“Why so downcast, oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me?”
–David, to his own soul, whose question I now ask myself.
Well, Self, I feel downcast presently because I just said goodbye – indefinitely – to a student in whom I’ve invested for a long time. Working through the ups and downs of her spiritual life have made me value her well-being more keenly than if she’d been all put together the whole time. She is a prize fought for and won fair and square. (PS, I was a cheerleader in the fight, not the One who won her back.)
David’s question to his own soul could be seen as rhetorically implying that he should not be downcast. Because he follows up his question with an exhortation to himself:
“Why so downcast, oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11
The implication may be, “You shouldn’t be downcast, because you can hope in God.”
But I know that my present feeling of downcast-ness (probably not a word) is not resulting from a lack of hope in God. It’s due to the value of what I’m losing, this lovely girl in my everyday life.
(If I have any readers who think this girl may be you, it probably is. I feel this way about all of you.)
So is it okay to be downcast sometimes? Instinctively, yes, of course it is. Grief means you’ve lost something important to you. If we’re to make sure we’re never downcast, we must either value nothing or we must lose nothing.
This month of saying goodbyes and transitioning into a new, unknown season, has been full of downcast-ness and disturbance.
Admittedly, sometimes I’ve popped the question: “Why so downcast, oh my soul?” and the answer has to do with a lack of hope in God. I’ve been fearful about finding a place to live, even though God has always provided generously in that area. Underneath that layer, I’ve been fearful that I won’t have an important role in people’s lives anymore, because I won’t be a campus pastor anymore. A big reason I signed up for that gig was because my campus pastors were important to me, and I wanted to be important to someone else. I wanted that more than I wanted money or renown.
When a lack of hope in God is the reason for being downcast, then I need to quit being downcast and rejoice in the character of my faithful God.
I need to remember that He’s the one who gave me a role of significance in the lives of these girls (and some of the guys, too.) Therefore, as He sees fit, He’ll fulfill my desire for significance again, one way or another.
When being downcast is due to normal, healthy grief, like I feel right now, putting my hope in God is simply the next step. It’s not a corrective measure. Maturity doesn’t look like sailing through the potentially painful times without tears.
I ask myself, “What now?” Now it’s time to hope in God, to praise Him, because He is the constant. He will always be my Savior and my God.
Grieving the loss of good gifts He’s given is one sort of praise. This wouldn’t hurt if You hadn’t been so good.