A thirsty soul
"As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." (Psalm 42:1)
Have you ever been thirsty? Like truly, tongue-dried, parched-throat, exhausted and needing a drink? After a day of mowing the lawn (or these days of shoveling the driveway from snow), I get that way. When a glass of water wets your palette, it's better than a full wallet. But the condition before satisfaction is thirst.
I'm a runner. It's weird to confess that. I only started running a few years ago to get ready for a trip to Montenegro. I just never stopped. Well, actually I do. I'm a stopper. I stop to catch my breath every 3/4 of a mile or so. It's because I pant. I know some of you professional runners will inform me of why I do this - my pace is too fast / I don't breathe properly / or my lungs, like the Grinch's heart, are two sizes too small. I don't know why, but I stop because I pant. Hard.
I can relate easily with these two responses - thirsting and panting. The Psalm describes a deer panting for flowing streams of water. The writer compares the deer's longing for refreshment to his soul's desire for God.
Your soul's desire for God
Think about that. Your soul desires God. He made you. He loves you. It's natural (or supernatural) that you long for that which you were created - intimacy with God. Living life in love with God (and being confident of His love for you) is how you were made to live and function.
Your soul desires God.
Is this a time in your life that you deeply long for something and you just can't put your finger on it? In this pandemic-crazed world, don't be so quick to ascribe your inner unsettledness to the lack of normalcy around you. It may be that the lack of normalcy around you has awakened you to a deeper thirst. In a non-pandemic/divided world, the distractions and routines of a normal, busy life may have masked your soul's deeper thirst.
It's normal thirst for God is not being weakly quenched by other things, and now it's desperately parched.
It's no accident that Jesus would offer a woman "living water." The account takes places in John 4. Initially, she thinks He's referring to well water (since they're beside a well), but Jesus distinguishes between water that will quench temporarily and water that will totally and ultimately satisfy the thirst of the soul.
He speaks about Himself. He is the living water.
Are you thirsty?
Later in the Psalm, the writer speaks to his own soul. He senses inner unsettledness and turmoil. Sometimes we need to do this - to speak to our soul in honesty:
"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?"
It's an honest, piercing question. But even greater is when the writer preaches to his own soul:
"Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." (Psalm 42:5, 11)
A downcast soul lectured to.
An assurance of future praise.
These are the real, nitty gritty moments of faith. In mid-despondency, there is the recognition of lack and inner need, and then there's the command to see that God is at work, that His love is active even when not perceived and to shift into praise.
Are you worn out? Struggling? Despondent? You may simply be thirsty. For God. The real you, your soul, was created to have its needs met - its thirsts quenched - by God.
It's wonderful to read Psalm 42 and then to turn to the more well-known Psalm 23 and re-discover the promises there from the Good Shepherd. This time it's sheep, not deer in the imagery, but its familiar words remind us that our good, loving God will lead us beside still waters to quench our thirst and give us rest in Him.
"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23:1-3)
How thirsty is your soul?