“as the deep pants for the water,
so my soul longs after you.
You alone are my heart’s desire,
and I long to worship you.”
I grew up singing these words and always pictured an idyllic setting, like a picture through a slightly foggy lens, of a deer drinking water from a stream. It was peaceful and serene.
Today I read Psalm 42, where these words come from and my picture changed drastically.
“I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and stand before him?”
“Day and night I have only tears for food.”
“My heart is breaking”
“Why am I so discouraged? Why am I so sad?”
“Why I am deeply discouraged?”
“O God, my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forsaken me?”
“Why must I wander in the darkness?”
These are not the cries of a serene worshipper so happy to rest in the presence of her God, longing for more of him. These are the cries of a depressed, broken, dry and desperately thirsty person who feels abandoned, not loved, who is filled with anxiety, not peace. This person is desperate, alone, sobbing. This person is lying on the floor, crying out to God but feels as though her prayers are hitting the ceiling and bouncing back. She knows she is not enough but she does not see the hand of God in her life currently and is afraid that she is on her own.
This picture is much less pretty.
This picture is painful and it makes me uncomfortable.
This picture reminds me of the times when I have been there. Desperate not because I have had a taste of a good thing and want more, but because I was so, so hungry and there doesn’t seem to be anything that will satisfy. Afraid that the pain won’t end. Loosing hope, afraid of what I will do if I lose the last bit of hope that I am barely holding on to.
The Psalmist, however desperate and alone he feels, expresses his feelings but chooses to live by faith rather than those feelings:
“I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Savior and my God!”
“Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember your kindness”
“Through each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me [even if I can’t feel it and I’m unaware]
and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.”
“Why am I discouraged? Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Savior and my God!”
He still hurt, but he choose to look past it, just barely past it to the God who is bigger than the hurt. Life is sometimes hard, really hard. And sometimes are feelings of awfulness don’t make sense, they just are and they hurt. And the pain can paralyze us. But in the midst of our gut-wrenching fear and feelings of abandonment we can acknowledge that the Lord that has been faithful so far will continue to be [even if we can’t see evidence of this yet] we can choose to remember his kindness [even if we don’t feel like we’re experiencing it now] we can choose to sing his songs and pray to him [even when we don’t think he’s listening or acting on our behalf] because he is still God, he is still good and his word is still true even when our experience tells us otherwise.
Did thinking true, positive things make everything better for the Psalmist? I doubt it. Did it make him feel better? Probably not very quickly, but probably eventually. Focusing on truth is certainly better than focusing on lies. And, eventually, our Savior and our God will come through for us; he will deliver us…even when it is almost too hard to believe.