Hope in the Midst of Languishing

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
      so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
      for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
      day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
      “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
      as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
      and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
      a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
      and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
      my salvation and my God.—Psalm 42:1–6a


Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, this state of mind was unfamiliar to many of us. But with the coming of the pandemic, we felt it, though we didn’t know what to call it. Adam Grant, in an April 2021 article in the New York Times, defines languishing as “a sense of stagnation and emptiness . . . muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.”1 It’s the perpetual battle to find any semblance of hope.

Psalm 42 addresses spiritual languishing. It’s a lament that wrestles with despair and discouragement. The psalmist believes in biblical truth, but he also lives in a painful world. Sometimes he’s victorious as truth eclipses the pain. But it’s always a battle. And success is usually momentary. Spiritual growth in seasons of languishing is more about persevering through the struggle for belief than it is about arriving at a settled conclusion.

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy Devotional Journal

Mark Vroegop

This devotional journal is an ideal companion for anyone wanting to apply the knowledge they learned about lament from Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy and practice it in their own life. 

Laments embrace the battle of rehearsing truth when life is hard.

This lament is about a desperate determination to keep believing. The psalm features a statement of belief that’s repeated twice: “Why are you cast down, O my soul / and why are you in turmoil within me? / Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, / my salvation and my God” (Ps. 42:5–6, 11).

It sounds like an internal pep talk. But it’s really a short sermon that the psalmist is preaching to himself as he battles through his languishing. Think of “hope in God” as the sun around which his pain and problems orbit. It’s the main point of the psalm, and a place of spiritual refuge. It’s also the destination of this lament.

With that central point fixed in your mind, take note of the rest of the psalm. It’s filled with strong emotions and swirling struggles:

  • passionate but unfulfilled desire for intimacy with God (Ps. 42:1–2)
  • unending sorrow mixed with personal attacks (Ps. 42:3)
  • sadness caused by memories of the past (Ps. 42:4)
  • a feeling of being overwhelmed due to relentless hardships (Ps. 42:5)
  • emotional swings as belief and difficult questions coexist in the soul (Ps. 42:8–9)
  • additional pain due to mocking words (Ps. 42:10)

The normal Christian life is a fight to believe while doubts remain.

This lament features more complaints than most. There are only three verses connected to trust (“hope in God”) while there are eight verses articulating pain and sorrow. And that’s why this lament is so helpful. Learning to lament requires holding conflicting emotions in tension. Whether it’s belief and doubt, trust and fear, or hope and discouragement, biblical lament creates a spiritual category for the messy journey of perseverance.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the goal is the ending of all pain, the removal of every struggle, and a spiritual commitment that never wavers. Sometimes that might be true, but it’s not usually the case. More often, faithfulness looks like a determined choice to keep praying while wrestling with the nagging question “Is God listening?”

The normal Christian life is a fight to believe while doubts remain.

Psalm 42 invites you to do two things at the same time: to embrace the reality of your suffering while exulting in the biblical truths that define your life. In other words, you can be honest with God about your pain and choose to trust him.

When your spiritual life feels foggy, stagnant, or empty, lament can help. It invites you to keep believing and trusting before the clouds lift.

Lament is a language for spiritual languishers who refuse to give up.


God, I’m weary. I’m tired. I’m discouraged.
The waves of sorrow and sadness seem unending. Sometimes I wonder if you hear me or if you really care. I just can’t . . .
But I’m not going to stay here. Even though what I feel and what I know seem in conflict, I’m still believing in your goodness and your grace.
Yes! I’m going to hope in you even when I’m not sure how.
I’m trusting you while doubting. I’m believing in you while in despair.
I’m doing this because it’s right and true. I’m calling out to you even while I wonder if you hear.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.


  1. Adam Grant, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing,” New York Times, April 19, 2021.

This article is adapted from Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy Devotional Journal by Mark Vroegop.

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