The Quakers have a phrase for something spiritually apt and timely. They say, “It speaks to my condition.” Psalms 42 and 43 are like that; their message is relevant.
These Psalms present a man under pressure, airing his problems before God. The stress is Situational. He can no longer attend the place of praise and prayer. Now, far from his homeland and the temple of the Lord, this exile feels the loss keenly. Perhaps for us, as with the Psalmist, something precious has gone out of our life and we must live on memories.
The stress is also relational. People taunt him (42:3, 10); he goes about mourning (43:2). What hurts most is unrequited love. The child you’ve cared for turns from home and lives among the addicts whose lifestyle he adopts. The husband to whom you gave yourself proves unfaithful. Church leaders leave you disillusioned. A dear friend betrays you, an enemy speaks cutting words. A life partner dies, and the bereavement is grievous.
Added to all this for the Psalmist there is physical stress: “My bones suffer mortal agony” (42:10). Fear can debilitate even the most vigorous, anxiety can rob vitality, and discouragement can sap even the will to live.
What are the causes of stress in contemporary life? The list is long: unemployment, financial insecurity, an unpleasant work environment, feelings of isolation or inadequacy, an accident, loss of friends or loved ones and many more. Bereavements may follow one another until the earth seems a vast cemetery. One only has to hear the news to wonder why so many fellow humans are deprived of human rights, or why militarism and terrorism vie to make our world one madhouse.
These two Psalms speak to our human condition. But happily they do not stop with the problem, but move toward a solution. The power and beauty of this soliloquy is that the Psalmist exhorts his own soul: “Put your trust in God”
(43:5). It is a powerful word to a generation that has learned to put its trust in man, to foolishly assert our autonomy. Look again at the Psalmist’s affirmations: God is his rock (42:9), his stronghold (43:2), his joy and delight (43:4). God is our Savior (43:5). That makes all the difference.
Harry Read, The Salvationist Pulpit