So this has been a trying week for me.  It just seemed that every aspect of my life had some sort of catastrophe that happened.  Obviously it was tough here this week, but challenges were facing me all week long.  I definitely felt both the pain of Satan working on my life, as well as the strength of God when I needed it most.  I am lucky to be surrounded by a lot of really great people that can help me sort through things and keep a level head. 

Have you ever had a week like that?  I told someone that it feels like the world is one big machine and my gear isn’t matching up with anything.  I was just off.  So for once, I did what I should always do in these situations; I turned to scripture.  I so often try to fix things on my own and straighten things out but this time, it was well beyond me.  So I found myself in Psalms and particularly Psalm 42 which is what I’d like to share with you all this week. 

1 As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and behold the face of God?  3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.  5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help 6 and my God.  My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts; all your waves and your billows have gone over me.  8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. 

9 I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?”  10 As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

Psalms is a great book to get into at any point in your life.  There are Psalms for every point in your life and they all contain a helpful remembrance on how we should act and how we should keep our attitudes during the best and worst times.  This particular song, while not named as a Psalm of David, starts in the introduction by saying it was for the Ruler, which is likely David, and since there is no other author mentioned, most historians agree that this is probably a song that David wrote to be used in his court for a specific purpose.  Basically, he was trying to be humble at the point of writing it. 

There’s a lot of really beautiful imagery here and lots of things that remind us of other parts of scripture.  The first part of this psalm talks about how dry we feel without God in our lives and how our soul literally “thirsts” for that presence.  This is the point you have to remember that while you’ve likely been thirsty before, maybe even a little parched on a hot day, these people lived in a desert.  Thirst in their world is so much different than thirst in our world.  People, especially the common person, may go for days without a drink and when they did get a drink, most of the time it was warm or hot water, pulled from a well filled with contaminants.  This is not icy cold bottled spring water. 

You may recall from your other readings of scripture that in the New Testament, God and Jesus are both referred to as the Living Water.  Remember the Samaritan woman at the well. 

When I coached football, the season started at the beginning of August.  I know it has finally turned into fall this weekend, but take a second here and try to remember the beginning of August.  Now imagine strapping on 25 pounds of pads and gear, covering yourself from head to toe, and, just to top it off, let’s practice twice a day and put a mouthpiece in so you have to breathe around it.  Ok, it is nearly unbearable.  I hate being hot and I couldn’t wait until we got through the preseason.  I would’ve rather gotten up and ran practice at 2am than three in the afternoon. 

So I tell you this to tell you that hydration was a huge part of what we did.  We had to talk to the kids constantly about drinking enough water.  We had to take regular breaks.  We as coaches even had to be certified by a test from the state in how to give water breaks.  We got to the point where we could see a kid starting to get dehydrated before he even knew it was happening.  Kids would start moving sluggish.  They’d get confused.  When you looked at them, they wouldn’t quite focus on you.  In general, they were just off.

That’s the kind of thirst that I associate with the lack of God.  Everything just feels off.  That was how this week seemed to me.  Much like the Psalmist here when he asks, “When shall I come and behold the face of God?” all I wanted was for it to be over.  I wanted to get back into my rhythm. 

Again, like the Psalmist describes here, I had to remember what that natural rhythm of my life was.  I had to remember when my soul wasn’t thirsty; when I felt at peace with myself and with my life. 

The Psalm goes on to recall that the dark times come and that not everything will be easy, but it is the remembrance of the good parts of his life that keeps him on track. 

Finally, we get to the closing of the Psalm with the simple answer the author reminds himself of, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him.”  Here’s the point of what the author has been writing, as well as where I felt I landed this week.  No matter what, good times or bad, darkness or light, we should praise God.  We often times do a great job praising God when things are good.  We sing of his praises.  So many of our hymns are songs of how great God is and how wonderful His blessings are in our lives.  Those are the times its easy to be thankful for God. 

However, when things aren’t going well, when things start to break apart, when life gets hard, we are still called to praise God.  We need to remember to not just ask for deliverance from the dark times, but to be thankful that we have a God in our lives that gives us challenges to overcome.  If you believe that God is in control then you have to admit that sometimes God gives us challenges for a reason.  It can be hard to see that reason when we are going through it, but there is a reason, and we should be praising God throughout.  Even through the hardest thing a person deals with, dying, we should praise God because the reason for dying is to be reunited with Him in glory.

I am often times reminded of the story of Job in the Old Testament when I think of hard times.  Job had it all, wealth, family, and land.  Long story short, God took away all that he had, quite tragically, and Job still praised God.  Even in his lowest point, when he was mourning the loss of his family and had nothing left to live for, he still praised God.

I want to encourage you to be like the Psalmist and continually praise God.  Don’t just look on the bright side or try to find the reason for your present situation, truly and wonderfully praise your creator.  No matter what is going on in your life, good or bad or medium, praise God for your life.  Praise him for another day on planet Earth.  Praise him for providing the sun in the sky, the food for your body, and for the family and friends that fill your life.  Praise God for the worst day you can possibly have.  Praise him for the pain in your body.  Praise him for the bad things that happen.  Because, as the Psalmist tells us, our hope is in God, and that is the God that we praise.