Why are you cast down, O my soul? That’s a question raised by the author of this psalm as they lament about some rough times they’re going through. In the midst of their troubles and sorrows, one verse really hit me hard.
Psalm 42:4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
The author of this psalm was struggling, going through a time so rough that they claim in verse 3 that “my tears have been my food day and night,”. So yeah, that sounds like a real rough patch. But look what they did in verse 4. They recalled the good times, a time of triumph and joy they had with the Lord. As I read this I just felt so strongly the importance of building up a catalog of God experiences. Because look, there are rough patches for believers. That’s just a fact. We’re going to hit a dry spell, a time when we feel off, when we’re feeling disconnected, when we’re just not experiencing the same sort of engagement with God as we normally do. One of the things that can sustain you during these periods are your past experiences with God. I’ve had worship services when I just couldn’t get myself lost in the worship. It actually happened to me about a month ago during a full week of praise and prayer at my church. Every single person in the church appeared to be engaged and lost in the worship music being played and I just wasn’t. I was distracted, uncomfortable, hearing imperfections in the music and singing, I basically just stood there like a grump. I wanted to be into it, but on that night I simply wasn’t. It was frustrating, because there are few things I love more than getting lost in worship to my Lord. But it wasn’t defeating. It wasn’t derailing. Because just the night before I had been lost in worship, feeling the presence of God so strong that I couldn’t stop laughing. I’ve got a massive catalog of beautiful and powerful worship experiences built up, therefore one off worship service wasn’t able to defeat me or make me have doubts or struggles. This can apply to so much. Maybe a stretch where it feels like none of our prayers are being answered. If you’ve got a catalog of answered prayers built up, you can let that sustain you, secure in the knowledge that God’s heard you and responded before, and He’s surely going to do so again.
There’s another level to this. When I’m sharing with someone about Jesus I can call upon my catalog of God experiences. If someone asks me “why Jesus?” I can start telling them about all of these great experiences I’ve had. I can tell them about the time Jesus answered my cry in the hospital and healed me, gave me rest, and saw me released and sent home the very next day. I can tell them about the way God got me plugged in at the church, reawakening my love for playing music, aligning me with a group of friends that have been key in rebuilding my confidence. I can tell them about the time I asked God a question and thirty minutes later He delivered me a direct answer. I can tell them about the time I was in a worship service when the presence of God was so thick and strong that I could barely breathe. I can tell them about the miracle of healing that’s swept through my legs this year. But I can’t call on these God experiences if I’m not making myself available to experience them.
So many of my God experiences have come from getting up and going somewhere. Being at church, being willing to do something extra, go somewhere extra, have a little extra faith. One of the greatest ways to share the truth and beauty of God is by giving a personal testimony of how God has moved and worked in our own lives. If I’m not building up that catalog of God experiences, if I’m not seeking them out and putting myself in positions to have them, then what am I going to say to someone when I get asked what God means to me or what He’s done in my life? So in addition to being important to sustaining us during difficult times, which is the case in Psalm 42:4, having a catalog of God experiences can help me share the awesome love of God.
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, today I thank you for all the experiences I have with you. What a joy it is to experience things with you. Your love is so present in my life, your movements and blessings are so real and constant, in just this past year I’ve already built such a great catalog of experiences. And not just the good things either, but I’m thankful for the tough experiences. My trials in the hospital earlier this year brought me closer to you, and I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that I got to see you calm the stormy seas of my life, and now when I look around at the peaceful waters of my life I know without a doubt that it is the doing of my God. You calmed the waves, and I love that I can stand with confidence and tell that story to anyone who will listen. There is nothing in this world that you can’t work through, no situation in this world that you can’t use to show your love. Thank you for loving me, and thank you for sustaining me. Like in Psalm 42, I thank you for reminding us to hold onto our catalog of experiences. Because the next time the waters of life get choppy, we’ll have that knowledge of the great king of our hearts who came sweeping in to calm them. So we can ride out the waves with a smile and with a deep confidence that everything truly will be okay. Father God, on this Memorial Day, I also pray for all those who have lost family members and loved ones that were serving in the armed forces. I thank you for the spirit of service and duty that compelled the person to serve in the first place, and I ask that those who have had their loved one pay the ultimate sacrifice be blessed and comforted by you today, Lord. Draw them closer to you, love on them today, remind them of the goodness of your presence. I pray all of this in the precious name of Jesus, amen.
Well, I hope everyone is having a good holiday Monday today. If you’re off work then I hope the week gets off to a great start for you tomorrow, and if like me your workweek has already begun, I hope it’s off to a blessed start. God’s doing beautiful and amazing things, my friends, and I urge you to get in on it. I hate to think of people I love missing out on the incredible moves of God that are happening right now. Grab your Bible, get into prayer, find a church, get God in a place of priority in your life, because there is no better time than right now to get deeper into a relationship with the Lord of all creation.