“These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival”
As promised, I am slowing continuing with my series on Psalm 42 about biblical ways to fight discouragement and little “d” depression. I won’t take the time here to give the full background of the Psalm, so I would encourage you to go back and read part one if you want some context.
Don’t forget to Remember!
Memory is a funny thing because it gets clouded or altered or lost so easily. Sometimes we remember things we wish we could forget, but at other times, it is a struggle to remember things that we really need to, and this is especially true when battling with the discouragements of our own hearts.
When life gets tough it is easy to forget that it hasn’t always been this way. This is one of the little tricks of the discouraging soundtrack that runs through our heads sometimes. It is a symptom of being consumed with the present and forgetting the past, and is one of the reasons we must learn to stop listening to ourselves, and speaking truth to ourselves.
David does this. In the midst of his suffering and discouragement, he is intentional about remembering that it hasn’t always been this way. He looks back on days when his joy in God was overflowing, when he was not just a passive part of a crowd, but was leading and encouraging others to worship God along with him.
David is not living in the past or denying the circumstances that he is in as he remembers past joy. No, he remembers as he pours out his suffering soul to God. This is an example of David’s hope. His soul is downcast, but not destroyed because he remembers what God has done for him and through him in the past. He has a reservoir of God’s faithfulness in his life that he continues to draw on when his soul runs dry.
Asaph follows the same thought pattern in Psalm 77. He says that he is so troubled that he is unable to even speak (v.4), yet he says “let me remember my song in the night” (v.6). This first part of his memory is related to his own internal state. He, like David, remembers times gone by when his joy was overflowing in God, when he was filled with songs of praise to God even in the middle of the night. His joy in the past gives him hope for his joy in the future, but his trip down memory lane does not stop there. Rather, Asaph fixes on something even more sure and more foundational than his experience of joy – the character and work of the Lord.
In verses 7-9, he expresses the questions that are plaguing his heart. One can imagine what kind of suffering brought on these questions:
“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favourable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up compassion?”
When we are discouraged or depressed or suffering, these kinds of questions can easily haunt us. The answer again is to remember. Asaph continues “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” (v.10-11)
When disturbed by the doubts and questions of his heart, Asaph chooses to remember, to think long and hard about what God has done in the past. What God has done in the past is both a model and a promise for what he will do in the future. The disturbed poet remembers God’s supreme power both in creation and in bringing his people out of bondage; he remembers God’s relentless faithfulness to a people who were stubborn and undeserving of any favour; he remembers God’s covenant, his promises, his character expressed in his word. He is fighting to regain perspective, by remembering what God has done in history and in his own life, and this is a fight we are called to every day.
We so easily forget. When we forget, we start worrying, our peace erodes, our hearts become discouraged, we being to doubt and fear. This can take on many forms and many degrees of severity, but it is something that we weak people are prone to.
So whether we are in serious turmoil like David and Asaph, or in everyday fretfulness, we must learn to remember, and to preach to our own hearts the truth that we call to mind. We must remember what God has done for us in the past that makes our present and our future secure. W e must remember to preach the gospel to ourselves continually, remembering what God has done objectively in history – his unfailing love, his promises, his power, his compassion and grace for his people, his action on behalf of his beloved. As well, we must, along with David and Asaph, remember what God has done subjectively in our experience, as we look back on our past joy, peace, hope and comfort.
Our God does not change. His love for his people does not change. His settled action for the good of his own does not change. In your discouragement – remember. When your thoughts are scattered – remember. As you pour out your soul to God – remember.
What God has done in the past is both a model and a promise for what he will do in the future.