Introduction: What are you expected to do when you pray but the feelings of pain, darkness, depression, or isolation will not lift? Psalm 43 answers that question. In Psalm 42, a descendant of Korah lamented to God and prayed for the feelings of darkness to end. He received no immediate answer from God. This Psalm reflects what he did when the feelings of darkness endured in his life. From the psalmist’s example, God reveals seven lessons to follow when the darkness will not lift in your life. These include continuing to seek God’s: (1) deliverance, (2) fellowship, (3) comfort, (4) guidance, (5) joy, (6) strength to persevere, and (7) hope.
First, the psalmist’s prior prayers to end the attacks against him did not cause the torment from his enemies to come to an end. Thus, he continued to cry out for God to vindicate and deliver him. When darkness endures in your life, God also wants you to continue to cry out to Him for deliverance. Second, despite previously crying out that he felt disconnected from God, the psalmist confessed that his feelings continued. When darkness endures in your life, God also wants you to continually seek out His fellowship. Third, despite his prior prayers, the psalmist also continued to feel sadness. He therefore again turned to God to find comfort. When darkness endures in your life, God also wants you to continually seek out His comfort. Fourth, the psalmist knew that he could not find his own way out of his darkness. Thus, he turned to God for guidance. When darkness endures in your life, God also wants you to continually seek out His guidance. Fifth, the psalmist professed that he would one day find joy from being in God’s presence and praise Him. When darkness endures, God offers a joy that surpasses all understanding. Sixth, although his trials continued, the psalmist told himself for the third time between the two psalms that he would continue to wait on God. When darkness endures in your life, God also wants you to preserve in your faith. Finally, in the face of ongoing darkness, the psalmist continued to place his hope in God. When darkness endures, God also wants you to continually place your hope in Him. Through Jesus, He offers you an eternity of joy with Him.
1. Deliverance: When Darkness Endures, Cry Out For God’s Deliverance. Ps. 43:1.
The psalmist cried out to God and trusted Him to vindicate him during an attack. When the attacks against the psalmist continued, he cried for God’s vindication and deliverance: “1 Vindicate me, God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation; save me from the deceitful and unjust person!” (Ps. 43:1). Between Psalms 42 and 43, the common theme is continuity. Some people might endure decades or even a lifetime of suffering. When the darkness continues, your prayers for God’s deliverance should also be ongoing.
David also cried out to God and trusted Him to vindicate him during attacks. David also frequently prayed for God to vindicate him when he was attacked: “ . . . vindicate me, LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me.” (Ps. 7:8b). “A Psalm of David. 1 Vindicate me, Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.” (Ps. 26:1). His suffering was ongoing throughout his life. His prayers for God’s deliverance were also ongoing. He also trusted in God for deliverance instead of retaliating or taking matters into his own hands.
Trust in God’s faithfulness when you turn to Him in prayer. As our example, David also prayed with faith. He trusted God to be faithful to keep His Word: “But I have trusted in Your faithfulness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” (Ps. 13:5). “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart triumphs, and with my song I shall thank Him.” (Ps. 28:7). “For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name.” (Ps. 33:21). The author of the book of Hebrews also exhorts believers to pray with hope in God’s faithfulness: “Let’s hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;” (Heb. 10:23). If you have doubt when you pray, you should not expect to have God answer your prayers: “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that person ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,” (Jam. 1:6-7). Thus, pray with confidence that God will answer your prayers. But remember, He will answer according to His will regarding what is best and, in His timing, not yours (Ro. 8:28).
2. Fellowship: When Darkness Endures, Continually Seek God’s Fellowship. Ps. 43:2a.
The psalmist cried out for God’s presence in his time of trouble. The psalmist felt his strength weakened from ongoing conflict. Even with constant prayer, he still felt alone: “2a For You are the God of my strength; why have You rejected me?” (Ps. 43:2a). The psalmist was able to be honest in his prayers because he had a relationship with God.
Seeking God’s fellowship should be an ongoing effort. In the prior Psalm, the psalmist asked almost the exact same question: “I will say to God my rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me?’” (Ps. 42:9a). This again means that the psalmist did not receive a quick answer to his prayer. His efforts to find fellowship with God had to be an ongoing effort.
