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Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
WHEN the Psalmist (Psalm 42:5) gave utterance to these words, his spirit was dejected and his heart was heavy within him. In the checkered career of David there was not a little which was calculated to sadden and depress: the cruel persecutions of Saul, who hunted him as a partridge upon the mountains, the treachery of his trusted friend Ahithophel, the perfidy of Absalom, and the remembrance of his own sins, were enough to overwhelm the stoutest. And David was a man of like passions with us: he was not always upon the mountain-top of joy, but sometimes spent seasons in the slough of despond and the gorge of gloom. But David did not give way to despair, nor succumb to his sorrows. He did not lie down like a stricken beast and do nought but fill the air with his howling. No, he acted like a rational creature, and like a man, looked his troubles squarely in the face. But he did more; he made diligent inquiry, he challenged himself, he sought to discover the cause of his despondency: he asked, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” He desired to know the reason for such depression. This is often the first step toward recovery from dejection of spirit. Repining arid murmuring get us nowhere. Fretting and wringing our hands bring no relief either temporally or spiritually. There needs to be self-interrogation, self-examination, self condemnation.
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” We need to seriously take ourselves to task. We need to fearlessly face a few plain questions. What is the good of giving way to despair? What possible gain can it bring me? To sit and sulk is not “redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:16). To mope and mourn will not mend matters. Then let each despondent one call his soul to account, and inquire what adequate cause could be assigned for peevishness and fretting. “We may have great cause to mourn for sin, and to pray against prevailing impiety: but our great dejection, even under the severest outward afflictions or inward trials, springs from unbelief and a rebellious will: we should therefore strive and pray against it” (Thomas Scott).
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” Cannot you discover the real answer without asking counsel from others? Is it not true that, deep down in your heart, you already know, or at least suspect, the root of your present trouble? Are you “cast down” because of distressing circumstances which your own folly has brought you into? Then acknowledge with the Psalmist, “I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75). Is it because of some sin, some course of self-will, some sowing to the flesh, that you are now of the flesh reaping corruption? Then confess the same to God and plead the promise found in Proverbs 28:13: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Arthur W. Pink