psalms; disciplines of grace

i listened to this sermon today; figured i might as well put my notes up here.

timothy keller
scripture reading: psalm 42 – 43

physical health:

  • trainers – get you forward
  • doctors – get you back on track

same for spiritual health:

  • some disciplines are more along the lines of training
  • others are more defensive – ways of treating problems, difficulties (doctor)

Spiritual Dryness


  • v1: “as the deer pants for water”
  • dying of thirst
  • a deer that pants for water is a deer that has come to the water source, only to find it dry
  • v2: “my soul thirsts for God, the living God. when can i go and meet with God?”
  • psalmist can’t sense God – he’s lost the reality of God, not the belief in God
  • spiritual dryness, deadness
  • nothing resonates with him anymore; truths that used to strike his heart no longer do
  • in some other psalms, this dryness and deadness comes with a sense of guilt; but that’s not the case here
  • x moralistic mindset: if there’s something wrong, there must be a cause. someone must be doing something wrong. –Christians: if something feels wrong in their spiritual life, there must be something wrong. — yes, but not always.

causal factors

these things don’t necessarily or automatically lead to dryness, but they are often associated with it

1. disruption of community (v4, v6)

  • he used to go to the house of God, with people, worship, etc.
  • now he’s in the mountains, away from all that
  • there’s personal Bible study and corporate Bible study; personal prayer and corporate prayer and worship — they’re different.
  • individualism: we underestimate the importance of communal spiritual disciplines
  • we can’t do things on our own! how do we know it’s right? we need others. accountability.
  • need to actively reconstruct community: work on building new friendships – who are you gonna be accountable, who’re you gonna be learning with, etc.

2. disillusionment at the events of life

  • v3: the enemies in this psalm are not like the enemies on other psalms; in other psalms, they’re after the psalmist’s life; in this case, the enemies are taunting him: “Where is your God?”
  • it’s affecting him –> v9: “why have You forgotten me?”
  • we don’t know why, but things are happening that don’t fit in with the idea of a good, loving, holy, wise, just God
  • “if He’s your God, if He really is for you, if He’s really the God you say He is, why is this happening?” — not just a question from outside (enemies), but also inside (the psalmist)

3. physical deprivation

  • v3: “my tears have been my food, day and night”
  • he’s not eating or sleeping
  • david martin lloyd jones: sermon on this passage — “does anyone hold the view that as long as you are a Christian it doesn’t matter what the condition of your body is? you’ll soon be disillusioned if you believe that.”
  • the physical can affect the spiritual
  • American culture is dualistic: pits the body and spirit against each other –so we tend to ignore the physical when we face spiritual difficulties and vice versa
  • emotional aspect: we need friends; physical aspect: we need food, exercise; spiritual aspect: we need truth — so when we’re addressing a problem, we need to look at all of these. not just listening to emotions, but also talking to the heart. listening and figuring out motivation, but at the same time being tough with the truth.


1. pour out your soul

  • v4: “i pour out my soul”
  • irony: his problem – “i don’t feel God. i get nothing out of worship, prayer, Bible reading”; yet, this psalm is a beautiful prayer…
  • if you get nothing out of worship or prayer or Bible reading, don’t miss it. pour out your soul. talk to God about how much you miss Him.
  • DON’T ignore the spiritual disciplines. be more disciplined than you have before

2. analyse your hopes

  • repeated refrain (3 times): “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God.” (v5, 11, 43:5)
  • is it a rhetorical question not looking for information? no.
  • he’s looking for information. asking himself why, how he got so downcast.
  • it’s not the result of sin, but he’s still doing self-examination. looking for his hopes. it’s because he put his hope in some things that are now letting him down
  • spiritual dryness is a perfect time to examine your heart, because it reveals inordinate loves, false hopes; e.g. psalm 3: when David was on the run for his life because his favorite son, Absalom, pulled off a coup d-etat, was trying to hunt him down and kill him so he could become king; 2 things in David’s life had been his glory (weight, significance): 1) the love of his son and family 2) the love and acclaim of his people; he lost both of them; yet right in the middle of psalm 3: “but You, O Lord, are my shield, my glory and the lifter of my head” — i lost my glory, but now i am relocating my glory in You.
  • “i see that one of the reasons i am so downcast because of the events of life that have made me wonder and doubt certain things is because i put my hopes in things that are not You.”

3. remember the lovingkindness and grace of God

  • my soul is cast down, THEREFORE i will remember –> very deliberately thinking about something, remembering something
  • he’s thinking about God’s lovingkindness – hebrew word “kay-sev” : covenant faithfulness, unmerited grace, unconditional love
  • he’s thinking about his entire life, the history of redemption, seeing the grace of God in all of that; his own personal history and the grace of God –> turning it into a song that he sings to himself even at night (1 chronicles: the sons of korah – psalmist – were professional musicians)

4. preach sermons to your heart

  • you will never get out of spiritual dryness unless you learn to do this
  • talk to your heart. why are you so down cast? look at this, look at the grace of God.
  • in times of spiritual dryness, your heart goes: oh my gosh, oh my gosh… you need to know when to say, SHUT UP, HEART!
  • it takes a lot of listening to be a good preacher; if you have listened to your heart so that you’ve found its false hopes, at some point you have to turn around and preach the grace of God to yourself. you have to learn illustrations that ring your heart’s bell
  • realism: he doesn’t say “i praise Him now” or “i will never praise Him”, but “i WILL praise Him”; there is a progression throughout the psalm
  • in the beginning, he says: v5 hope in God, for i shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance — all i want is to see Him come back; end: hope in God, for i shall yet praise Him for the help of my countenance — i can feel Him already beginning to lift up my face, my heart, my spirits
  • the results will happen slowly, but they will happen

how do we do this?

  • the biggest problem during times of dryness is that we say “i think God has finally given up on me. He’s not there. makes sense. i’m an idiot. i’m a failure. i’m inadequate. He’s abandoned me.”
  • how do we know He won’t abandon us? read psalm 42 – 43 and listen to the One who really said “i’m dying of thirst”, the One who said “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” –> JESUS CHRIST experienced this thirst for real. He really experienced the absence of God, the thirst of God… so that we wouldn’t have to be condemned to that.
  • if we preach Christ to ourselves, we will get out of the trough.

when you deal with this properly, you don’t just get back on track, you get back on far further ahead, far humbler, far happier, far stronger than you were before.

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.


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