The saints will endure various sorts of afflictions, all or any of which, can be sources of great discouragement. Today as I have reflected on this, I’m reminded of Psalm 42, most well known for the opening verse “As a deer pants for the flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” The psalm that speaks a child of God under great duress from outside sources. Those conflicts have impacted the poet’s soul greatly. They have proven to be a great disparager, causing discouragement and despair to him.
Ponder the words he implements to express his downcast soul
42.3 My tears have been my food day and night
42:10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
4:11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
The joyful spirit is being shaped by the afflictions surrounding him. Their repeated assaults and impacts have formed discouragement in his soul. And it is reasonable for us in these times to even respond, “I have good reason to be discouraged, look at all I have been through.” Pointing out our miseries the thought arises, “No one has been as afflicted as I have been, and am”
But this cannot lead us to despair. The Lord has taught us not to think that this is a new thing that has come to his people. It is no new thing when God’s children are afflicted.
Rev 7.14 These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.
If we are told that we will face difficulties then why do they take such a toll on us? God’s people have spiritual eyes enabling them to see the tribulations endured with greater sensitivity than those who are spiritually blinded. And because of this reality we are more prone to discouragement. Recall how the saints of old would become so easily discouraged in the face of a trial even though they witnessed saving power and love of God?
Yet if a person is in Christ and they have peace with God through him, then even though external voices speak to the contrary, we have no reason to be discouraged or “cast down”. Jesus tells his disciples
John 16.33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
This raises the question, “How do we take heart?” The struggling poet of Psalm 42 longed for God’s presence because he experienced God’s absence. Thus he calls out in vs 4 to have that joy he had worshipping God in the temple. He calls for the time and space where he replace voices of discouragement with voices of praise. We are not alone in our afflictions, God’s grace accompanies us. God’s fellowship, communion of the saints and especially the communion of Christ and all of his sufferings are yours. And this a helpful application of this psalm, to encourage us to trust the memory of God’s grace in our life earlier, and hope for its abundant return.