Psalms 42 & 43
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God….. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you…. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 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.” (Psalm 42:1,6,7,11)
One thing that is fun is to go out on the beach and get out beyond the breakers in an inner tube and get in it and just relax. Don’t quite go to sleep, but you just sit out there and relax and it rocks you And then the current takes you a down the beach and to finally you float to land on some gentle, rolling breaker that leads you in. One day I was so relaxed and so happy just sitting and waiting for that exhilarating moment, when all of a sudden it seemed that the whole ocean just went out instead of in, and I dropped into it. And then the most gigantic breaker that was ever created fell on me. Well, it lifted me up, turned me upside down and landed me smack on my head. And then it began to tumble me like a tumbleweed underwater. Which direction I didn’t know, but fortunately was toward shore, disoriented. I was aching all over. I was half conscious. I said to myself, “McQuilkin, you seem to have lost control of your destiny.”
Have you ever been there? Maybe it’s a money breaker, or maybe it’s some huge exam and you can just see it, maybe it’s some illness and a loved one. Conflict with someone? You seem to have lost control. Life gets so bad, you feel like you’re melting inside, just utterly hopeless, almost like your bones are collapsing. You begin to wonder yourself if God has abandoned you. David had the same experience. And in Psalm 42 and 43. He paints this black, black picture. “Why are you so downcast?” This form of this verb used, says, “it’s not why do you let someone cast you down, but why do you bend yourself down? Why do you bend yourself out of shape?” “Oh my soul, why so disturbed within me?” It’s a word used of a raging sea within.
My spirit is downcast within me. Perhaps it’s the cascading whitewater, or perhaps it’s the waterspout – the tornado in the ocean, where the terror of the wind and the terror of the sea meet, and one roars and calls to another – one terrifying experience. God, it’s your waves and the breakers have swept over me. “Put your hope in God, I will yet praise him, my Savior, my God”(Psalm 42:11).
I say to God my rock, “Why? Have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? My bones suffer mortal agony” (Psalm 43:2). The idea is of a shattering of the bones to bits and fragments.
The pathway home is dark. Treacherous. Like steppingstones through a jungle swamp in the starless night. Why have you been relying on your brains, on your bank account, on your family, on your friend? On some special relationship? David chides himself, “Why do you allow the storms to rage within? Why do you allow yourself to slip off the pathway? Into the bag of dark self-pity. Don’t you know God is your rock? He’s the solid pathway. Have confidence in him. He has the strength enough for each of us and our small problems. He has the wisdom to lead us on. And he loves us; hope in God.”
Here is the secret, praise. Our problem is that we focus our lens on our circumstances. We get it in very sharp focus so that we can see all the details. And God becomes fuzzy and out of focus around the perimeter of our vision. Or perhaps he’s off the picture altogether. David says praise him, enumerate his splendor, his glory, his beautiful character. Focus sharply on God and the circumstances will come into focus as need be. Praise not only hoping but resting with patient expectancy.
It’s a special kind of praise and it’s a special light on our pathway, the singing heart. Is it nighttime in your experience today? Is your spirit dark and foreboding? You are uncertain about the future? Turn your thoughts to Jesus.
How much do you want it? You will have it to the extent that you really want it. How much did David want? He tells us like a deer chased by the animals, hounds hounding his life from him. You can endure hunger for a time. But thirst? And tears will not slack the thirst. Only living water. My thirst pants for you, oh God, send forth your light and your truth. Let them guide me, let them bring me home.