For the past few days, I’ve been feeling a little down. Actually, it’s more than just a “little” bit. It’s quite a bit. It’s a general state of despondency, and I can’t really explain it. While there are some reasons why I should be down, I know they are not the reasons why I feel down. I know because I’ve explored those options thoroughly. Those reasons are not what have been on my mind or my heart. I can’t really locate what is disturbing me. It is a mystery.
This morning, I read Psalm 42. It was one of the readings in Fixed Hour Prayer (“The Divine Hours” compiled by Phyllis Tickle). One of the recurring phrases in this Psalm is, “Why so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (vv. 5, 11) In one sense, the Psalmist seems to be doing some “self-talk”: “Don’t you know that God is bigger than anything you face? Why would you be downcast? C’mon, have some faith.” And that’s the way I’ve always interpreted that verse.
But could the Psalmist be expressing something similar that I’m going through? Could it be that the Psalmist cannot put his finger on why his soul is downcast? Maybe there are reasons he could name (like being oppressed [v. 9], or taunted by godless people [v. 10]), but the real reason – the true reason why his soul feels torment – is still unnamed.
I’ve been learning this past year that the soul is a mysterious thing. While the soul can sometimes be “interpreted” through the lens of emotion and thought, there are times when it seems to defy convention, logic, and understanding.
Sometimes it seems to be downcast for no apparent reason at all. Perhaps, it is picking up some vibes of darkness or despair in the world. Perhaps, it is sensing a grieving of the Holy Spirit somewhere (“Deep” does call to “deep”, as we see in v. 7). Or perhaps, it is mourning something within that our emotions and minds cannot pick up or understand.
And I take refuge in the fact that God knows my soul better than I do. He is the “Lover of my soul.” So I release my soul into His care. I’m not going to worry or fret over what is going on deep within. Through Silent Prayer this morning, I was able to tell God to take care of my soul.
Later this afternoon, my soul felt released of this burden. Maybe part of it was a productive staff meeting I attended. Maybe part of it was finally getting around to some lab tests for my physical condition this morning (I’ve been kind of dreading it, but I realized I need to do it regardless of how I felt about it). Or maybe God did something in the “secret” – beneath my consciousness – that lifted my soul.
Who knows? God does.
I don’t know if this blog made any sense to you. But maybe someone out there can relate to what I’m writing about. Maybe you’ve felt the same way and didn’t know what to do with it. Or maybe you will in the future. But know that God not only has your “back”; He has your soul, too. Not only does He have all of what you are aware of in His hands, He has all that you are unaware of in His hands, too.
He really does.
2 thoughts on “Why so downcast, O my Soul?”
Doug. I get this in spades. My soul is simply numbed beyond belief at the never relenting difficulties. I crave peace and security. Maybe one day God will lift my soul too. Until then I hang on however tenuous my grip might be.
Thanks for sharing that, Les. Life is a mysterious journey that can’t always be explained or figured out. Sometimes the best we can do is just hang on and trust God in it.
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