Ever feel like you are drowning in bad news? Are the tough times are coming at you one right after another like a torrential down pour? Is all the negativity and stress making you feel like you can’t even get a breath? Yeah, me too. And that is exactly how to author of Psalms 42 felt.
While I was writing my portion of my new book, Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience, life felt like I was caught under the great Niagara Falls and the pressures were forcing me down, down, down….hopeless…breathless… helpless…..It was an onslaught of pressures: multiple writing deadlines, preparing our home for market, downsizing 95% of our belongings in preparation for a move to better care for aging parents, my husband handling the long commute back and forth weekly to care for his folks while I tried to hold up our ministry and business. And together we still were traveling weekly to speak and minister as well has handling our local ministry obligations. The stressors of this season felt much the same as the day, several decades before, when I was caught in a rip tide, alone and adrift in the Pacific Ocean. That day it felt like my choices were to swim with all my might and chance that a wave would carry me to shore, but the shore was a cliff with jagged rock and thrashing waves. The other choice felt like the rip tide would carry me far out to sea to my death. So, the choices felt like death by rocks or death by sharks!
It appeared that there were NO GOOD OPTIONS! But that day, in the ocean, I remembered the third life-saving option, swim parallel to the shore far enough down the beach until the rip ends and the safe sandy beach begins, and meanwhile wave to the shore to see if any lifeguard or Good Samaritan might see me and rescue me. The rip carried me further from the few people I could spot on shore, so I prayed and calmly swam along the beach and yes, eventually, the rip tide’s grip broke and I swam in and walked out safely, exhausted, relieved and OVER-JOYED!
The writer of the Psalms was like us, a person in the press of one hardship after another. He felt his life as in peril. Let me share just two verses from Psalms 42:7 and 8 that show just how difficult life was—and the path to safely exit the peril:
Life is Hard:
This verse can be a bit difficult to understand, but if you break it down, phrase by phrase, it captures how many of us might feel when life gets difficult. “Deep calls to deep” is a reference to all the water, in all the created world: in all the seas, rivers, lakes, in the atmosphere and all underground sources. Some Bible scholars say it is a reference to the powerful torrential flood waters—that God’s hand of mercy is holding BACK! In other words, things could be WORSE! How often do any of us ever thank God for protecting us FROM many of life’s hardships. When was the last time you said, “Thank you Lord for protecting me from disease, terror, poverty” (or any of the other millions of maladies in this broken fallen world.)?
Then “the roar of your waterfalls” references the power of a waterfall to keep you DOWN and UNDER water—at times feeling like the negative circumstance pounding down on you, episode after episode will drown you. During our most stressful depressing months, my husband and I would joke, “Is it “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “What doesn’t kill you, kills you!”? Life felt impossible. My guess is you also have had days like this.
“All your waves and breakers have swept over me” is a word picture switching to being caught in the crushing, crashing waves, unceasingingly hitting the shoreline, and the “swept over me” is both a cry for help (like shouting to the lifeguard on shore in his tower, “Hey, I am drowning here! Please rescue me! Save me!” It may also be an acknowledgement that eventually, hopefully, the waves will sweep OVER and PAST us!
So, what can we do when it feels like the stresses of the unwelcome, unwanted, unpredictable, unreal, unexpected and unbelievably hard circumstances are pouring down like a torrential waterfall? Verse 8 gives us HOPE!!!!! God’s Word both describes the feelings and plight of living in this broken world—and the solution to not just SURVIVE it but also gives instructions to THRIVE during the most difficult circumstances.
There is an Answer!
8 By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life
Verse 8 is a two-part solution for getting out of the crashing breaker waves and out from under the downpour blows of the negative waterfalls. Verse 8 is like God, our “life guard” tosses us a lifesaving ring of hope and help.
Step one: PRAY EXPECTANTLY: Pray believing that the Lord is directing his steadfast love to you. It is a picture of the God who created and controls everything, dispatching and ordering his faithful love to you. When you pray believing that even when life is bad, God is good, this brings a more heavenly perspective. Praying this way helps you see life and circumstances from God’s vantage point. If you continue to read Psalm 42 and 43, you will see a repeating statement:
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God
This repeated statement both reinforces that many times we feel downcast, depressed, discouraged, disturbed and even desperate YET when we put our HOPE in God, and praise Him, things improve—even if the improvement is only in our inner strength, ability to withstand the pressures, and fresh hope resuscitated into our wellbeing! After studying all the instances of Hope in the Bible, my definition of Hope means “to wait patiently and expectantly for God to show up and show off in your life—it is “trusting while you tarry” knowing God will be working for your good and God’s glory.”
My mentor, bestselling author, Jill Briscoe says “Hope is overwhelming confidence in the God who can do ANYTHING with ANYONE at ANY TIME in ANY PLACE.”
But HOW do we wait patiently and expectantly? We praise!
Step Two: PRAISE REPEATEDLY: In the day, we praise and thank God for being God, for being with us thru this challenging time (see Psalm 23: “ye, though I walk THROUGH the valley of the Shadow of death”.) Even in the night, prayer and praise can be a “song with me” to the God of YOUR life! So, when times are tough, I also go to sleep with praise songs, hymns, and the Bible read to music. When I accumulate praises of God during the day (I keep a log of prayers and praises in my Bullet Journal) and then add in songs of praise as I fall to sleep, it is as if praise MOVES ME. At first, I might feel like I am drowning under the waterfall of misery, but as I pray and praise, God moves me little by little—so the waterfall feels more like the “Roman waterfalls” one might find at a spa—and I begin to have a paradigm shift and see the difficulties being used by God to better me or better my life.
If I keep praising, I move even further out and away from the desperation, so the spray of the waterfall becomes a mist of refreshment, because I am empowered by God by the praise and I can see Him “working all things together for my good” (Rom. 8:28) Indeed, as I pray and praise, “my soul finds rest in God alone” (Psalms 62:1)
Together, let’s be praying and praising our way to refreshment!
Join a Discovering Hope in the Psalms ONLINE Bible Study hosted by Pam
(next one is April 8- May 27 2019)