Hope for the Downcast

Psalm 42:11


Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Savior and my God.


Did you know that up to a mile of yarn is wrapped around the cork in the center of a baseball?  I learned that on a kindergarten field trip. 

I’ve chaperoned the ‘farm field trip’ nine times:  once in preschool; once in preK and once in kindergarten…times three kids.  My favorite part of the field trip is making yarn out of sheep’s wool.  After the wool is washed and combed, a clump is given to a pair of kids.  In this case, it’s myself and my son.  We gently stretch the wool, then he holds one end and I hold the other and we twist.  After some serious twisting, we put the two ends together.  While one person holds the end of the wool, the other slides a thumb and forefinger over the wool from one end to the other.  The end result?  Yarn.  Each of us leave the field trip with a bracelet of white yarn.

One of the questions that often comes up during the session is “Does shearing hurt the sheep?”  The answer is a resounding “no.” 


In fact, a sheep with too much wool, is in danger of casting.  The Bible talks about this—sheep that cast themselves and get stuck on their backs.  A sheep who’s carrying too much wool or too much weight is more likely to roll over on its back than one that has a lighter load.  Some sheep find the coziest, concave spaces to lie down in and they prove tough to get out of and the sheep ends up on its back.  A sheep on its back can’t roll over.  It needs the help of the shepherd. 


A good shepherd constantly counts his sheep.  If one is missing, the shepherd’s first inclination is, ‘one must be cast somewhere.’  The shepherd immediately goes to find the cast sheep and deliver it.  That’s what being cast down is.  It happens to the best of sheep and the shepherd is the only one who can save the sheep that is cast down.  A sheep cannot get back on its feet by itself.  It’s impossible! 


Have you ever been cast down?  Or put another way, downcast?  In Psalm 42:5, the poet writes:  “Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” 


The writer talks about a soul that is downcast…a soul that is stuck upside down…a soul that is topsy-turvy and needs to be brought back to balance.  Has your soul ever felt that way?


Now, a shepherd can get a sheep back on its feet, but only God can make a soul right.  Only God can deliver a soul.


In the Hebrew Scriptures, none other than God Himself was referred to as Savior or deliverer.  It was God who saved his people from enemies or plague or disease.  It was God who delivered Daniel from the Lion’s pit; it was God who delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. 


Maybe, as the Psalmist said, your soul is downcast.  It’s topsy-turvy.  It needs to be put back into balance.  Maybe the circumstance of your life have cast you down and you feel it deep inside your soul.  Maybe the burden you are carrying is dragging you down. 


It’s true that every person has a soul that is cast down.  It’s a soul that’s made sick by sin.  Sometimes it’s sin that we’ve knowingly committed; sometimes it’s enduring the sin of someone else; sometimes it’s just plain living in a sinful world.  We try to carry the sin load around, but we can’t handle it.  It topples us over. 


What can we do?  Put our hope in God and praise him.  He delivers.  He saves us.  Jesus carried our sin burden to the cross. We don’t need to carry that load. Remember this today:  God delivers the downcast. 





Patricia Batten