God uses our suffering to bring us closer to Him. Dee Brestin shares a story of loss from her personal journey.
In the midst of the deadly “D”s (disappointment, death, divorce, disease, depression), there is a beautiful and mysterious “D” phrase: DEEP CALLS TO DEEP. For those of us who are children of God, there is such hope. Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. At the time our heart is sinking down, God may come to us, and His deep voice may speak deep into our souls. Last week Anne, who has journeyed with us for some time, wrote something profound, something very related to this phrase: Deep calls to deep. She listened to Tim Keller’s message, “Questions of Suffering on Job,” and responded:
My greatest take away is the idea that suffering bonds me to God. Having just finished the study on idolatry, I remember my angst over how to replace my idols with Jesus. I tried everything. I denied myself and sought Him in the word and prayer, but in the end, I just had to wait for Him to come to me. And He did, but not right away. So, if I know that suffering will bring me closer to Him, perhaps I can lean in, knowing that I will get more of Him.
I have experienced exactly that — suffering has brought me closer to God. Yet, if you would have told me seven years ago that my children and I would be doing well one day, and that I would actually be closer to God, I might have wanted to kick you. Some of you may feel that right now too. It may feel like we don’t understand the depth of your pain. And yet, God gives us real hope, and Psalm 42 tells us how to take our souls in hand and to speak to them when we are sinking down. We must all learn to do this — for both times of catastrophic pain, but also for everyday sorrows.
I took a picture of my beloved months before he died. Steve was a contemplative man, and he often had to take his soul in hand during his illness. He told our youngest, “Annie — I’m so sad I have to leave you — but I’m so glad I got to be your daddy. And I will always be your daddy.” Even in those words, I know that Steve was talking to his soul. He trusted God’s promises that we would be reunited one day. And we will! One day we will hug, we will talk, we will laugh — and “everything sad” as Tolkien put it, “will be untrue.” Joy will come in the morning.
Steve told us that twice in his life, God had spoken to him in a voice he knew was not his own — once during a profound depression and once after his diagnosis of cancer. Each time it was, “Deep calling to Deep” with the same question:
Steve, do you trust me?
Each time God called him by name.
Each time He asked the same question.
Each time, Steve answered, “I do.”
Jesus cares about our sorrows and He comes to us. He can see the future, and He knows it is good. He knows our sorrow will only last for the night and joy will come in the morning, yet He still cares about our nights and will comfort His suffering child. And at times, deep will call to deep.
What does this phrase that has inspired poets and painters mean? Charles Spurgeon interpreted it as “the deep voice of God speaking deep into our souls.”
Reflect on a time when “Deep called to deep,” when in a time of sorrow or anxiety, the deep voice of God spoke deep into your soul.
Bible Study: LET’S GO!
READ PSALM 42:
1. In Psalm 42:1-2, what is the image? What do the streams of living water that the psalmist is trying to find represent?
2. The psalmist says he is not finding God. He is like a deer dying for water who comes all the way down from the mountain and finds the riverbed dry. What water image is in verse 3? How is this a true lament?
3. Look carefully and see if you can find hidden in this verse 3 the classic signs of depression. (weeping, not sleeping, not eating).
4. Find another causal factor to depression in verse 4.
5. Often, when facing a deadly D, we want to withdraw. Have you felt that way? Why is that one of the worst things you can do? If you are, indeed, withdrawing, talk to your soul and tell her some of the ways being with Christian brethren has encouraged you in the past. I want to tell you how you, my sisters on this blog, have come to mean a great deal to me. It is often through you that God whispers, encourages, and guides. You are a well of water into which I dip.
6. Now, in Psalm 42:5, the psalmist does something very wise. He takes his soul in hand and asks him a question. What is it?
7. For those who have been through our idolatry study, what do you think he is really asking his soul?
8. What, according to verse 5, does he tell his soul to do?
I was listening to Leslie Vernick on Midday Connection last week on relationships, and she told of going to The Christian Booksellers convention — a mega-event where booksellers and publishers connect and authors come for publicity opportunities. Leslie said that she began to get really jealous of some of her author friends who had bigger displays and more radio opportunities. And so she asked her soul, “What’s going on here?” [Why are you downcast, O my soul?] She realized it was her approval idol, and so was able to tell her soul to find her approval in God instead.
9. As the psalmist (we aren’t sure if it was David, though Spurgeon says it reeks of David!) is far away from others who love God (he may be fleeing in the wilderness from enemies, he may be captured), he remembers times when he did have fellowship with brothers and sisters. He remembers how God was close to him. He is lamenting when suddenly God comes to him. In verse 7, we have the famous phrase “deep calls to deep.” What water image is it paired with? What do you know about the roar of waterfalls that would go with “deep calling to deep?”
10. The fourth water image is both negative and positive, though I for so long only saw it as negative. Find it in this same verse.
A. How could this water image be negative?
B. Verse 7 paired with verse 8 shows how this water image could be positive. What do you see?
11. After the psalmist has talked to his soul, what must he do again in 42:11 and 43:5? What does this tell you?
12. What other images from Psalm 42 do you find? Other thoughts?
13. Any other applications from Psalm 42?
We must speak to our souls. (Pastor and Christian apologist Tim Keller shares that he reads Psalm 96 to himself every day to keep perspective about what is ahead.) One day Jesus will come, and all weeping will be gone. The trees of the field will clap their hands. May we keep speaking the truth to our souls.