In Psalm 42, the Psalmist was questioning himself, asking why he was cast down. He asked, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?” [Ps 42:5, 11]. He was dejected. He was discouraged. He had good reason to be down. His soul was cast down [Ps 42:6]. The Psalmist had been crying day and night [Ps 42:2]. He was like Jonah in hell [Ps 42:7; Jon 2:3]. He felt like he’d been forgotten by God [Ps 42:9]. He was oppressed by his enemy [Ps 42:9]. Daily, he was being reproached by his enemies [Ps 42:10] who asked “Where is thy God?” Their taunts were like the piercing of a sword. And the Lord wasn’t coming through for him. What made this worse is that he could remember the past when they went to the house of God with the voice of joy and praise [Ps 42:4].
What’s got you down? Do you ever find yourself in the same case? Disobedient, wayward kids can get you down. Failing health can get you down. Unpaid bills can get you down. A difficult marriage can get you down. Many stressful things added together will get you down. And these problems are compounded when you’ve been praying over them for months or years and nothing seemingly changes. Your adversary asks you what the Psalmist’s enemies asked him, “Where is thy God?” And you have no reply. You’re wondering the same thing.
But rather than give up and give in to his discouragement, the Psalmist resolved to say close to God. He didn’t give up on God. His soul thirsted for God [Ps 42:1-2] like a hart pants for water. He looked for the time when he would appear before God [Ps 42:2]. He hoped in God and praised him [Ps 42:5]. He remembered God, though he was a long way from the house of God [Ps 42:6]. He had the Lord’s lovingkindness in the daytime and his song in the night [Ps 42:8]. And he prayed unto God [Ps 42:8].
In Ps 42:5, when the Psalmist said, “hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance,” he knew that turning toward God would help. It’s like David said in Ps 27:8, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” He got everything else that was between them out of the way and he sought God.
Notice that when he concluded this Psalm, he asked himself the same questions and came to the same conclusion that he did in verse 5. Yet, at the end of the verse, he didn’t say, “I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” Instead, he said, “I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” He said the same thing at the end of Ps 43.
Do you realize what happened? These horrible things in the Psalmist’s life drove him closer to the Lord. And in so doing, the help of the Lord’s countenance became the health of his own countenance.
Trouble is a way the Lord gets us to seek him. And when we do, he changes our countenance. When we “with open face (behold) as in a glass the glory of the Lord, (we) are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord,” [2 Cor 3:18]. Trouble drove Moses back up the mountain for another 40-day fast. And when he came down, his facing was shining!! Right before Stephen was stoned, when he spoke to the council, after being falsely accused, “his face (was) as it had been the face of an angel,” [Acts 6:15].
In Dan 9:3, Daniel said, “I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer…” Gabriel came to give him skill and wisdom [Dan 9:22] and to tell him, “thou art greatly beloved,” [Dan 9:23]. In Dan 10:9, Daniel said, after another long fast, “Yet heard I the voice of his words.” When you set your face to seek God, you will know his love and you can hear “the voice of his words.”
Don’t let trouble discourage you. You’ll cry, your soul might get cast down, and your enemy may really hassle you. But God is there. Thirst for God, hope in God, praise God, enjoy his lovingkindness in the daytime and his song in the nighttime. And God will be the health of your countenance. A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance.