Changing Moods (Part One)

Psalm 30:6-7, 11-12

When I was secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you showed your favor, you made me stand like a strong mountain; when you hid your face, I was terrified… You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to you and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever (CSB).

In previous posts on Psalm thirty, we considered the relationship between God and his people. Since we are in a covenant relationship with God, he lifts us up when we call to him in prayer, and we joyfully respond by lifting him up in our praise. But as any believer in the Lord knows, we do not always feel the joy that belongs to us through our union with the joyful Lord: You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11 NASV). So, what happens to us? Why can we feel happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8 NLT) one day, and the next feel discouraged, downcast and sorrowful? Part of this experience flows from the changing ways we interact with our God, and the changing moods that come from that interaction. Let us look at this together.

Understand clearly that it is spiritually normal for the people of God to have varying moods. We can see this in David’s experience; we all struggle through this in our own experience. Depending on your personality, you may have a greater difficulty with this than other believers.

God’s people will feel a sense of security at times. To feel secure for the proper reasons is the correct emotional state for a believer. The Bible never presents insecurity as an ideal (cf. Romans 8:38-39; Acts 18:19-20; Philippians 4:4-7, 19; 2 Timothy 1:12).

However, we need to distinguish between spiritual and fleshly security. Spiritual security rests in the Lord (Psalm 28:6-9). Fleshly security rests in oneself or one’s blessings or performance (Dt 8:10-18; Ho 13:4-6).

Think of Mr. Carnal Security in John Bunyan’s The Holy War. (By the way, if you haven’t read this book, I encourage you to do so. He misled the godly inhabitants of the town of Mansoul with deceptive promises of fleshly ease. What would make you feel good about yourself? Your answer will be a signpost pointing to what you really think makes you feel secure. Let’s think about a related question. What would make you feel good about the local church you attend? Be honest!

At other times, God’s people may feel a sense of spiritual depression. Though the Bible does not present spiritual depression as an ideal, it does teach that believers can and do enter into a depressed condition (Psalm 42:1-5; Galatians 4:15). God desires that his children live in joy and peace (Romans 15:13). Yet his children can get themselves into such difficulties that they lose their sense of felt peace and joy. Otherwise, why would the Scriptures encourage us to lay hold of these by faith? In this place, David tells us the he was dismayed. The Hebrew word is a strong way to express being troubled. The normal course of David’s life had become unsettled! So it is when any believer falls into this state. In the Pilgrim’s Progress Christian lost his assurance on Hill Difficulty.

At yet other times, God’s people may feel a sense of joy. The Lord granted David help through this experience, so that David would rejoice again. When David had a sense of joy, he would be able to praise the Lord. God wants his people to be joyful. He wants us to experience joy in him (Philippians 3:1; 4:4). Seek the Lord and find his joy in him.

Grace and peace, David

How Long?

DSCN0051Psalm 13:1-6

Every believer needs to know what to do for his or her own basic spiritual care. None of us go to the doctor every time we have a physical ache or pain. In the same way we all need to know what to do for the spiritual ailments we suffer. This psalm, like others such as Psalms 6, 42-43, 88, and130, talk about the problem of spiritual depression. Psalm 13 presents a believer, David, who struggled in a condition of desertion. What is desertion? It is the state in which God, for wise reasons, hides the smile on his face from his believing child for a while. During this time the believer does not enjoy his usual comfort in God. We are not told when this happened in David’s life. Surely he went through many experiences where these words would have described his condition.

First, we hear David’s complaints (13:1-2). A wise friend listens to their friend’s symptoms. Note the extreme misery David was in, and how intensely he desired deliverance. He complained that God had forgotten him (13:1). His emotions were overruling his mind. In his words he denied what he knew so well. Can an all-knowing God in covenant with his people forget them? Meditate on Isaiah 49:13-16. Affliction had changed David’ s outlook. Where was the psalmist of Psalm 23 at this point? He painted a worst case scenario: “forever?” Observe how dark his thoughts became. You and I are liable to lose patience in our afflictions. We want everything yesterday, and this can cause additional complicating problems.

David complained that God was hiding his face (13:1). Is there a slight improvement here? Or a decline? First, he thought God had forgotten him. Now he looks at God as actively withdrawing from fellowship with him. God may hide his face for various reasons. Discipline for sin is one cause (Hebrews 12:5-13).

  • Discipline for neglect of obedience to God’s purposes. The Lord desires us to follow him, and yet we become side-tracked from doing good works.
  • Discipline for a false self-confidence. We assume that we can do that Christian life in our own strength.
  • Discipline for grieving the Holy Spirit.

When we feel that God is far off, we might benefit from self-examination. Compare your walk with the Lord to that set forth in the Bible. But avoid over-introspection, which can cause similar problems.

David complained about his internal struggle (13:2). Hard thoughts that denied God’s love and promises were striving for the mastery of his mind. The battle brought weariness upon him. At least David is seeking to control his thoughts. He wrestled with them. This is better than letting your inner person run wild. Every action to take charge of your thoughts is a positive step. Take every one of your thoughts captive for Christ. Refresh your thinking with the knowledge of the greatness and grace of God.

Another villain tried to cut him down: sorrow. We can reach a point where we refuse to be comforted. It is remarkable the arguments that a human heart can raise against its own comfort. What do you do then? Go to God your Father (Read 2 Cor 1).

Discouragement also came because he felt like he had been beaten (13:2). The seeming triumph of our enemy is a terrible experience. No one likes to lose to their rival in sports. No one likes for one’s personal rival to show them up. Far worse is the experience of apparent defeat by the enemy of human souls. We must remember that our spiritual life is complicated by the spiritual foes who seek our destruction. Each of us has enough serious difficulty with our own flesh. But there is an external as well as an internal warfare. As the old hymn says, “For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe.” In Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan painted the sad picture of Christian’s journey through the Valley of Humiliation. There is no escape from these trials, even when we try to walk close to our Lord and Savior. Many situations will cause every follower of Jesus to cry out, “How long?” In your unhappy experiences, learn to cry out, “How long, Lord?” It is far too easy to think of our difficulties rather than to fix our thoughts on our God, who deeply cares for us. Keep the Lord God in your thoughts. He is light (1 John 1:5) and can brighten the darkest places of your soul.

Grace and peace, David