Psalms 42–44: Oppression & Despair

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 15: Wednesday

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

Psalm 42:3–4

Today’s Bible reading is Psalms 42–44. These psalms are each written by someone at the end of his rope. The word oppression is found in all three psalms; Psalms 42 and 43 contain the phrase, the oppression of the enemy, while Psalm 44 asks God:

“Why do You hide Your face
And forget our affliction and our oppression?”
Psalm 44:24

The word despair is found three times in Psalm 42 and once in Psalm 43. While it is not used in Psalm 44, the words of the psalm strike the same note.

These psalms are also psalms of whys. The psalmist asks God: Why have you forgotten me? (Psalm 42), Why have you rejected me? (Psalm 43), Why do You hide Your face and forget our affliction and our oppression? (Psalm 44).

Psalm 43 reads as a continuation of Psalm 42. They express similar thoughts and both end with the same lines:

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.

While Psalm 44 ends with an appeal to God for the sake of who He is:

Rise up, be our help,
And redeem us for the sake of Your lovingkindness.

These are stark psalms and once again you can see the raw emotion and hurt of the psalmist. If God included words such as these that were written by obviously godly men, then why are so many Christians so uncomfortable in acknowledging that life can be wretched, and that there are times when we do feel at the end of our rope? Why cannot Christians learn compassion and love for their fellow believers who suffer? David Atkinson, in the first chapter of his commentary on Job, writes:

As we explore these chapters, may we find growing within us a deeper sensitivity to the human condition. We need to prepare to be confronted, as Job’s friends were, with the horror of some human pain. We may need to let our defenses down in a way that his friends found hard to do, and allow ourselves to hear Job questioning God, despairing at the way God runs the world. May God help us stick with it in a way his friends could not. They could not live with the human suffering which Job embodied. They had to look for causes. They wanted solutions. They had to search for answers. They were uncomfortable with that which defied the logic of their own theological position.1

I know the reading in Job isn’t until tomorrow, but these psalms make me think of him.

Right now, these psalms are my psalms, and as I wrote in Heartbreak, I feel so very alone. The last few days have been so difficult, and the last few hours have been hours of utter despair for me. I ask God to rise up, be my help—and be the help of my family—and redeem us for the sake of Your lovingkindness.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1David J. Atkinson, The Message of Job, p. 15.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

One thought on “Psalms 42–44: Oppression & Despair

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s