A Week With Psalm 42
In my post last weekend I chose to spend five minutes each morning last week with a cup of coffee and Psalm 42. Since I’m not preaching today and don’t have a sermon to share, I thought I might reflect on the week’s intention with scripture. Whatever else I was doing in practicing morning prayer or starting up each day, I was sure to refresh my coffee, set a five minute timer on my watch and open up to Psalm 42 to read and meditate a bit. It’s a familiar and beloved Psalm, especially if you grew up as I did in church circles singing some version of As The Deer.
Psalm 42 is a song of lament, that means it’s essentially a song about being upset that something is missing. In Psalm 42 the singer is missing their past closeness to God and the peace that comes with God’s presence. I’ve used and enjoyed several different translations during the week, but by far I’ve most loved the wording from the New Living Translation. It renders the opening line of verse 4 as “My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be…” That line has really resonated with me, the sentiment of remembering better, or at least good, times.
We can all relate with that sentiment in some way, can’t we? Whether remembering all that we took for granted before the COVID pandemic, or times when our younger bodies had more energy and fewer aches and pains, or a time gone by when our spirituality was easier, richer and more satisfying: we get it. When today gets difficult, memories of yesterday can be a comfort. The psalmist has obviously fallen into some hard times, but there’s some peace and comfort in looking backward and remembering the good days of joy and praise.
The psalmist also looks forward using a refrain which occurs twice in Psalm 42, in verses 5 and 11, and even again in Psalm 43, verse 5: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!” The NRSVue translation reads this way: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”
Strength in the Struggle
The sentiment is clear, we have strength in the struggle remembering what we have experienced of God to be true and looking ahead in faith and hope. Our faith and our scriptures don’t deny that we will have struggles or ever promise to eliminate all the struggles. Our faith doesn’t judge us for struggling. We all have times when our souls are heavy with grief, anxiety or fatigue, times even when breathing seems a chore. Looking back to remember the good times can be a source of strength for the moment and a way to frame the way we look forward, hopefully looking to the day when the good times will return and we will again hear the music and sing the songs.
Are we in a time of lament, today? What was a good time? What was it like and how did it feel? Those times will come again, and God has never left. We can rest in the memories and faithfully hope that good times are coming again. God’s love has never ended, faded or been stolen; God’s love is our anchor in the storm and energy when it’s time again to dance.
Be blessed, Rev. Todd