David also frequently cried out for God’s presence. On many occasions, David cried out when he could not feel God’s comfort or reassurance: “1 Why do You stand far away, Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10:1). “Prayer for Help in Trouble. For the music director. A Psalm of David. 1 How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Ps. 13:1). “Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue my soul from their ravages, my only life from the lions . . . You have seen it, LORD, do not keep silent; Lord, do not be far from me.” (Ps. 35:17, 22). “Why do You hide Your face and forget our affliction and oppression?” (Ps. 44:24). “God, do not be far from me; My God, hurry to my aid!” (Ps. 71:12). “LORD, why do You reject my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?” (Ps. 88:14). “How long, LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?” (Ps. 89:46). When you feel alone, God also wants you to share your burdens with Him.
Job also pleaded with God not to leave him. In his time of testing, Job also felt as though God had left him. He even sadly believed that God viewed him as an enemy: “24 Why do You hide Your face and consider me Your enemy?” (Job 13:24). The book of Lamentations contains a similar cry: “Why will You forget us forever? Why do You abandon us for so long?” (Lam. 5:20). Thus, you never need to apologize if you cannot feel God’s presence. The sin is in failing to continue to seek out His presence.
God never forgets His people. Although it is sadly common for people to feel as though God has forgotten them, God assures us that it is impossible for Him to do so: “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has abandoned me, and the Lord has forgotten me.’ 15 Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. 16 Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” (Is. 49:14-16). If you have ever felt an intense love for a baby, take comfort that God feels that way about you as well.
Jesus offers His fellowship to you if you seek Him in faith. God promises His fellowship to anyone who earnestly seeks Him in faith: “And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Dt. 4:29). Jesus made this same offer to believers at Laodicea. They were saved. But they were not walking in fellowship with Him: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20). Are you seeking out Jesus’ fellowship?
Depend upon God, and He will strengthen you. When you are weak in the face of your trials, God will strengthen you: “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth.” (2 Tim. 4:17). “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13). “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,” (1 Tim. 1:12). “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self,” (Eph. 3:16). If you feel beaten down, tired, or weary from your trials, turn to God to strengthen you.
3. Comfort: When Darkness Endures, Continually Seek God’s Comfort. Ps. 43:2b.
The psalmist also felt ongoing sadness in the face of constant attacks. Despite his many prayers, the psalmist also felt deep sorrow because the enemy’s attacks were relentless: “2b Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Ps. 43:2b). The psalmist did not recite mindless formulaic prayers. He was instead honest with God.
Seek out God’s comfort as often as you need it. In the prior Psalm, the psalmist also asked this same question: “Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Ps. 42:9b). The psalmist needed ongoing comfort, and God welcomed his ongoing requests. He also invites you to seek out His comfort as often as you need it.
David frequently poured out his laments of sorrow. David was not a hero of the faith because he bottled up his sorrow. Instead, as our example, he poured out the laments of his heart to God: “Listen to my words, LORD, consider my sighing.” (Ps. 5:1). “For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; my strength has failed because of my guilt, and my body has wasted away.” (Ps. 31:10). “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within me.” (Ps. 22:14). “For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me.” (Ps. 38:17).
Jesus offers you His compassion and love. Jesus had compassion for the masses (Matt. 9:36). He also longs to show you His compassion: “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.” (Is. 30:18a). “I, I Myself, am He who comforts you. . . ” (Is. 51:12). “And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion to whom I will show compassion.”’ (Ex. 33:19). When the world turns against you, Jesus offers you His comfort and love: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4). “But God, who comforts the discouraged, comforted us by the arrival of Titus;” (2 Cor. 7:6).
Jesus offers you comfort in your times of distress. When you feel attacked, Jesus also offers to comfort you: “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:5). If you are in need of comfort, are you turning to Jesus? If others around you are suffering, are you pointing them to Jesus?
Encourage one another in times of distress. God also wants you to be a source of encouragement to others. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13). “But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” (Heb. 13:22). Will you encourage others the way God is there for you?
