Generous God, thank you for giving us life, for giving us songs to sing. When we are sad, help us to remember your love. When we are discouraged, help us to remember that you are near. Help us to always put our hope in you. Amen.
Psalm 42:1-8 (New Living Translation)
Each day the Lord pours unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing God’s songs, praying to the One who gives me life. –Psalm 42:8
Thoughts on Scripture
I appreciate this Psalm because of how honest the composer is – feeling distant from God, replaying memories that bring both deep joy and terrible sadness. It reminds me of that controversy from a few years back, when excerpts were published from Mother Teresa’s diaries, and it was revealed to the world that this holy woman, who had dedicated her life to serving God by serving the poor and sick in Calcutta, had struggled in her faith. She’d written that she sometimes felt a terrible pain, doubts about who God is, and if God wanted her. If not for that diary, most of us would never have known that she had those questions, that she sometimes felt so sad and alone. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? Questions and doubts are part of any faith that is honest, and most of us have times when we feel alone and unsure.
The Psalmist has these same questions: Where is God? Why am I so sad? How can I know God’s love?
But even with her questions and doubts, Mother Teresa continued to serve God and her neighbors, in ways no one else dared to. She took care of people who were sick and dying. She opened homes for them when they had nowhere to go. She befriended them, fed them, touched them. And the writer of Psalm 42 sings and prays throughout the night, even when it feels like God is far. Their examples can help show us what to do when we struggle: Mother Teresa reaches out to a hurting community, even when she is hurting; the Psalmist reaches out to God, even though sometimes it’s hard to know that God is there. We may never find the answers to some of our questions, but reaching out can help to remind us of the love and grace and need that is all around us.
Questions to Discuss
– When this Psalmist is sad, or discouraged, why do you think people ask, ‘Where is your God?’ If you were sad and people asked you that, what would you tell them?
– Have you ever had an experience like the one the Psalmist describes above, with lots of people all singing songs to God and celebrating together? How did being a part of that make you feel?
– What are some of your questions about God? What do you do with those questions?
– What are some ways that God “pours unfailing love” on you?
Keep a diary for the week (or longer, if it’s a practice you end up liking!). Take some cues from this Psalm as you think about what to write down each day. You might write down your moods, your questions, your doubts, your memories, or ways you have connected with other people. Ask a friend or family member to do it also – if you like, at the end of the week, you can share with each other some of what you’ve written.
–by Erika Marksbury