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.
We are in the first week of the Christian season of Advent, a time of preparation for Christmas in which we remember the hope of Israel for God’s messiah. Even as the Jewish people waited for God’s anointed one to bring peace, so we wait in our day for the completion of what God began through Jesus Christ. We yearn for our broken world to be healed, for suffering to cease, for God’s justice to reign.
Psalm 42 calls us to share in Advent hope. At the beginning of this psalm, the writer yearns for God even as a thirsty deer pants for flowing streams (42:1). The psalmist’s thirst for God has not been satisfied by the water of his many tears (42:2-3). In his despair, the writer speaks to his own soul: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” (42:5). Yet, before his soul answers, the psalmist exhorts himself: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (42:5).
This is Advent in a nutshell. It begins with longing, with an ache for God, with a powerful thirst for God’s living water. Advent acknowledges a life filled with heartache and tears, though recognizing times of joy before God. Advent invites us to acknowledge that our own souls are often downcast and disturbed. Advent strips away the pretense of perfection, beckoning us to honest recognition of our less than perfect lives.
Yet Advent does not leave us in the doldrums. We’re not stuck in despair. Rather, in Advent we say to ourselves and our community, “Put your hope in God.” When life is bleak, put your hope in God. When you doubt that you really matter, put your hope in God. When people and politics and pastors and your polished plans disappoint you, put your hope in God.
Hoping in God doesn’t mean everything will work out just right in this life. But it means that no matter what happens now, God will work all things together for good, because nothing can separate us from his love in Christ (Romans 8). Thus, confident in God’s steadfast love, we echo the Advent invitation of Psalm 42:5: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Something to Think About:
Is your soul downcast today? If so, why? If not, can you remember a time when this was true for you?
When you think about hoping in God, what comes to mind? What feelings are stirred up in you?
What helps you to put your hope in God?
Something to Do:
As you think about the brokenness in your life and in our world, choose today to put your hope in God. Entrust to God all the things that are weighing you down. This is not pretending or denial. It’s choosing to turn fully and freely to God.
Gracious God, thank you for the invitation to hope in you. In a world of so much violence, injustice, and suffering, we put our hope in you. When our lives are filled with heaviness and sorrow, we put our hope in you. When things are hard in our families and workplaces, in our friendships and neighborhoods, we put our hope in you.
In this season of Advent, may we choose to hope in you, Lord, to trust you, to seek you, and, encouraged by Psalm 42, to praise you because you are our Savior and our God. Amen.