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From Despair to Hope

Psalm 42:1–11

Throughout the day, many thoughts flow through our minds—from what we will cook for dinner to wondering if our friend’s struggling marriage will survive. In the midst of our thinking, an undercurrent of despair can creep in while we watch the nightly news, hear of a cancer diagnosis, sort out a misunderstanding or deal with whatever we’re facing that day.

Exiled north to Jordan and overflowing with a longing to return to Jerusalem, the psalmist voiced his deep sadness. Rather than denying or minimizing his pain, he clearly identified his sorrow and proclaimed his thirst for God.

Then what? The psalmist spoke to his soul! Was he mad? Did he have a personality disorder? No! He practiced the secret to overcoming hopelessness—the hopelessness that can trickle into our hearts and minds until we find ourselves in the rushing current, tumbling toward a waterfall of despair. Three times in Psalms 42 and 43, the psalmist admonishes his soul to “hope in God, for I will yet praise him!”

The psalmist encouraged his soul to praise God—in other words, to acknowledge, affirm and adore God’s character, even when he was feeling downcast in spirit or disturbed in heart. Our souls need similar encouragement. When we choose to dwell upon God’s character, we always have something to praise him about: his loving-kindness, goodness, power, faithfulness and mercy. If we want to bolster our souls with hope, we can start by filling our mouths with praise. When we choose to dwell on God’s light and truth, our souls can overflow with the comfort of being guided by God (see Psalm 43:3). When we choose to live close to God’s heart, we overflow with delight and joy (see verse 4).

If you are submerged in pain, sorrow, despair or confusion, maybe you need to give your soul a good talking to. What will you say?


  1. What thoughts are threatening to overflow and leave you feeling hopeless?
  2. What words does your soul need to hear right now?
  3. What are some specific reasons why you can hope in God? Spend some time meditating on God’s loving-kindness, goodness, power, faithfulness and mercy. Practice sitting quietly in his presence.

Psalm 42:5
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Related Readings

Psalm 27:13–14; 43:1–5; 84:1–12; Hebrews 6:13–20

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