“Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
When the Psalmist gave utterance to these words, his spirit was dejected and his heart was heavy within him. In the checkered career of David, there was much which was calculated to sadden and depress: the cruel persecutions of Saul, who hunted him as a partridge upon the mountains; the treachery of his trusted friend Ahitophel; the betrayal of Absalom; and the remembrance of his own sins—were enough to overwhelm the stoutest heart! And David was a man of like passions with us—he was not always upon the mountain-top of joy, but sometimes spent seasons in the slough of despond and the gorge of gloom.
But David did not give way to despair, nor succumb to his sorrows. He did not lie down like a stricken beast and do nothing but fill the air with his howling. No, he acted like a rational creature, and like a man, looked his troubles squarely in the face. But he did more; he made diligent inquiry, he challenged himself, he sought to discover the cause of his despondency: he asked, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” He desired to know the reason for such depression. This is often the first step toward recovery from depression of spirit. Repining arid murmuring get us nowhere. Fretting and wringing our hands bring no relief either temporally or spiritually. There needs to be self-interrogation, self-examination, self-condemnation.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul?” We need to seriously take ourselves to task. We need to fearlessly face a few plain questions. What is the good of giving way to despair? What possible gain can it bring me? To sit and sulk—is not “redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:16). To mope and mourn—will not mend matters. Then let each despondent one call his soul to account, and inquire what adequate cause could be assigned for peevishness and fretting.
“We may have great cause to mourn for sin, and to pray against prevailing impiety. But our great dejection, even under the severest outward afflictions or inward trials—springs from unbelief and a rebellious will. We should therefore strive and pray against it” (Thomas Scott).
“Why are you cast down, O my soul?” Can you not discover the real answer, without asking counsel from others? Is it not true that, deep down in your heart, you already know, or at least suspect—the root of your present trouble? Are you “cast down” because of distressing circumstances which your own folly has brought you into? Then acknowledge with the Psalmist, “I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and You in faithfulness have afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75).
Is it because of some sin, some course of self-will, some sowing to the flesh—that you are now of the flesh reaping corruption? Then confess the same to God and plead the promise found in Proverbs 28:13: “He who covers his sins shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.”
Or are you grieved because Providence has not smiled upon you so sweetly as it has on some of your neighbors? “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills” (Psalm 73:3-5).
Perhaps the cases suggested above do not exactly fit that of some of our readers.
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[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Arthur Pink. It originally appeared at gracegems.org]