As we discussed in part one of the Writer’s Psalm, emotions are a natural, God-given part of life. But they also can lead us astray if we’re not careful. Especially when things on our writing journey don’t go the way we’d hoped or planned. So what do you do when you feel God has abandoned you? Come explore the rest of Psalm 42 to find out.
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In episode 189, part one on Psalm 42, which we’ve dubbed the writer’s psalm, we ended with the truth that emotions have a way of ebbing and flowing. How often have you felt down one day, thinking it’s time to hang up your keyboard, and the next you wonder why on earth you were so despondent?
No, it doesn’t mean you’re bipolar. It simply means you’re experiencing the normal emotional ebb and flow of being a writer. And just when we think we’ve dealt with those emotions, something else happens. As it did with David.
“My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration!” Psalm 42:4
There’s another of Satan’s tactics: encouraging us to focus on the rearview mirror. If you’ve been in publishing for a while, and especially if you experienced some success—success that seems far too long ago—the enemy loves to come whisper in your ear about how it used to be:
“Remember how things were when you first started? How exciting it all was. How the newness of writing and being published had you waking to each day with anticipation? Even joy? How you felt so fulfilled? Well…all that’s gone now. So what was the point? You’ve wasted time and money that should have been used better…”
This tactic is so very effective, isn’t it? Especially with the changes happening in publishing over the last several years. It often seems so much harder now. And many of us have lost contracts, or can’t seem to find someone who wants to give us a new contract. Or maybe we decide to go indie, but that, we discover, has its own big pile of difficulties. Why can’t it be like it was?
Oh, friends, remember how we’ve warned you against comparing yourself to others? Well, comparing where you are now to where you used to be, letting that comparison stir up a sense of defeat and discouragement, longing for what was doesn’t help with what is. Not. Ever.
If you’re tempted to do that, go instead with the next several verses of Psalm 42 and say with David:
“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:5
Acknowledging who God is in the here and now is a powerful weapon against Satan’s lies. So please, every day, every time you feel the enemy tickling your ears and spirit, ask yourself one question. Because the answer will send the enemy and his forces scrambling away:
Who is God to me?
Is he Elohim, the One and only true God? The Master Creator? No one is more trustworthy. No one else is Sovereign. There is no other God but him.
Is he Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord my Shepherd? The One who watches over me, guarding me from all enemies? The one who fights to save me from predators like Satan? Whose staff will always guide and protect me?
Is he Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord my provider? The One who meets all my needs, no matter what they are? The One who has never let his own go hungry or be lost? The One who provided us with a way to escape sin and death?
Is he Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord my healer? God told Moses right out, “I am the Lord who heals you.” He will heal you on every front in his time, in his way. He will heal you of being downcast. Just keep your eyes and heart on him.
Is he Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord my Banner? He is the Visible God who is seen in our lives. He is the sign to all, especially Satan, that we belong to him. As our banner, God lets everyone know HE is with us, our protection and shield, and they will try to do us harm at their own spiritual and eternal peril. Remember Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon formed against you shall succeed.”
Is he Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, the Lord my sanctifier? He makes me holy. I don’t do that. I can’t do that. But Jehovah-M’Kaddesh has already done it! He has given us his Holy Spirit for that very reason. How do you disperse being downcast? Come before him and ask for more holiness. Ask for the strength to see past what seems to be until your vision matches his for what is, and what will be in him!
Is he Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord my peace? Strong’s Concordance tells us that shalom means completeness, soundness, welfare. When the Lord is our peace, we are complete. We are sound in him, not to be shaken. Our welfare is in HIS hands. What better place could it be?
Is he Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord Who Is Righteous? It’s frightening for many to even think of being attacked by Satan and his followers. But friends, there is no reason for fear! Not when we’re covered in the Lord’s holy righteousness. Not when Jehovah-Tsidkenu holds us in his righteous hands and his holiness is an impenetrable barrier between us and the ruler of this world. A ruler who is already defeated by God’s righteousness.
Is he Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who is there? Oh, how I love this one! My Lord is here. With me. Whether I feel it or not, whether my emotions recognize it or not, The God of the Universe is with me! He is near to you even now. He is ever present. You are never alone, friends. Never.
Let’s pick up with Psalm 42 again, finishing verse 6:
“Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.” Psalm 42:6
Here is such good news! Being downcast is temporary! When David says, “Now I am deeply discouraged,” he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say, “but I will remember you!”
Being downcast is a feeling, an emotion. And feelings or emotions change. They may last for a few hours or days, or even for a season. It’s only a matter of time until it passes.
Keep in mind that emotions, even unwanted ones like being downcast, have significance and purpose. Otherwise why would God have given them to us? Having an underlying sense of sadness, of being downcast, can be a trigger for you to realize that something’s not quite right. It helps to explore the root of those emotions. When we understand what we’re feeling and why, we can take steps to feel better.
For example, a few weeks ago I was moping around the house. Don, my hubby, asked me what was wrong. I looked at him and said, “I’m depressed.”
Now, I wasn’t talking about true depression. What I meant was I was feeling down. Like something just wasn’t quite right. We talked about it and I realized we’ve had far too many gray, rainy days lately.
Don and I have always turned off the lights if we’re not in a room. Why pay for electricity that isn’t needed? But I realized I was missing sunshine and light! So we agreed that when the days are gray, we’ll keep more lights on and pull the window blinds up to let in as much light as possible. Within a few days, I was back to being cheerful, laughing at the antics of the birds and squirrels in my yard, and savoring God’s goodness.
Not all causes of being downcast are easy to discern. But ask God to open your eyes to why you’re feeling as you are. Sometimes, you can make changes to lift the gloom. Other times, you need to wait on God to release you from these emotions. Whatever the case, it is temporary! Sometimes it lasts for days. Sometimes it lasts for a season. But, it will pass.
