“It is possible that the saints and people of God can be discouraged and downcast even if there is an inward peace and quietness of soul” writes William Bridge in his book on Psalm 42.
Ps 42:11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
In one chapter Bridge discusses thoughts on this question. He points to David, a man who loved God and is described as “a man after God’s own heart” and we may think his internal peace was unmoved. Yet he asks his soul three times in this psalm “Why are you downcast?” We can therefore from Scripture and life, reasonably conclude our peace can be disturbed for a time. It is actually quite ordinary, that Christians, who have the peace of eternal life with God (Rom 5:1), may have that peace disturbed or interrupted. In fact, God, knowing our peace would be disturbed and we would desire and need it restored, has ordered for the Scriptures to contain many examples of lives, psalms and prayers to that restorative end. (Ps 102; 119.25, 28; 143:4; Song 5:6 and many more)
Through the chapter Bridge considers a few questions that arise from the reality that the Christian life will experience moments of “disruption”: To what extent can the Christians’s peace be discouraged? Why is it discouraged so greatly? How can those discouragements persist with God’s grace? And how are they healed?
- How far? We may experience it physically and lose our appetite – Ps 102:4 “My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread.” We may refuse to be comforted (Ps 77:2) Do Christians experience it to this level? Consider the misery of the prophets and see our discouragement can be for a season yet we are still holy. (Jer 20:9)
- Why do God’s people experience these disruptions of peace? We recognize God does all things for our general good in the long term. In time we can also see God at work. In last weeks sermon, Mary sought the boy Jesus with anxiety till she found him and rejoiced. His absence will draw out our desires for his presence. “So long as man has encouragement elsewhere, he does not encourage himself in the Lord his God.” During times of illness, we long for the ordinary days of health, as such God raises our love for common blessings.
- How can we judge ourselves to be in Christ during this? The saints in Scripture may have miserable experiences but they always long for God. Grace is evident in this calling and waiting upon the Lord.
- How are we healed? Look to how God blessed you in the past. The psalmist says, “I remember” (42:6) Recall how Scripture once warmed your heart? (Lk 24:32) It’s still there to be used in the same heart. When we are ill we continue to feed our bodies, and in the same vein of thought, when we are distressed we feed our souls.