Why?! Why?! Why?!

Ever get so worked up into a lather of rage, of doubt, of tumult deep in your soul that such pent-up accusations like these coming roiling forth?

God, “What’s wrong with that person?!”

God, “What’s wrong with me?!”

“What’s wrong with You, God?!”

Maybe, like for me, it helps if you catch a Psalmist (David, no less) in the act of going nuclear, spouting off with a series of “why’s” that would put a blush on a salty sailor. Welcome to Psalms 42 and 43.

At the core, David’s lost something. He lost God. He didn’t lose his belief in God, but his experience of meeting with the living God. David’s not satisfied with a god who is a remote, nebulous force. He’s longing for a living, personal God who is writing a story and David (plus you and me) are in that story.

He asks, “Why have You forgotten me, God of my strength?” Do you hear this as an echo of our Christ declaring, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This should rattle us bone-deep.

He asks, “Why am I oppressed? Why am I depressed?” “Why do I feel such tumult complete with tears, such clamor, such uproar, such rage?”

If I’m honest, I hear this same panicky chatter down in my own soul. It comes on me relentlessly, like billowing waves in my stormy circumstances, in my frequent periods of shame and confusion. What’s a poor, shaken soul like me, like you, to do about it? Well, my fellow believer, lets read between the lines of David’s gut-level accusations and inquiries to hear his solution.

“I will remember!” Remember what? Remember previous favor, previous mercy. Remember to praise God in the midst of the onslaught. Remember previous deliverance’s. Remember God’s covenant. Give Him thanks and keep trusting. Maybe it sounds like this: “And that I may go unto the altar of God, even unto the God of my joy and gladness: and upon the harp will I give thanks to thee, O God, my God.”

“Put thy trust in God: for I will give him thanks for the help of his countenance.”

That phrase, “the help of his countenance” settles it! Finally, I have what I thought was denied, Your face, O my God. Your face.” Your face that turns toward me graciously, knows me deeply and thoroughly, hears me fully has become my salvation.

Yesterday, today, forever, You are my living God.

6 thoughts on “Why?! Why?! Why?!

    1. Thrilled to know that Mary Ann! We have a loving personal God to soften and strengthen our hearts. Plus, I’ve got a photo of 2 horses you gave us to remind me of our friendship.

  1. Hey Ron!

    Thanks for putting these two Psalms together and giving voice to the internal conflicts we all feel at times.

    Just now, in writing those words, it strikes me that God designed us on purpose that there would be internal conflict! In Genesis 2:7 we see God forming man’s flesh from the dust of the earth, breathes into him the breath of life (spirit). Then, at the fusion of flesh and spirit, man becomes a living soul. In Galatians 5:17, the internal battle is laid out plain for us: the flesh is in opposition against the spirit, and the spirit is in opposition against the flesh and Paul cries out, “O wrenched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?( Romans 7:24)”

    I picture it like a triangle spinner on a board game:

    / . \
    / \
    Soul – – – Body

    and we’re constantly spinning this triangle, wondering who will be on top at the moment and dominant over the other two. Well, there is no resolution to the conflict unless if we, each day by faith, reckon ourselves crucified and raised with Christ and purposely turn that “game spinner” and set the spirit at the top.

    In Psalm 42-43, I hear David voicing his personal internal conflict of spirit and soul in opposition to each other. In fact, as often within us, they are two voices trying to talk over each other at the same time!

    Taking a cue from the NKJV version of Song of Solomon where the text is separated into parts: “The Beloved”, “The Shulamite”, and “The Daughters of Jerusalem”; I see Psalm 42-43 as separated into spirit, soul, and choir.

    To the Overseer. — An Instruction.
    By sons of Korah

    First Movement

    As a hart pants for streams of water, So my soul pants toward Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God, When do I enter and see the face of God?

    The Soul:
    My tears hath been to me bread day and night, In their saying unto me all the day, ‘Where is thy God?’

    The Spirit
    These I remember, and pour out my soul in me, For I pass over into the booth, I step reverently, in worship procession, with them unto the house of God, With the voice of singing and confession, The multitude keeping feast!

    What! bowest thou thyself, O my soul? Yea, art thou troubled within me? Wait for God, for still I confess Him: The salvation of my countenance — My God!

    Second Movement

    In me doth my soul bow itself, Therefore I remember Thee from the land of Jordan, And of the Hermons, from the hill Mizar(1).

    The Soul:
    Wave calleth unto wave(2) at the noise of Thy waterfalls (3), all Thy breakers and Thy billows passed over me(4).

