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The Joy of the Downcast


Though the funeral of Charles Dickens was private, the grand doors of Westminster Abbey opened afterward, allowing thousands to pay their respects to the famed novelist. People placed flowers into the grave, along with written tributes on scraps of paper or cloth. Because of his novels such as David Copperfield, Dickens was seen as a champion of the poor and the downtrodden.

Christmas can be an especially difficult season for the downcast. But we know that true hope and joy is found in God alone. This is the main theme of today’s reading. This is why the psalmist thirsts for God above all else (vv. 1–2). While he longs to worship once again with God’s people (vv. 3–4), at present he feels sorrowful, abandoned by God, and mocked by others. Notice that he doesn’t dismiss these emotions or try to will himself toward acting happy. Instead, he meditates on the fact that God is greater than his problems, and by doing so, hope prevails. This becomes a refrain or chorus throughout the psalm (see v. 11; Ps. 43:5).

The psalmist recognizes that God is the only real source of hope (vv. 6–10). Even though his soul is discouraged, and he feels like he’s drowning or overwhelmed, forgotten and oppressed, in pain and attacked, nonetheless he trusts and hopes in the Lord his Rock. In the midst of all these negatives, he experiences God’s love (v. 8).

At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus as the only true joy and hope of the downcast. Without Him, we would be doomed to spiritual death with no hope of rescue. Like the psalmist, we, too, thirst for Him, hope in Him, and take our stand on Christ our Rock!

>> Are you feeling downcast today? The psalms are a comfort to those who are struggling as they put into words our emotions, bringing them to God. Pray through the psalms during this season and know that the joy of the Lord will give you strength.

Pray with Us

Even in a season of joy we are often laden with fears, hurts, and sorrows. Lord, help us always remember that you are already victorious over evil and pain. You are a limitless source of hope, joy, and strength in every season.

BY Brad Baurain

Bradley Baurain is Associate Professor and Program Head of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at Moody Bible Institute. Bradley has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has just published his first book, On Waiting Well. Bradley taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Bradley and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Northwest Indiana.

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