4. Guidance: When Darkness Endures, Continually Seek God’s Guidance. Ps. 43:3.
The psalmist turned to God to guide him out of his darkness. The psalmist could not find his way out of darkness by relying upon his own wisdom. Instead, he turned to God: “3 Send out Your light and Your truth, they shall lead me; they shall bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling places.” (Ps. 43:3). This declaration included a promise of submission. The psalmist had to submit to God’s guidance to find his way.
Jesus offers His light when you are in darkness. When you feel trapped in darkness, you can also turn to Jesus to be your light: “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” (Jo. 1:4). “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”’ (Jo. 8:12). ‘“While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”’ (Jo. 9:5). “I have come as Light into the world, so that no one who believes in Me will remain in darkness.” (Jo. 12:46). When you feel trapped in darkness, turn to Jesus as your light.
When you are attacked, pray for guidance. When you are attacked, Jesus will give you the answer if you seek out His guidance through prayer: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8). The Apostle Paul also urged believers to turn to God in prayer anytime they are in need of deliverance: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6). “With every prayer and request, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be alert with all perseverance and every request for all the saints,” (Eph. 6:18). God also urges you to “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thess. 5:17). Are you letting God guide you?
David regularly prayed for God’s guidance. David regularly pleaded with God to guide his path: “8 Lord, lead me in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before me.” (Ps. 5:8). He also repeatedly praised God for guiding him in response to his prayers: “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name.” (Ps. 23:3). “Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day. . . He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way.” (Ps. 25:5, 9). “Teach me Your way, LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.” (Ps. 27:11). “For You are my rock and my fortress; for the sake of Your name You will lead me and guide me.” (Ps. 31:3). “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). “And see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps. 139:24). Your prayers should also seek to do God’s will instead of demanding what you desire.
Let the Holy Spirit guide you in prayer. Jesus promised that the Spirit of truth will abide in you (Jo. 14:16-18). The Holy Spirit will cause you to remember Jesus’ Word to guide you in your prayers: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). Yet, if you don’t memorize God’s Word, you are not leaving the Spirit with much to help you “remember” during prayer. God wants you to boost your faith by praying out His prior promises. Your faith comes by “hearing” the Word (Ro. 10:17). This includes hearing the Word in your own prayers. Are you praying out God’s Word as you pray for your needs or the needs of others?
5. Joy: When Darkness Endures, God’s Joy Surpasses All Understanding. Ps. 43:4.
The psalmist believed that he would one day find joy in God’s presence. Even while his darkness persisted, the psalmist professed that he would one day find joy through God: “4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise You on the lyre, God, my God.” (Ps. 43:4). This Psalm shows that God’s promise of joy may not be immediate. Even though His timing may not be yours, God will keep His promises.
Jesus offers a peace that surpasses human understanding. Peace is a prerequisite to joy. In other words, you need peace before you can have joy. While the world offers tribulation, Jesus offers peace: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (Jo. 16:33). His peace surpasses all understanding: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7). “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” (Rom. 5:1). But this peace is not enduring when your faith fails: “[W]ithout faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6).
If you are lacking joy, cry out to Jesus to have it restored. In addition to peace, Jesus offers you joy through the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” (Gal. 5:22). “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Ro. 14:17). “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Ro. 15:13). If you are lacking joy, call out to Jesus for His joy: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.” (Ps. 51:12). When Jesus restores your joy, praise Him: “I will rejoice and be jubilant in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” (Ps. 9:2). “But rejoice, all who take refuge in You, sing for joy forever! And may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.” (Ps. 5:11). “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You; and my soul, which You have redeemed.” (Ps. 71:23).
God offers every believer eternal joy in His presence. Even though the Jews did not have a clear understanding of heaven and hell, the Psalms clearly speak of the blessing of eternal joy in God’s presence: “You will make known to me the way of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Ps. 16:1). “For You make him most blessed forever; You make him joyful with the joy of Your presence.” (Ps. 21:6). “You are the most handsome of the sons of mankind; grace is poured upon Your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.” (Ps. 45:2). Jesus came to fulfill the promise of this blessing. Through faith in His atoning death, you can enjoy an eternal life of joy in His presence (Jo. 3:16). For this, He is worthy of your praise.
