God

Psalm 43: Sometimes a light surprises

Why should a person give thanks for trials? Because through trials, God leads us to a greater joy in him. It is a simple truth from Psalm 43: trials are the trail to joy because they pass through the light of God’s word.

Psalm 43 is the forgotten Psalm. Because it is often paired with its more well-known half (Psalm 42), many preachers treat them as a unit. I’ve listened to many sermons that allege to be about the two Psalms, but in reality are about Psalm 42, with a quick nod to 43 at the end.

When this happens, something is lost. Psalm 42 is a song about a person drowning in spiritual depression, and the language used describes a sense of hopelessness as the writer tries to keep his head above water. On the other hand, Psalm 43 builds the bridge the takes the reader over the water. Psalm 43 is the map that shows how to walk from depression to joy. 

The progression is simple—the author wants to take you from how you feel (rejected), to how you think (God must be against me), to what you know (God’s word is truth). Once there, the Psalmist pushes forward, reframing his thoughts and his feelings around his knowledge of God’s goodness.

Psalm 43 teaches why to be thankful in trials. It is not that that we are thankful for the trial, but that we are thankful through the trial, knowing that joy is on the other side.

Joy comes through trials not simply because of the endurance they produce (although that is part of it). Rather, joy comes because God sends his word which yields a change in our affections. “Send out your light and your truth!” the psalmist pleads. Once God’s truth is received, then it changes the depression of Psalm 42 into the joy of Psalm 43. God goes from being perceived as the one who abandons us (43:2), and becomes the one who is our exceeding joy (43:4). Our “mourning” then turns to “praise” (vs. 4, cf. v. 2).

This emotional turnabout happens not because of a change in God, but because the light of his truth penetrates our sorrow and causes joy in God to take root and grow. Our emotions are affected because of how we receive truth. The process that originally produced sorrow (feelings forming our thoughts, thoughts causing us to question our knowledge) gets turned on its head. Instead, our knowledge of God gives us thoughts of confidence, which provoke feelings of joy.

Certainly this is what William Cowper had in mind when he wrote these words:

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing in His wings;
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

This Thanksgiving, let Psalm 43 remind you that God works our trials for his glory, because he works them for our joy. And he does all this by means of his truth, which he sends to us so that we can take our thoughts captive to the joy that comes through Christ.

Source: The Cripplegate | Jesse Johnson

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