How far can you turn your head? Science tells us that many owls can turn their heads up to 270 degrees in each direction, but humans only turn their heads 80 to 110 degrees to the left or right. (After working on the computer for a long time, my head turn is even more limited than that!) Because of our head movement, we can look straight ahead, to the left, the right, or many directions in between. The direction we turn our face determines what we see.
David said, “I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 43:5). Countenance is the face, or “the part that turns.” David spoke of praising God who made his countenance healthy. He could smile. His face could shine. He could look to the future with peace. However, this was not because everything was great in his life. The previous part of the verse says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me?” David questioned his own thoughts and emotions. Why was he “cast down,” sad, and despairing? Why was he weak and burdened down? Like David, we often become discouraged when we see the things happening in the world around us, focus on the hard things happening in us, or think about the unfair things happening to us. It is easy to get “cast down.”
Can we, like David, change our despair to praise? In A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller said that a sheep is “cast” down when it is turned over on its back and cannot get up. It lies there helpless and frightened. It wildly moves its legs trying to get up, but it is unsuccessful. It becomes an easy meal for its enemy. It has only one hope – the shepherd. David was cast down and disquieted (Psalm 42:5,11; 43:5). He was discouraged and burdened. He had only one hope – the Shepherd. He said, “Hope in God.” Hope means to wait, be patient, and trust. When weak, discouraged, and feeling defeated, many Christians turn the wrong way and look for help from friends, previous experiences, or even the world. Our only true hope is to turn to God and trust Him. When we look to Him, He will change our despair to faith, our sadness to joy, and our discouragement to praise.