Praise God in every context. As our example, David praised God in both good and bad times. For example, when Saul was trying to kill David, David wrote in one of his many psalms that he would always praise God: “A Psalm of David, when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Ps. 34:1). Likewise, when Daniel learned that the king had signed an order that would result in him being thrown in the lion’s den, he continued in his regular praises for God: “Now when Daniel learned that the document was signed, he entered his house (and in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and offering praise before his God, just as he had been doing previously.” (Dan. 6:10). As another example, Paul worshiped even when he was jailed for his faith: “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father;” (Eph. 5:20). Do you worship God in both good and bad times?
6. Perseverance: When Darkness Endures, Persevere in Your Faith. Ps. 43:5a.
Despite his faith, the psalmist confessed that he still felt despair. In the face of his ongoing despair, the psalmist promised to continue to wait on God. He would persevere: “5a Why are you in despair, my soul? And why are you restless within me? Wait for God . . .” (Ps. 43:5a). “The psalmist had hope of God’s redemption, but it had not come yet. In the meantime, he would not surrender to his feelings of depression and discouragement. Instead, he challenged those feelings and brought them to God. He said to those cast down and disquieted feelings, ‘Hope in God. He will faithfully answer again, because He has before.’ We see that at the end of the psalm, none of the circumstances of the psalmist had changed — only his attitude, and what a difference that made.” (David Guzik on Ps. 43) (emphasis original).1
Perseverance requires an ongoing effort. Between Psalms 42-43, this was the third time that the psalmist asked himself the same question (Ps. 43:5a). “Why are you in despair, my soul? And why are you restless within me? Wait for God, . . .” (Ps. 42:5a). “Why are you in despair, my soul? And why are you restless within me? Wait for God, . . .” (Ps. 42:11a). Perseverance means that you won’t give up when the darkness continues.
Perseverance draws you closer to God. The psalmist’s suffering allowed him to build up his faith. “And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;” (Ro. 5:3). “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,” (Ro. 12:12). “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Jam. 1:2-3; 2 Cor. 1:8-10). During your trial, do you persevere for Jesus?
7. Hope: When Darkness Endures, Continually Place Your Hope in God. Ps. 43:5b.
Despite his despair, the psalmist believed that he would one day be in God’s presence. The psalmist professed with confidence that his sorrow would end when he was with God: “5b for I will again praise Him for the help of His presence, my God.” (Ps. 43:5b). “The sense of the Hebrew word is more salvation than help. One might say that God saves the countenance of His people.” (David Guzik on Ps. 43). (emphasis original).
Hope must be ongoing. Between Psalms 42-43, this was also the third time that the psalmist asked himself the same question (Ps. 43:5). “for I will again praise Him for the help of His presence, my God. (Ps. 42:5b). “for I will again praise Him For the help of His presence, my God.” (Ps. 42:11b). In the darkness, the hope in Jesus endures.
Be steadfast in your faith while you place your hope in Jesus. “Jesus has inaugurated the salvation for which the sons of Korah longed, but that salvation has not been consummated. As a result, believers today will find themselves feeling emotions and experiencing circumstances analogous to those described in Pss. 42-43. When the darkness does not lift, the psalmist models faithful action steps for God’s people: waiting for God, believing we will again praise Him. We follow the example of those who died in faith, not yet having received the promises, but greeting them from afar (Heb. 11:13, 39). And James tells us the prophets set an example of suffering and patience for us to follow (James 5:10-11), reminding us of Job’s steadfastness while God’s hidden purposes are realized in compassion and mercy.” (James M. Hamilton Jr., Evangelical Bible Theology Commentary Psalms (Vol. I: Psalms 1-72) (Lexham Academic 2021) p. 455).
Jesus is the anchor of your soul during the trials of life. When you are tossed about in the darkness and storms of life, Jesus is the anchor of hope for your soul: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and reliable and one which enters within the veil,” (Heb. 6:19). “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” (Ps. 39:7)). If you feel tossed about by ongoing pain, cling to the anchor of your soul.
In heaven, the praise and worship for Jesus will be ongoing. God will reward your hope with endless joy in heaven. “‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion forever and ever.”’ (Rev. 5:13; 13:8).