Best of Daily Reflections: Riding the Roller Coaster of Genuine Faith

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!

Psalm 42:11

I am a roller coaster fan. Ever since, as a four-year-old boy, I first went on the Matterhorn at Disneyland, I have loved the feeling of flying around in controlled chaos, rising and dipping, being flung to the left and then to the right. Give me a big drop and my face will glow with delight. (I must admit, however, that I did feel rather queasy on the High Roller in Las Vegas. It was perched atop the 900-foot-high tower of the Stratosphere Hotel. That was a little more height than I needed!)

Genuine faith in God can be like a roller coaster sometimes. We see this in Psalm 42. It begins with the extreme longing for God, as a deer longs for water (42:1). Then the psalm moves into lamentation, confessing that the only water the psalmist has tasted is his own tears (42:3). His heart breaks as he remembers his former joy in the Lord, a joy that has turned to sorrow (42:4).

At this point, the psalmist pauses to speak to his own soul: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” Then he exhorts himself: “Hope in God!” (following the original Hebrew of 42:5). In a moment of genuine hopefulness, he adds “ I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!” (42:5-6).

But this optimistic moment fades, as the psalm writer once again laments, “Now I am deeply discouraged” (42:6). Yet as he remembers the Lord, the psalmist affirms: “But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me” (42:8). Does this mean it’s time for celebration? Hardly. Rather, the profession of God’s love leads to further complaint, “O God my rock …Why have you forgotten me?” (42:9).

Finally, Psalm 42 ends by repeating the refrain sung earlier in verse 5: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!” (42:11).

You’ve just ridden the roller coaster of genuine faith: from longing to lament to sorrow, from sorrow to hope and praise, then to discouragement and a recognition of God’s love, back to lament, finishing with hope and praise. And all of this in only eleven verses!

When I read Psalm 42, I am encouraged by the utter reality of the psalmist’s faith. There is no pretending here, only open authenticity, a testimony to faith that hangs on to the Lord in the twists and turns of a living relationship with him.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Does your relationship with God ever feel like a roller coaster? Why do you think faith can be like this? What helps you to hang on to the Lord in times of lament and doubt? What helps you to have hope in God?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, how thankful I am for the authenticity of this psalm. The honesty of the psalm writer encourages me when I struggle in my relationship with you. It reminds me that faith is not a static thing, but a living encounter with the living God.

Thank you, Lord, for keeping me safe as I ride the roller coaster of genuine faith. Without your grace, I would truly run off the rails. But you are with me always, watching me, holding me, helping me.

Psalm 42 doesn’t pretend that faith in you is all smiles, Lord. Yet it doesn’t get stuck in the muck of despair, either. Help me to pray like this, to cry out to you honestly when I am in despair, and to confess your faithfulness.

Today, Lord, may I put my hope in you. May I praise you in word and deed, remembering that you are my Savior and my God! I pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.