Psalm 42 opens the second of five volumes or “collections” (see Psalm 72:20) in the book of Psalms. In this volume (Psalms 42-72), 18 were by David, 7 were by the Korahites, 1 was by Asaph, and 5 are anonymous. Psalm 72 is technically anonymous, but with the inscription “For Solomon” and references both to “the king” and “the king’s son,” David seems to be the logical conclusion.
Appropriately, several songs have been written based on Psalm 42:1-2. The tone is often one of joyful desire and an attempt to create a worshipful emotion. However, as lovely as this idea can be (and these are often good songs), they remove these verses from the context of the psalm itself. Psalm 42 is not a celebratory psalm or a song of simple praise or worship; it is a song of intentional thanksgiving in the midst of dark depression.
Consider the situations the writer(s) describe: lack of appetite and insomnia (Psalm 42:3), depression (Psalm 42:5, 6, 11), loneliness (Psalm 42:4, 9), feeling trapped and overwhelmed (Psalm 42:6-7). Twice the writer was asked by his enemies, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:3, 10), and he did not know. He felt ignored by God (Psalm 42:9).
For the many Christians who face similar situations, the writer has only one solution (Psalm 42:5, 11). It is not a magic pill or a quick fix. It is the choice to trust and persevere no matter the circumstances. It is the ongoing desire to grow in our relationship with God (Psalm 42:1-2), knowing that he will act in his time and for his glory.
“Why are you depressed, O my soul? Why are you upset? Wait for God! For I will again give thanks to my God for his saving intervention.”