I mentioned previously that God is a rock, in this blog I want to acknowledge that he doesn’t always feel like one!
The important word being “feel”, feelings can be difficult to control and often take over. Outward crisis result in inward crisis and we feel overwhelmed. God may be a rock, but he doesn’t feel like one.
The scriptures are not silent on this and can help for us when we feel overwhelmed. In Psalm 42 and 43 the Psalmist talks about his experience of being overwhelmed. The Psalms are the hymn book of Israel; this song is made up of 3 verses with a chorus after each verse!
Look at the verses first, which describes feelings of being overwhelmed.
The Psalmist uses a picture of waves overwhelming us. He declares God is our rock, but he seems to have forgotten us. My bones cry out Where is your God?” why have you forgotten me?
He uses imagery of being parched. He describes extreme feelings of dryness. The cry is the same – where is your God?
The third verse, Psalm 43, describes feelings of being totally misjudged.
Such feelings are best expressed, better than kept in. Such feelings do not stop us praying!
However, the point is – we do experience such feelings. God is a rock, God is our stronghold but we feel rejected, we still feel overwhelmed.
The second part of each of the verses reflect on these feelings.
He feels overwhelmed but remembers corporate worship in the past 42v4, he brings to mind other feelings, of shouts of joy and praise, feelings of joy and praise in corporate worship.
He brings to mind personal experience of God’s grace 42v8.
He looks forward to worshiping in the future 43v3-4
So the verses of the song –
Describe feeling dry, overwhelmed and attacked.
They then reflect on the memory of previous experiences of joy and praise in worship, of the personal grace of God and then looking forward with assurance of getting to the place of praise again.
Most good songs have a chorus, a refrain. So does this song.
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.
He speaks to himself, challenges himself to move beyond feelings. Overwhelmed. Dry. Ridiculed. By remembering truth, he seeks to take control.
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Feelings are so uncontrollable, so unreliable, yet so real.
The important thing is that truth is not dependant on our feelings. Moses, David, myself, and many others, can look back beyond their feelings and declare God is our rock. There will be times when you may not feel like that, the important thing is what you then do. Best is to do what the psalmist did.
- Acknowledge those feelings. Acknowledge them to yourself, to God, to others.
- Reflect on past experiences of blessing and look forward to future experiences of blessing.
- Speak to yourself, remind yourself what God has done for you, why you can be certain he is a rock even if you don’t feel it.
Written by Tony Thompson
– based on his sermon from 21st February 2016 – Click here to listen to it
Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton. He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.