The second half of Psalm 42 begins with a prayer to God. In calling upon God, the psalmist uses the possessive pronoun “my.” It seems that he still has an unwavering faith in God to do what he is asking (cf. Jas. 1:6-8). When his personal pep talk in verse 5 did not ease his pain, notice where the writer turns, to God. This is the only proper perspective. In times of distress people need to turn to God. There are times for doctors, psychologists, protests, voicing concerns, turning to friends and family, putting hands to the plow, to vote, and on and on and on. But, when our families, our cities, our states, our aligned political parties, our nations, and our world are faced with unrest, uncertainty, turmoil, strife, depression, desperation, despair, disease, sin, hate, or otherwise, before we act, and we must act, can the church, can the individual Christian, can the head of a Christian home, can a minister, can an elder, can each one of us first give ear to the counsel of scripture and saturate our study, our attitudes, our words, and our actions with constant prayer? This world needs our attention, but the psalmist anchored himself in God first.
Three geographical makers are given in Psalm 42:6b: “the land of the Jordan,” the Hermons,” and “the hill Mizar,” or as the ASV margin reads, “the little mountain.” The river that borders Israel from north to south, the mountain range in the north, and an unknown hill (“Mizar) serve as memories of the promised land for the psalmist. All three of these were likely in the north or Israel, near the allotment of Dan, near the source of the Jordan River. An Israelite carried into captivity might remember those landmarks fading into the distance as he was carried away into captivity. The last things of Israel he might have seen could have been the Jordan River, the distant peaks of the Hermons, and that small hill. It is also possible that these geographical markers simply were the things brought to mind by the psalmist when he contemplated home, the land of God’s promise.
With his mind on the geography of Israel, the psalmsist seems to turn his attention to nature (vs. 7). While mediating on God’s natural world can be soothing, anchoring, relaxing, and a great way to declutter our minds, it seems that the psalmist only falls further into despair. In contemplating God’s creation, his mind recalls waterfalls and beaches. However, as he begins to place himself into nature and into this image, he sees himself poetically drowning. To be at the bottom of a waterfall without the ability to move or to be in the midst of the ocean with waves crashing upon your head is the description of desperation. Lost. Drowning. Dying. Helpless. Hurting. Unable to see a reprieve. The writer is in a place of helplessness, and so many of us today might see ourselves in similar circumstances.
Considering the desperation of verse 7, it is no surprise that the writer turns his attention back to the person of God (vs. 8). Using the covenant name of God, Jehovah, for the first and only time in Psalm 42 and 43, the writer focuses on the tender mercy or loving kindness or covenant love of God. When his mind began to run away (verse 7), he anchors himself in the loving nature of God. God’s person, His character, is a respite for all those upon whom life is beating down. The psalmist trusts God to be with him in both the daytime and in the nighttime where God’s song will accompany him (cf. Job 35:10). He calls Him, “the God of my life.” He believes in the consistent nature of God. He trusts in God’s desire to comfort and to deliver His people when they hurt. Day or night, sunshine or rain, good or bad, God will be with those who are faithful (Matt. 6:25-34, Rom. 8:38-39, 2 Tim. 2:19).
The psalmist struggled and strayed in his mind, but the God of Heaven was the God of his life. At times, we may find ourselves struggling and hurting, feeling helpless. It is in those moments that we look beyond nature to the promises of God and the respite He provides.