When Your Soul is in Despair

On Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 pastor Darin took a break from the sermon series in Ephesians to preach a sermon on Psalm 42 entitled When Your Soul is in Despair. This was due to the sudden passing of one of our church members, Jerry Batts, which the church was informed of that morning. Psalm 42 is a psalm of lament—the story of a person in the grip of despair. The Bible is more than a collection of rules to keep God happy. The law is contained in the broader story of God’s drama of redemption in Scripture from Genesis through Revelation. In this drama we find people who experience deep despair.


To understand this despair, we need to go back to the fall of man into sin. In Gen 3, when man sinned, both physical and spiritual death came into the world. Many times in fact, the physical reality is a picture of our spiritual reality: our relationship with God is broken; we are alienated from God, and our world is filled with brokenness in every area of life. Despair, distress, death—all are a part of the nature of things since the fall of man in the garden of Eden.


Scripture then addresses people who are feeling the weight of brokenness in a fallen world. But God has given us His Word so that we can know God and know ourselves. It is then that we can understand what it is that we are going through in our lives. Psalm 42 then gives us snapshot not merely of the despair that we face and why we face it, but also of the hope that we have in the midst of the despair. The key point of the sermon is that God has resolved our grief and despair in the cross of Jesus Christ. Three points to see:


1. The reality of grief and despair


           a. In verse 3 the psalmist declares his grief when he says his tears have been his food day and night.  Dig Deeper: Have you ever felt like that? It’s not a sin, and you’re not less “spiritual” if you feel overwhelmed in the grip of grief. Praise the Lord for giving us such vivid, “real” pictures of struggle (and that He Himself entered into our struggles – see Heb 4:15).


           b. In verses 7 and 9 the crux of the issue is that he feels God has forgotten him. Why? Because he is away from Jerusalem and the temple of God—the very place that represented God’s presence with His people (see verses 4 and 6). This is what drove him to such utter despair: thinking that God was not with him. Whereas in v. 1, the issue was a drought of water that caused the psalmist distress, here in verse 7 it’s a deluge!  In Scripture, the sea is often a sign of chaos, and highlights the essence of despair and forsakenness (see Jonah chapter 2).


           c. There are times when believers feel God has abandoned and forsaken them when they experience the pain of brokenness and death. We all have felt at one time or another that God no longer hears us. This is the agony of soul that the psalmist is experiencing.


2. What is God doing in and through this grief? Grief, and especially death, reorients us to what is real and lasting. God works in these things to press upon us our desperate need for Him. Notice how the psalmist responds:

           a. In v. 1, the psalmist feels the weight of that need—he is in desperation, thirsting for the only thing that can satisfy: God. Dig deeper: what do you thirst for: Christ, or the fleeting pleasures of this world?


           b. The psalmist remembers. He thinks back to when he was in the temple of God—worshipping in God’s presence. It was in God’s presence that joy was found and the longing of his soul was satisfied. Dig Deeper: Turn to Christ, the true temple in whom God is present with His people. Only He can satisfy the longing of our souls in dry and weary land.


           c. The psalmist preaches the Gospel to himself: verses 5 and 11 are the refrain that emphasize the main focus of the song: He hopes in God His savior! And in v. 8 he rests all of his hope on the steadfast love—the covenant love of God His Savior! Dig deeper: the person you talk to the most is yourself! Paul Tripp puts it this way: “No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do… You are constantly preaching to yourself some kind of gospel…You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of aloneness and inability, or you preach to yourself the true Gospel of the presence, provisions, and power of an ever-present Christ.”  What are you preaching to yourself? Preach Christ!


3. God’s response to our grief:


           a. The steadfastness of the saving love of God toward His people would be fully displayed in the person and work of Jesus. Isaiah 53:4-5 looks forward to that day: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”


           c. God resolves all of our grief and sorrow at the cross of Christ. Jesus bore our griefs and sorrows. He bore the things that we cannot bear. Christ on the cross was forsaken so that we could be forgiven, and never have to endure the ultimate expression of eternal despair, distress, and death in hell. God wants to bring you to a place where your brokenness is resolved so that one day you will be delivered from the very presence of such things (Revelation 21:1 – 4).



1. May it not take tragedy to wake us up to the reality of God’s love for us in Christ and the truth of the Gospel. Allow the reality of the brokenness of the world to bring you to rest in Christ.


2. We must hold fast to God’s promise to us that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  Our alienation with God has forever been dealt with by the work of Christ on our behalf. When we are in the valley of despair, like the psalmist may we preach the Gospel to ourselves.