this is a great psalm altho to be honest for some reason every time i read the line “as the deer pants” it makes me think of crocodile pants [i have no idea why the crocodile pants, maybe cos of crocodile boots or something] and so i get distracted by then thinking of these pants made out of deer and i have to slap myself in the head to refocus and start all over again…
if you’re a douglas adams fan [author of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ – and if you’re not, you should be – the king of random astractive humour] then you will understand why the number 42 is the answer to the ‘meaning of life?’ question… and in some cases this song starts off by answering that question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’
the answer: ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.’ [vs.1] is a description of true worship – your whole being crying out for God… realisation of need, of the desperate kind of need that a thirsty animal has for water… of a need that drives the animal forwards to even risk danger from the wild animals, one goal in mind…
do i hunger for God? So, so much. i hunger to see Him at work in my neighborhood, to see the kind of life transformation that will really see change happening here… i long to see Him more deeply at work in my own life – helping me to Love my wife better, to be more patient and kind and not-wrong-remembering and so on… i long to see Him at work in my community life – filling me with the grace and compassion and generosity that is so often lacking…
but too often that hunger is replaced by easy distraction. or subverted by personal selfishness.
then the psalm moves on to describe how the writer is feeling quite overwhelmed by people around him, especially mocking his beliefs and helping feed any doubts he might have and he seems to be caught with the cry of the man whose son Jesus heals – “I believe! Help me overcome my disbelief!” – which is a cry i often seem to have… but he has some great responses to that:
‘These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.’ [vs. 4]
looking back and remembering when his faith was strong and when God did pitch up and reveal Himself and work in his life – that is a great attitude to have – in revelations 12.11 it talks about the enemy being defeated in this way:
‘They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.’
so ‘the blood of the lamb’ which is what Jesus did for us in dying on the cross… and ‘the word of their testimony’ which is what Jesus has done in ad around our lives – our story – something the enemy cannot take away… and so when times get hard and doubts are rising, it is a great activity to look back and remember when you believed strongly and when God was answering a particular prayer clearly or vividly showing up and getting involved.
‘Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’ [vs.5]
another response is choosing to praise God even when it doesn’t feel like the natural response – struggling with doubt? praise the One in whom your faith lies – it is a kind of stepping out in faith [a faith which is helped by looking backwards to those times when you were feeling more sure] and speaking the belief you are wanting to be in…
and it is also a response of hope – the kind of trusting hope that accompanies faith – i am not going to let my fear and doubts and struggles paralyse me – i am going to believe and press forward and experience… and like that deer seeking water, when i find the object of my seeking, then i will drink deeply and be satisfied.