“Why Have You Forgotten Me?”
Back in January of this year, I began a series of notes on lament, which was interrupted in March but which I want to resume now. There are numerous Psalms of lament and these Psalms are divine instruction in lamentation. We need to learn lament. Psalms 42 and 43 comprise a single song of lament, which follows an alternating rhythm of descent and ascent. The song descends as the Psalmist recounts his trials and articulates the turmoil in his downcast soul. The song ascends in hope as he remembers God’s covenant love and faithfulness.
The last note in this series was sent on February 28. I considered Psalm 42:6-8. The Psalmist laments his exile from the Lord’s presence and his depression and distress surrounds him like the sound of a roaring waterfall and it overwhelms him like ocean waves crashing over him. And yet, he can still say,
By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life. (Ps 42:8)
In the depths of his depression, he remembers God. He hears the LORD’s command of steadfast love. In the darkness, he sings and he prays to God, “my Rock”:
I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:9-10)
This is a prayer of faith. It’s a prayer that asks, “why?” This may surprise us. Verse 8 gives the impression he has recovered. Things are okay now, because he has heard God’s steadfast love and his song is with him.
Yes, he remembers God. He hears the LORD’s command of steadfast love and he sings, but the waterfalls are still roaring and the waves are still washing over him. He’s still mourning. His tears are still his food, day and night. He’s still oppressed. His enemies continue to taunt him with the question, “where is your God?” And so, the Psalmist turns to God and says, “Why have you forgotten me?” You’re my Rock! Why am I being tossed about by the waves of the sea? Why am I sinking to the depths?
God commands steadfast love and promises deliverance and salvation. We trust him. We hope in his love and his promised deliverance. But when everything in our experience seems to contradict what He promises, we cry out and ask, “Why have you forgotten me?” Faith cries out in prayer, “why?”
Faith doesn’t ignore or deny our experience. Psalm 42 teaches us to pray from where we are and to be honest and candid with God, pouring out our soul to him and asking, “Why have you forgotten me?” and “When shall I come and appear before God?” Psalm 42 also gives us the answer to these questions. The hinge verse on which the whole Psalm turns is verse 6:
“My soul is downcast within me,
therefore I remember You.”
He remembers the LORD. Even as he enters the depths of verse 7, he knows that God is with him. It’s the roar of his waterfalls. It’s his breakers and waves that wash over him, but it’s also his song that is with him, and it’s a love song, for he commands steadfast love. The LORD has not forgotten him. He’s present and his hand is at work, leading him through the storm. And so, the Psalmist preaches to himself again,
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11)
This is the second time he exhorts himself with these words. He’ll repeat these words a third time at the end of the Psalm 43, which we’ll consider in the next note. He preaches to himself: “hope in God.” The exhortation to hope in God in an exhortation to hope in Christ. He is our salvation and our God. When our enemies taunt us and say, “Where is your God?” Jesus says, “Behold! I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). When we cry out, “Why have you forgotten me?” He replies, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).