What to do when you’re sad and despairing, Psalm 42

A Story from my life

There was a time when I was sad and despairing, but God turned it around.

After church one day, I overheard a young man talk about how he had found a job after looking only for a short time. I thought to myself, “I can’t do that just go out and get a job. I am just a loser, something is wrong with me.” It felt as if my hope had fallen out of my body. Many times I would not say anything to anyone especially at the moment, but God had been working in me and my pastor suggested I do so. I decided to call a friend. And the friend said, “I’ll be right there.” I was embarrassed, but wanted to be open to others and to God. The friend stood by me and prayed with me.

Some time after this, I joined the military, was blessed with a wife and 3 children. My life turned out much different than I was thinking and feeling at that moment.

Thirst for God

Psalm 42:1-2, As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?


David recognizes his need for God and prays to Him. David is discouraged, depressed, and alone. In these moments we often go to a person or do something that can’t fill the need. We think we need to do something for the sadness and pain that we feel. We may turn to other things:  movies, Facebook, addictions, or love. Things that we think will help, but will not.

David shares that what his soul is thirsty for is God. So, we were created to be satisfied by God and nothing else. We need to live in and by the Holy Spirit. s

Recognize the Battle, Hope and Sorrow

Psalm 42:3  My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

There is an argument, a battle between hope and sorrow. If we only listen to our despair and the doubts of others we will not find relief.

Be Honest

Psalm 42:4, These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

David is honest with God in what he is feeling, he is sad because he remembers how things used to be. David wrote this psalm when he fled Jerusalem in the takeover by his son Absalom.

Hope in God, Change Perspective

Psalm42:5, 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.

Next, David tells his soul to find hope in God. The Lord is unchanging; his love for us does not change. When we are in despair we do not see what God is seeing as David instructs himself “you will again praise Him.”

Going to God to get his perspective is an important lesson in our relationship with God.

Back in verse 3, David wants to be in the presence of God. His presence, in the temple. Jesus, also, told us He is with us, Matt. 28:20. Further, the Holy Spirit gives us life and lives in us, Rom 8:11 and 2 Timothy 1:14.

You are not alone.

Remember God’s Faithfullness


Psalm 42:6, My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

David remembers the past faithfulness of God. A path out of despair and sadness is to remember what God has done in the past. With the past actions of God in mind we can be confident of His acts in our present and future.

God’s Sovereignty

Psalm 42:7, Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
8  By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me
— a prayer to the God of my life. 

David is expressing that he is overwhelmed. Spurgeon comments, “As in a waterspout, the deeps above and below clasp hands, so it seemed to David that heaven and earth united to create a tempest around him.”

David is also acknowledging God’s sovereignty, they are His waves and breakers. God is in control. So, giving up control calms the turmoil and despairing of our emotions.

The popular verse fits well here, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Be still and what? Know that he is God and He will get his glory.

Without the knowledge that God is in control we will be unable to rest.

Ask Why

Psalm 42:9, I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

Asking why is ok; knowing what is bothering us is good. God can handle the question why.

Take it to God, confident that the Father is listening. God is listening to our problems, are there ways we can listen to each other also?

God Will Save Us

Psalm 42:10-11,  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

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.

Others may think God is not there, but we need to speak to our soul during difficult times. We will praise him when he most assuredly will save us.

I hope this helps you as it helped me.

Implications of Psalm 42

  • I need only to desire Him – to satisfy my thirst.
  • I need to hope in God and gain his perspective.
  • I need to pray in times of despair.
  • I need to listen to others in their struggles. I need to tell others about the hope in God/Christ.

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