download“Why am I discouraged? Why so sad?” (Psalm 42:5 NLT)

I went to see ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ last Monday. Boy, was it a sad movie. Among the ‘downers’:

  • You faithfully love someone only to have that person betray you.
  • You finally find the courage to tell the one you love that you love him/her but have no time to enjoy that love.
  • You finally find your perfect love only to lose him/her.
  • You achieve your life ambition but find out that in the process you lose what is truly important.
  • You finally grow up only to discover that you have messed up everybody’s lives.
  • You pursue justice only to experience more injustice.

Like I said it was a very sad movie. The soundtrack underscored this sadness just in case you missed the point. The movie was so sad it made one want to jump off a mountain. (Go see the movie.) I didn’t but it got me thinking afresh about the subject of sadness. I knew I would find help in the Psalms and I did. Here are some pointers from Psalm 42 and 43.

What to do if you are feeling sad?

1. Accept the fact that you are feeling sad.

Three times the Psalmist declares his sadness (42:5; 42:11; 43:2). We can only guess at the details of why he is so sad. Whatever the reason he comes to terms with his sorrow and admits/declares it. I fear that in the ‘feel good’ culture that is prevalent in many of our churches, people are not given the permission to feel sad. If they are sad, we quickly encourage them to get over it as soon as possible. As a result we all wear masks to church. I wonder how much sorrow lies beneath the surface of the smiling faces we see every Sunday.

2. Turn to God.

After admitting his sadness, the Psalmist turns to God.

“Why am I so discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God….”

The Psalmist realizes that his only source of deliverance is God. God is his “only safe haven” (42:2). In his sadness the Psalmist turns to God. Wine (and feel-good movies?) would have given him some relief (Proverbs 31:6-7) but would not have solved his problems. His only real help is God.

This God was objective and real. He had revealed Himself in Israel’s history. His character was revealed in the Law. Indeed He had blessed the Psalmist in times past (I will remember your kindness…42:6). In the overwhelming flood of his sadness, the Psalmist clings on to God, his rock (42:9).

3. Hope in the future.

In turning to God, the Psalmist finds hope. He didn’t experience immediate deliverance but he knew better days would come. This was not an exercise in wishful thinking, or an exercise in some form of ‘mind control’ or ‘self actualisation visualization’. His hope came from a fresh remembrance of the character of God, that God was a God of “unfailing love” (42:8).

The Psalmist’s deliverance was still in prospect – “I WILL praise Him” (42:5). But it was a prospect that was rock solid. In realizing this, the Psalmist could put his life and sadness in proper perspective. He found the hope that staved off despair. We can speculate that even his mood began to change. But even if it didn’t, and moods can be so fickle, the Psalmist found the strength to carry on.

We don’t need to go to a sad movie to feel sad. Ever since humankind sinned, the sound-track of history has been in a minor key. A quick audit of our hearts, and the world around us, would give us many reasons to be sad. Sad movies have their place if they remind us of the pathos of human existence.

But only God can deliver us.