ministry I should be a part of. I sought the Lord in earnest prayer for about five months on this decision.
It would have involved a move, a major change of ministry. I felt I could not get any direction. I just had no sense of what God wanted me to do. I prayed about it. I got godly counsel. Finally, I just didn’t have peace to make a change, so I just said, “I guess that means God wants me to stay where I am.”
But I was a little bit—I was a lot—disappointed. As I reflected on that, on those five months of, why when I was searching so earnestly, why didn’t God give me a clear answer?
In fact, I had prayed this verse, Psalm 43, verse 3 many times though that five month process. “Send out Your light and Your truth. Let them lead me.”
Then the awareness came months later that God had answered this prayer. He didn’t lead me by saying, “You’re to be with this ministry or that ministry. You’re to live in this state or that state.” What He had done was answer the real prayer of my heart and that was to find the presence of God.
In those months I had been forced to seek God and His heart and His face in a way that was more intense than I had ever done prior to that point. I realized, God’s will and God’s goal for that season in my life was not, “Where should I live; what ministry should I serve with?” Those were secondary issues.
God’s real goal was to get me to Himself and that had happened. I realized months later that God had answered this prayer. He had sent out His truth; He had sent out His light. He had led me—He led me to Himself, my exceeding joy.
That’s the goal as you talk to God; you get into His presence. Tell Him your problems, ask Him your questions. Then ask Him to meet your need. Ask Him to restore the communion and the fellowship that you’ve been missing.
Realize that as you ask Him to lead you, you’re really saying, “Lord . . .” not just get me out of my problems. You’re not saying, “Lord, solve my problems.” You’re not saying, “Lord, fix my situation or change my situation.” You’re saying ultimately, “Lord, lead me into a more intimate fellowship and communion with You. If in order to experience that kind of union and communion with You, it means keeping me right in the storm—then I accept that. Yes, it may hurt. Yes, I may weep, but God, You are my exceeding joy. My goal in life is not Your gifts. My goal in life in not ease or freedom from problems or comfort and convenience. My goal in life is You—God, my exceeding joy.”
Father, I pray that in each of our lives You would send forth Your light and Your truth and that You would lead us. Lead us to Yourself, for You are God, our exceeding joy. You are our hope. You are our refuge, our fortress, our deliverer, God our rock. We praise You, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Leslie: When you keep that goal in mind, it will lift your eyes from discouraging situations. That message from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is part of the series “Dealing with Depression and Doubt.” It’s a study of Psalm 42–43.
When you head into storms, and when you start dealing with depression and doubt, it’s so helpful to know Scripture ahead of time. We’d like to help you and your kids memorize God’s Word in a fun way. And that’s why we’re excited to let you know about a ministry we really believe in: The National Bible Bee.
Now is the time to sign up for their summer study. You and your family will get an eight-week Discovery Journal to help you understand and memorize God’s Word. Just think . . . by the end of this summer, how much Scripture your children could memorize, and what a great use of time that would be! Some students will go on to the Bible Bee national competition to try for cash prizes, but the greatest reason for doing this is just to get God’s Word into the hearts of the next generation.
When you get your Discovery Journal, use the code ROH19 to get 10% off. Again, that’s ROH19. For all the details, come to ReviveOurHearts.com, and we’ll give you a link to the National Bible Bee.
Tomorrow, find out why you should talk to yourself. Nancy will continue this series called “Dealing with Depression and Doubt.” Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to know God is with you. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version.
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