Don and I recently visited Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. On the ferry ride to the island, I was struck by the varying currents, swirls, and white caps on the surface of the waters of the Puget Sound. I couldn’t help but wonder what was beneath the waters that caused these different actions, some within feet of each other. Was there some obstacle down there? Or was it caused by some fish or whales or orcas? Or could it just be a difference in water temperature?
But here’s what I loved: Whatever the underlying cause, the ferry just kept gliding along the surface, not the least bit bothered by the various whirlpools, white caps, or whatever. That vessel was built to ride the surface and keep moving forward.
Just remember times of being downcast are often based on how things seem to be. Or even worse, wondering what’s happening until you grow afraid that maybe…just maybe…God has left you on your own. But the reality is that while we may not know where God is leading us, or why, what we do know, without a doubt, is that he IS leading us. And these downcast feelings will pass in the light of his truth.
David starts to understand that with the next verses…
“I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.” Psalm 42:7-8
In this moment, David’s soul isn’t downcast! It’s focused on God, on praising and worshiping Him. When you struggle, take hold of two of the most powerful tools in your arsenal: praise and worship.
We’ve talked about praise and worship in other podcasts, but let’s review a few things here:
God is the only One worthy of true praise. And the praise we give God isn’t like praising someone for doing a good job. It’s not based on what we think of God. It’s based on WHO God is.
Webster’s defines praise as a number of things—commending excellence, expressing approval, honoring others—but the praise due to God is different. In fact, that praise gets this definition from Webster’s: “The act of glorifying …God.”
Here are a few of the definitions of glorify:
to make glorious : surround with glory : secure honor, praise, or admiration for
to exalt to a state of glory
to throw a resplendent light upon : make splendid with light.
Resplendent. I love that word. It means lustrous. Shining with brilliant light. Imagine entering a darkened room, then someone turns on a number of large, sparkling chandeliers. I’ve seen that, and the glorious beauty of it is almost a shock. It takes your breath away, and then fills you with delight.
Now think: How much more resplendent is God? How much more glorious? How much more worthy than any thing or any one of our praise and worship?
When you find yourself slipping into being downcast, jump instead into praise and worship just like these verses say:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians1:3-4
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15 NIV
Then there’s this blockbuster in Isaiah 25:
“LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago… You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert. You silence the uproar of foreigners (and critical readers and reviewers and naysayers!) as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled.” Isaiah 25:1,4-5
Do you hear that? “The song of the ruthless.” We like to think the enemy’s voice will be easily recognized because it’s full of evil, but remember, Satan is the deceiver. He will seem to sing to you, to woo you with a refrain of all you deserve but aren’t getting. The ruthless one will sing condemnation with the voice of an angel and the words of trickery. Don’t be fooled!
Isaiah 25 goes on:
“On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’” Isaiah 25:6-9
Remember that old saying, “God said and I believe it!” God has said you are precious to him. Believe it! God has said he will never leave you or forsake you. Believe it! God has said he loves us so much he sent his beloved Son to die for us, to restore us to himself. Believe it.
Friends, if God has said you are a writer, then God has spoken. Believe it!!
But David’s downcast state isn’t over yet, because right on the heels of Psalm 42:7-8 comes verses 9-10:
“’O God my rock,’ I cry, ‘why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?’ Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, ‘Where is this God of yours?’”
See? Same old tactics. Mockery. Unrealized expectations. Taunting.
How often have you heard people say things like:
“If God is real, why is the world in such a mess?”
“Why are so many people starving and suffering?”
“Where is this God of yours when nations attack nations, slaughtering innocents.”
“If God is so great and so loving, why did the person I love die an agonizing death?”
“If God cares about me, why do I have cancer?”
Let’s face it, there are a lot of reasons to doubt God exists. Lots of reasons for people to mock us and our faith. Lots of reasons to doubt God and us.
The enemy takes advantage of the most punishing reasons to derail us from doing whatever task God has given us. Good night! Satan doesn’t want us doing God’s work! He doesn’t want us ignoring him and just trusting God.
Satan is so determined to get us downcast that he uses those around us, even those who know us best, to mock and taunt and undermine us in doing the work God has given us. Because when we fall prey to all that, when we become downcast, we can’t see what God’s doing.
Or maybe it’s more that we aren’t looking for what God is doing. All the hard, negative things are so much more obvious. But God? So often he works in the background. Even in silence. Which seems so counter-intuitive to us. With all his power, all his glory, why isn’t everyone aware of what he’s doing?
Remember when Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God? How did God speak to him? In a still small voice. You see, that’s the thing with true power. It doesn’t have to blare its existence. It just is. God’s power is there, and it’s working for the good of all his children. For you.
As we come to the end of Psalm 42, it seems David has learned that as soon as he heads back into being downcast, here comes the solution: truth!
“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! My Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11
Say those words out loud! My Savior and my God.
Our hope is in him. Our joy and fulfillment and peace and wonder…everything we need and could ever want is all in HIM.
Psalm 146 is the the perfect response, to that truth:
“Praise the Lord! Let all that I am praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath. Don’t put your confidence in powerful people (publishers, editors, reviewers, sales teams, marketers, producers…none of them deserve your confidence. ONLY God does); there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly…The Lord will reign forever. He will be your God…throughout the generations. Praise the Lord!”Feeling down? Let the Writer’s Psalm lift your spirits! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
In what ways does David’s psalm inspire you as a writer?
Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!
A huge thank you to our May sponsor of the month, Priscilla Sharrow! She’s working on her memoir called Bonked! Life, Love, and Laughter with Traumatic Brain Injury, which will release with Redemption Press. Learn more about Priscilla at her website priscillasharrow.com and follow her blog for the TBI/PTSD community.
Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!
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