Chapel - Morgan Clark

Morgan Clark

Tyndale alumna Morgan Clark continues our summer series reflecting on her favorite Psalms, Psalm 42 through 43. This message is characterized by vulnerability and soul-searching, but shows us the promise of hope when we shift our focus to praise rather than our circumstance.

Morgan is a recent graduate of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and serves as Youth Pastor at the Gate Alliance Church in Niagara Falls Ontario.

Podcast Transcript

Hello, Tyndale Community. It's wonderful to be back with you, though not in person, virtually.

My name is Morgan Clark, and I'm a 2019 Tyndale alum, and recent graduate of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. A few weeks ago, George Sweetman reached out to me, and asked if I'd be willing to reflect on my favourite Psalm for Tyndale summer Chapel series. In response, I said something to the effect of, "George, I'd be happy to reflect on a Psalm, but to be honest, I'm not sure that I can say that I have a favourite Psalm. As I'm sure is the case for many of you, there are certain Psalms whose words have touched me at various moments in my life, and there are some that I have come back to again and again. The Psalm that I've chosen to reflect on today is one of those Psalms. It's an honest Psalm, a Psalm that recognizes that all is not right in the world, a Psalm that is characterized by vulnerability, a Psalm that acknowledges that sometimes it is not well with my soul. That Psalm is Psalm 42. I'd like to read it for you, including Psalm 43, which is most often considered part of this Psalm. If you'd like to follow along, I'll be reading from the New International Version. Otherwise, I invite you to close your eyes, and simply hear the Word of the Lord.

Psalm 42, through 43.

  1. As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
  2. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
  3. My tears have been my food
    day and night,
    while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
  4. These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
    how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
    with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.
  5. Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
    Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.
  6. My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
    from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
  7. Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
    all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.
  8. By day the LORD directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.
  9. I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
    Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
  10. My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
    saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
  11. Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
    Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

[Chapter 43]

  1. Vindicate me, my God,
    and plead my cause
    against an unfaithful nation.
    Rescue me from those who are
    deceitful and wicked.
  2. You are God my stronghold.
    Why have you rejected me?
    Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?
  3. Send me your light and your faithful care,
    let them lead me;
    let them bring me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you dwell.
  4. Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God, my joy and my delight.
    I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.
  5. Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
    Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

This is the word of the Lord.

It's been quite the year, hasn't it? If I asked you to give me one word to describe the year of 2020 and 2021, which word would you choose? Here are some of the words that come to mind. Sickness, death, disappointment, loss, loneliness, racism, conflict, chaos, grief.

It's been a hard year for some, more than others. Every day, we're bombarded by the realities of the world, many of them horrific. And if we're honest, it wears on us. Over the course of the last year, I've heard countless people, myself included, say that they just can't watch the news or look at social media anymore. To put it simply, it's overwhelming. All the while, many of us have wrestled with our faith, desperately clinging to the God that we call good, while grappling with questions that seem to have no answers.

During the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, I came upon Psalm 42 and 43. Like many of you, my life was turned upside down in the blink of an eye. After hasty goodbyes, I packed up my car and raced home from school, attempting to beat the impending US - Canada Border closure. I had no time to process, and no time to grieve the dreams that I saw crumbling before me.

As days turned to weeks, I found myself increasingly confused, waiting for normalcy to return. Not only was I confused, but the change, uncertainty, information overload, and isolation left me feeling dry, both emotionally and spiritually. I felt very much like the Psalmist. My soul was thirsty. Now all of us are familiar with thirst, to be thirsty is part of being human. It's the body's way of signaling that it needs more water, one of the necessities of life. But if we're honest, sometimes we're not great at giving our bodies what they're asking for. Our bodies scream for water, but instead we give them caffeinated or sugared beverages, drinks that might quench our thirst for a moment, but only leave us more thirsty. Likewise, I think that we often recognize when our souls are thirsty, but fail to give them what they truly need. I love that the Psalmist compares himself to a deer that's panting for streams of water. Notice that he doesn't say that the deer is longing for a pond or a swamp, but a stream. Water that is moving, that is living. In his analogy, God is that stream. His soul is thirsting for the living God, and his desire is to meet with Him, to worship once more in His presence.

