Passage: Psalm 42
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
Psalm 42 describes the experiences of a person who knows that God is essential to life. Written during a period of exile, the psalmist longs to be home in Israel, gathering together with others in worship, and experiencing the full vibrancy of his relationship with the living God.
The psalmist’s relationship with God is living and personal, and therefore he begins by expressing how essential to his life God is—as essential as water is to a thirsty deer. Out of the strength of his relationship with God, he next expresses his doubts and cares, asking when he will get to worship again, and where God is in the midst of his situation. Ironically, the stronger our faith is, the stronger our doubts often are as well, because our experiences reveal the disparity between life as it is, and the generous, wise, and just God we see in the Bible. Finally, however, the psalmist reflects on his certain hope in God—that he will “again praise him.” He speaks the truth of God’s character and the gospel into his present circumstances. Just as it is important to voice our doubts to God, it is equally important to speak truth to our own doubts! We can hope in the certainty of God’s unchanging character because he demonstrated through Christ the great lengths to which he would go to satisfy us spiritually—even to the point of death, as he, the overflowing one, thirsted on the cross! (Jn. 19:28).
- God is Essential (vs. 1-2)
- Doubts are Inevitable (vs. 2-10)
- Hope is Certain (vs. 5, 11)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage (Psalm 42)
God Is Essential (vs. 1-2)
Q) Re-read verses 1-2. Why do you think the psalmist compares his soul to a thirsty deer? What does he mean to communicate about the needs and desires of his soul?
Q) Based on verses 1-2, what adjectives would you use to describe the psalmist’s relationship with God?
Q) Pastor Bobby reminded us that “just as water is basic to spiritual survival, so God is basic to our soul’s survival.” Have you ever gone for a long period of time without food or water? If so, how did it affect you? Likewise, have you ever gone for a long period of time without regular communion with God? If so, what were the effects in your life? (NOTE: You can consider how a lack of communion with God affects, for e.g., things like your mood, your desires, your relationships, your emotional state, etc.)
Q) How often do you remember that God is essential to the well-being of your soul? What obstacles, if any, keep you from remembering this? OR Do you think our culture (movies, music, literature, etc) generally reinforces or obscures the message that God is essential to the well-being of our soul?
Doubts are Inevitable (vs. 2-10)
Q) Skim over Psalm 42 briefly again. What are some of the doubts and questions the psalmist expresses to God? What are some of the doubts that others are taunting him with?
Q) How would you describe the psalmist’s mood & emotions as he is expressing his doubts before God? (See esp. vs. 3-10)?
Q) If you grew up in a Christian environment, what messages were you given—either explicitly or implicitly—about how you should deal with doubts? Did you feel freedom to express your doubts to God and others, or not?
Q) How do you tend to deal with doubts in your spiritual life? What happens in your life when you don’t fully express your doubts to God and others?
Q) Is there someone in your life who is “close to you, but far from Christ,” who might benefit from knowing they can express their current doubts to God?
Q) Pastor Bobby said that the psalmist’s great doubts, in this case, were actually driven by his great faith? What do you think he meant by this, and do you agree?
Hope is Certain (vs. 5; 11)
Q) Re-read verses 5 & 11, where the psalmist talks to his own soul. How does the psalmist question his soul? What truths does the psalmist remind his soul of?
Q) Pastor Bobby used the phrase “taking your soul in hand” (from Martyn Lloyd-Jones) to refer to addressing your soul directly, and speaking the truth of God’s character into the reality of your situation. Why do you think this is important to do? Is there a situation you’re facing right now where you need to “take your soul in hand” and speak truth to it?
Q) In the midst of our doubts and concerns, how can the gospel can give us solid confidence in God’s character and intentions towards us?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.