    The Spirit
    By day Jehovah commandeth His kindness, And by night a song is with me, A prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my rock…

    The Soul:
    (interrupting…)’WHY HAST THOU FORGOTTEN ME!? Why go I mourning in the oppression of an enemy? With a sword in my bones have mine adversaries reproached me, In their saying unto me all the day, ‘Where is thy God?’

    What! bowest thou thyself, O my soul? And what! art thou troubled within me? Wait for God, for still I confess Him, The salvation of my countenance, and my God!

    Third Movement

    Judge me, O God, And plead my cause against a nation not pious, From a man of deceit and perverseness Thou dost deliver me, For thou art the God of my strength

    The Soul:
    Why hast Thou cast me off? Why mourning do I go up and down, In the oppression of an enemy?

    The Spirit:
    Send forth Thy light and Thy truth, They — they lead me, they bring me in, Unto Thy holy hill, and unto Thy tabernacles.
    And I go in unto the altar of God, Unto God, the joy of my rejoicing. And I thank Thee with a harp, O God, my God.

    What! bowest thou thyself, O my soul? And what! art thou troubled within me? Wait for God, for still I confess Him, The salvation of my countenance, and my God!

    (1) The spirit: Remember Jordan! “Oh hallelujah… the mountain tops of Jordan!”
    (2) ie: wave follows wave without relief
    (3) The soul: Remember Jordan! “Oh no the valley… the river of Jordan with its 27 rapids and falls!
    (4) see same phrase used in Jonah 2:3

    [Based upon: Psalm 42-43, Young’s Literal Translation]

    Our reborn spirit, joined to the Holy Spirit and walking by faith, is always speaking calm confidence in God and His outcome for us. Our soul, walking by sight, is easily “spooked” (or whatever correct cowboy word there is when animals are nervous and skittish)

  2. Here is a favorite hymn:

    Psalm 42
    Dana Harkin

    As the hart longs for flowing streams
    So longs my soul for You O God
    My soul does thirst for the living God
    When shall I come to see Your face?

    My tears have fed me day and night
    while men have said “Where is your God?”
    But I recall as my soul pours dry
    The days of praise within Your house

    Why do I mourn and toil within
    When it is mine to hope in God?
    I shall again sing praise to Him
    He is my help, He is my God

    And a beautiful choir giving voice to it:

  3. “I long for You….”

    “I will remember and weep…”

    “I pour out my soul…”

    “I go about mourning…”

    David is being blunt and candid with his Creator. Longing… remembering… weeping… mourning… David is making it clear to the Lord that this is where he is at right now and his pains are overwhelming.

    But they’re not getting David to where he wants to go.

    The longer he talks, the deeper into his pit of despair and depression he digs himself. David opens with a sigh, “I long for You as a deer longs for flowing streams…”. And then, in just a few verses, he is at the precipice of bitterness; and, as you point out, shaking his fist saying, “God, whats wrong with You? I used to call You “My Rock”… why have You forsaken me?”

    One of the reasons that I think the Father loved David so much, is that David put 110% of himself into everything he did – and did it with zealous passion and emotion. “Lions, tigers, and bears? I killed the bear and ripped the jaw off the lion that dared to touch my dad’s sheep!” “Celebrate God? I stripped to my white Levite skivvies and worshiped God up and down main street.”

    As a human, the emotional pendulum also swings the other way. But remembering, weeping, and mourning, while being absolutely honest and transparent, will not get David where he wants to go because they’re not from faith in God.

    Praise is faith in action. Praise is the action for faith.

    “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead [literally: “corpse”] …
    You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. …
    As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” [Jas 2:17, 22, 26 NIV]

    I thinks David’s depression and despair doesn’t change until an, as yet unused word, appears in Psalm 43:4:

    Then I WILL go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I WILL praise thee with the lyre, O God, my God. [Psa 43:4 RSV]

    When David said, “I WILL…” everything changed. When David said, “I WILL…” is when his spirit rose up and re-took its rightful authority over soul and body and commanded: “Body.. you WILL get up and go unto the altar of God and play on the instrument. And soul… you WILL praise the Lord with the joy of our salvation!”

    Emotions are not bad for a Christian. Emotions put passion, variety, and life into everyday actions. But, being ruled over by the body, soul, or emotions instead of the Spirit becomes a miserable existence.

    All the Hebrew words for “praise” (zamar, halal, tehillah, yodah, etc…) are action words – they require the body and soul to participate in praise with a type of accompanying action.

    Faith, without an accompanying action, is a corpse – a body without life, without spirit, soul, or emotions. Faith and corresponding actions…faith and praise… work together to make faith complete.

    Praise is faith in action.

    Praise is the corresponding action for faith.

    Praise works together with faith to make faith complete.

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