Like the Psalmist, our souls also long to commune with God. We were created to be in relationship with Him. Yet we often turn to others, sources, in attempts to fill the longings of our souls. We turn to significant others for love, to friends for acceptance, to family for comfort, to work for recognition, to money for security. None of these things are inherently bad. But when we substitute them for God, we have not only made for ourselves idols, but we set ourselves up for disappointment. The odds are that at some point, every single one of those things will fail us. Loved ones will hurt us, accomplishments will be dismissed, markets will crash. It's only the living God who is faithful. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Shortly after, we learned that the Psalmist's soul is not only thirsty, but downcast and disturbed. His soul is roaring within him, and instead of tasting this living water for which he is longing, the Psalmist can taste only the tears that are dripping down his face. Meanwhile, people are regularly asking him, "Where is your God?" It's a question that we're all too familiar with, whether we hear it explicitly, or implicitly. It's a question that surfaces when tragedies strike or are brought to light. It's a question that stings, especially when we find ourselves asking the very same question. What I appreciate about this Psalm, is that the Psalmist doesn't give an easy, oversimplified, positive response. Surely he encourages us, but he also asks hard questions, digging within his very being. He says, "Why my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?" He confronts his pain and gives himself permission to be vulnerable. He acknowledges that it is not well with his soul. He also asks honest questions of God. "Why have you forgotten me? Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" I think that sometimes we're afraid to ask questions of God. We're told to have faith, to simply trust that God is indeed working all things together for our good. Is this message totally wrong? No, of course not. But to ask questions, and to lament, does not diminish the validity of our faith. In his book, "The God I Don't Understand", Christopher Wright says, "Our suffering friends in the Bible simply cry out in pain and protest against God, precisely because they know God. Their protest is born out of the jarring contrast between what they know and what they see." According to Wright, their cries and questions are rooted in their knowledge of God, and relationship with him.

Friends, it's okay to say, it is not well with my soul. I want to say that again. It's okay to say, it is not well with my soul. When you're feeling downcast, and your soul is roaring within you, give yourself both time and space for honest reflection, and invite God into that process, as messy as it might be. Your pain and your questions will not scare Him away. Notice, that it's only after asking these soul searching questions, that the Psalmist's attention shifts to hope and praise. He says, "Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my saviour and my God." This statement is not a suggestion, but an imperative. In spite of his circumstances, in spite of his questions, the Psalmist resolves to praise the God in whom he has put his hope.

I want to acknowledge that that's not easy. In those first few weeks of the Covid 19 pandemic, when I was feeling dry, the last thing that I felt like doing was praising God. I didn't feel like singing, praying, or reading His Word. But I was reminded that worship is a discipline. God is worthy of our worship, not just when it's convenient, but at all times, even when we're at our lowest, and left answerless. At that time, I was especially encouraged by the Psalmist's calls to remembrance. At first, he remembers his circumstances. He says, "These things I remember as I pour out my soul, how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One, with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng." We're good at remembering our past circumstances, aren't we? We remember when we could travel and gather with loved ones. We remember past relationships. We remember hopping into the car five minutes before church and hoping that every light would be green. We remember simpler times, when our cares seemed inconsequential, in light of our current reality. We long for what was, for what we cannot have. But notice again how the Psalmist's attention shifts. In verse six he says, "My soul is downcast within me, therefore, I will remember you." Again, he remembers, but this time he remembers not just his circumstances, but God.

He remembers God's character, and he remembers what God has done for him. Friends, while circumstances are ever shifting, God remains the same. His love is steadfast, His protection complete, His faithfulness, everlasting. Last week, as I was driving down the Massachusetts Turnpike, headed home from school, I was thinking about my time at Seminary, the ups and the downs, when suddenly I found myself whispering, You've been so, so faithful. In the midst of heartbreak and unmet expectations, I realized that there was not a moment where God's faithfulness wavered. Earlier I asked you for one word that you would use to describe the year of 2020-2021.

You might have noticed that I used primarily negative descriptors. I want to add to that list. I want to add family, love, faith, beginnings, simplicity, opportunity, hope, joy, confidence. It's been a hard year, but big or small, what has God done for you? What aspects of his character has he revealed to you? When your soul is downcast, acknowledge your pain, ask hard questions, and remember Him. Our God is the only one who satisfies.

Father, thank you for the gift of your Word. You give us language to express both the joy and the pain that we experience from day to day. Would you give us courage to ask hard questions, and to wrestle with our souls. Most of all, would you remind us of your great faithfulness and steadfast love? You alone can satisfy the deepest, deepest longings of our hearts. We love you Lord, and we give you all of the honour and praise. Amen.

Peace be with you all.

— End of transcript —