“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 42:11 ESV
*Hebrew: salvation of my face
Have you ever had one of those days when you just felt down, uninspired and nothing seemed to get you out of the doldrums? You sit there praying and it just seems like words? You try to read and study your Bible but even your favorite stories and verses seem empty and flat?
Well, join the club. This happens more than we might want to admit. It’s all too easy to think there must be something wrong with you and that it’s all your fault. And that may be the case to a small degree.
But it may have nothing to do with you. It may be the mental and spiritual atmosphere around you.
The doldrums actually refers to “a belt of calm and light baffling winds north of the equator between the northern and southern trade winds in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.” (source: online Dictionary.com app)
A ship dependent on the wind for movement can get stuck there because there’s not enough wind to go in any particular direction, until there’s a shift in the atmosphere. It’s not the ship’s fault the wind isn’t blowing.
When you find yourself in the doldrums, in a dull, listless, or depressed mood, it may be you need a little “wind” in your life to get you going in the right direction. The Bible verse quoted above from Psalm 42 gives the recipe for the wind you need to get out of the doldrums: praise God again.
It’s not enough to praise God just once. That’s only a breath, not a wind. That would be like trying to saw a log in two with only one swipe of the saw. When you’re in the dumps, it usually takes more than a simple little effort to get out.
Praise God in song
There are lots of ways to praise God. You can just start with the words, “Praise God.” But if those words seem hollow, you might just try a little singing.
There are dozens of Scriptures that encourage us to sing praises to God. Here’s just one example:
“Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!” Psalm 47:6, 7
Many years ago, a friend of mine from church told a story from when she was a kid. She came home from school one day in a funk. She was upset and depressed, for whatever reasons I don’t remember at this late date. But she was in one of those teenager the-world-is-terrible, nobody-likes-me, I-hate-everyone moods.
She stomped and stormed into the house almost proud of how upset she was. Her grandfather was the only one there, and instead of trying to help her sort through her feelings and the issues after a failed attempt to console her, he simply said, “Well, don’t sing any of the hymns from Sunday School you’ve learned to play on the piano, because that will make you feel better. If you want to stay mad, don’t dare sing any hymns.”
On the surface, it sounds like a pretty good effort at reverse psychology, which usually doesn’t work with teenagers. But her grandfather was a very spiritually minded fellow. He knew that if she started singing some of her favorite songs from church, it would help more than anything he could say.
In typical teenage defiance, my friend decided to prove her grandfather wrong. She would play those hymns and stay mad. You just wait and see, she thought to herself.
She sat down at the piano and played a hymn. See there, I’m still mad, she thought. I’ll do another one. She played another one and sang along this time. Pretty soon, she got so absorbed in playing the piano and singing her favorite hymns, she forgot all about being upset.
When she saw her grandfather later that afternoon, he just winked without saying anything. He didn’t need to. But she learned the lesson and for the rest of her life, when things weren’t going well, she would always sing hymns to praise God. And without fail, it would get her out of whatever mental or spiritual slump she was in.
Praise God with gratitude
“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30
Another way to praise God is with gratitude. Singing and gratitude go together quite nicely, as the verse above points out. One of the quickest ways to put wind in your sails is to thank God for every little smidgen of good in your life. You can even thank Him for the lessons you’ve learned from the challenges He’s helped you overcome in the past.
In fact, and it may take a while to get there, you can even look at your current state of “blah” and thank God in advance for getting you out of it. Gratitude is a powerful prayer, whenever it’s offered, before, during, or after the thing you’re grateful for.
A while back, I felt so discouraged with so many things in my life. I just didn’t seem to have my act together. So many of the projects and life goals I had worked on had either come to an end or met with resistance and rejection. I was floundering.
I prayed and prayed, but seemed to be getting nowhere fast. My wife suggested I just might need to think about all the good going on in my life and be grateful for every single thing I could think of.
Of course, she was right.
I started with the obvious things like being grateful for my home and my family, stuff like that. In spite of all the mistakes I’d made in raising my kids, there was so much good to be grateful for. And I was grateful for the little things like pens, pencils, and paper to write on. Books. Windows. Doors. The list grew rapidly.
The more gratitude I expressed for the everyday things in my life, the better I felt. And eventually I got around to where I didn’t feel let down by God and could be grateful for all the ways He had guided me over the years as well as recently.
We all have so much to be grateful for. The good that has come to us in years gone by. The good we have right now. And the good that we will have in the future. Don’t take any of it for granted.
How will you praise God?
The next time you feel uninspired, depressed, upset, or downright mad at life itself, it just means it’s time to sing a song. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a hymn, just something that brings joy to you heart. You might need to sing more than one. Sing all day if you have to.
And it’s time to be grateful for all the good in your life, from the smallest to the grandest things. Sincere gratitude works wonders.
I’d love to hear how you have gotten out of the doldrums and found new inspiration. Please share in the comments below.
Thank you for being one of my blog readers. I really appreciate it.