A Bridge Over Troubled Water Ps 42-43

posted Sep 11, 2018, 6:51 AM by Charles Bahm

A Bridge Over Troubled Water                   Ps 42-43

I have a "churning place." It's in my stomach. On the upper, left side, just below the rib cage. When disturbing things happen, when troubling words are said, when life is out of control, my inner churning starts. Do you have something similar?  Most people I know have a particular region where grinding occurs, usually triggered by:

Bad news                    Unpaid bills                  Expensive repairs       Impossible deadlines

Personal conflict         Difficult decisions        Unresolved sin                        Legal problems


I find it rather comforting that God's inspired hymnal does not omit the grind of inner turmoil. Since it is so common, I would think it strange if such a topic were not addressed. I want to suggest that Psalms 42 and 43 should be viewed as a unit. Two observations lead me to make that suggestion.

 First, Psalm 43 has no superscription. Nothing by way of introduction appears before the first verse. I believe, therefore, it flows quite naturally from the previous song.

Second, the phrase repeated twice in Psalm 42 also appears in Psalm 43. Notice 42:5, 11, and 43:5:   Why are you in despair, O my soul?
            And why have you become disturbed within me?
           Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him.

These three identical phrases lead me to believe that these two songs form a natural unit, revolving around a single theme. Look next at the superscription before verse 1 in Psalm 42: "For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah." The designation Maskil means the song was designed to provide insight and wisdom when dealing with certain situations. In Psalm 32, for example, the situation involved a tormented conscience.

What is the situation in these two songs? I believe that the situation is inner despair and disturbance. These two songs have been preserved to provide the reader with wisdom and insight in handling those "blue days," that age-old grind of inner turmoil.

The composition of David—preserved for us as Psalms 42 and 43—sings the following lines three times, strongly suggesting the issue at hand is inner turmoil.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him. (
Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5)


The term "despair" comes from the Hebrew word which  means "to crouch, bow down." In the figurative sense, the verb means "to become low, be abased." This song recounts those days when we feel like curling up in the fetal position and quitting. Fortunately, David doesn't leave us on the ground. He advises how we can conquer those feelings rather than succumb to them, how to overcome feelings of inner turmoil rather than "churn" our way through life.

As I mentioned earlier, having those disturbing feelings on occasion is normal. We do a real disservice to people by suggesting their sadness or despair is sinful. That's both unrealistic and unbiblical. David wrote many psalms while he was churning within. While we have no business wallowing for months in a pit of depression, all of us should be transparent enough to admit we have "blue" days like that.  I am comforted that even Jesus Himself, on occasion, felt inwardly troubled (John 11:33; 12:27; 13:21).

ALL of God’s mighty men & women have had “blue days!” The good news is that these two songs help us discover how to crawl out of the darkness and back into the sunshine again.


The songwriter begins his Forty-second Song with an image from the wilderness.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? (42:1–2)


David longs for God like a thirsty deer in a barren wilderness longs for a cool stream. He says he "pants" for the Lord. In Psalm 119:131 he expresses a similar thought when he writes, "I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments." God, who was considered by believers "the fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13), was the sole desire of the churning singer. Being a man after God's own heart, David passionately yearned for His presence. And his opening lines suggest that his inner turmoil was a direct result of his having a distant relationship with his God.


David's battle with turmoil, recounted in Psalms 42 and 43, results in longing for God's presence.

My tears have been my food day and night,
While they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"


God certainly has not forsaken His child, but at low moments all of us could testify that there are times when it feels like He has! What do we do to become reassured? How can we find the hope of God's care when we are feeling low, when we are in the grind of inner turmoil? David talked to himself.

These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival
. (42:4)


A more exact rendering of the beginning of this verse would be: "These things I will remember . . . " or "These things I would remember . . . " David said these things to himself. Sometimes healthy, positive self-talk is great therapy. He is saying that when he is blue, he will call to remembrance past days of victory when God was very real, very present. He says, in effect, "Those were the days, my friend! Those were days of blessing, joy, and thanksgiving!" After calling to mind such days, he asks:

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence
. (42:5)


Why," he asks, "should I feel sad and blue with such positive memories?" He admits that such vivid memories of past victory should really encourage him.

When you are "crouched" in turmoil, it helps to think back to previous victories and call to mind specific things God did for you. Remember the Lord of your past is the Lord right now.The Lord who has done great things in the past, will do them again in our present and future. What a great God we have!

David's songs of inner turmoil don't offer easy answers; he's too realistic for that. David had seen the lowest of lows several times in his life, so he knew that counting your blessings won't work every time. Sometimes, we get so low that no memory will jar us loose from our turmoil.

In Psalm 42:6–8, David offers another technique.

O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore, I remember You from the land of the Jordan, And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life. (42:6–8)


Look at that unusual expression: "Deep calls to deep." The songwriter evidently traveled from Jerusalem to northern Galilee, where the Jordan River originates on Mount Hermon. In the song, he pictures himself on one of the smaller peaks in the Mount Hermon range. In his mind he thinks of those awesome sounds and scenes surrounding him—as "deep calls to deep," as God communicates through nature and the unchanging, immutable relationship is enacted. In this case, the snow melts high upon Mount Hermon's peaks, causing the thunderous waterfalls, the rapids in streams below. He pictures his troubles as rolling down upon him like thousands of gallons of water pouring over a waterfall.

That which is "deep" in God communicates to that which is "deep" in nature, and this brings about change. It happens all around us. The "deep" in God calls to the "deep" in trees in the fall, and inevitably their leaves turn to beautiful orange, red, and yellow. Ultimately, they fall and the tree is again barren. The "deep" in God calls to the "deep" in the salmon, and millions travel back over many miles to spawn. But the psalmist is not talking about trees and fish, but rather about himself! As the breakers and waves of inner turmoil rolled over him, he was reminded of that unchanging relationship of love and joy that exists between God and us.

And again David asks—and answersin verse 11:

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.


Psalms 42 and 43 capture for us David's situation of inner despair and disturbance. The source of his turmoil didn't go away after his visit to the headwaters of the Jordan River (42:6). When he returned to Jerusalem, he found his troubles waiting for him. According to Psalm 43:1–2, David suffered another personal attack. People problems were upon him, and we all know how devastating they can be!

After pleading for God to intervene, David prayed:

O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your dwelling places. Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy; And upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God.


Turmoil often results from having too much misinformation and not enough reliable, essential truth. Moreover, in the absence of adequate information, we fill in the gaps with what we dread most. The result is a distorted picture of the problem—a pessimistic perspective, riddled with our worst fears.

In response to his turmoil, David asks for God's light and God's truth. He wanted the Lord to provide His Word (truth) and to grant him an understanding of it (light).  He needed clarity in the midst of confusion—truth to answer fiction—so he looked for wisdom in the Scriptures.

Eventually, this would bring joy and praise. When the truth of God's Word neutralized the depressing messages of his circumstances, he says yet again:

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.


All believers in Jesus Christ must ultimately come to the place where we are going to trust God's Word completely before we can experience consistent victory. His Book is our single source of tangible truth. We try every other crutch: we lean on self, on others, on feelings, on bank accounts, on good works, on logic and reason, on human perspective. Still, the churning continues, inner turmoil continues to grind.

God has given His written Word and the promise of His light to all His children; when will we learn to believe it, and live in it, and use it, and cling to its promises?