This morning as I was waking up, I prayed LORD, what Psalm should I read today? I have gotten into the habit of asking Him for my daily spiritual bread; I've yet received silence in answer. This morning I had the undeniable impression to read Psalm 42.
I love that Psalm, but I never can quite remember what it is about. Yes, I am one of those people that never remembers Bible references. I can quote parts of a lot of verses, whole verses of others, and some I can quote in 2 or 3 versions all jumbled together. Just yesterday working on my article for Cross-Times I had to ask my dear man twice for a reference, or even just an idea where certain passages were located.
As I opened my Bible to Psalm 42 tears sprang to my eyes. The Psalm starts with As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. The very life of the deer depends on water. Without it they die.
A friend of mine frequently has deer in her yard, some are pesky and others are regal, the very epitome of grace. When they get thirsty, it matters not if they are pesky or regal; they pant in need of water.
My soul is to pant for God like that. I am to need and desire Him as much as I desire water. As I write this I have my 32ounce Starbucks water bottle beside me. I consume on average three of those a day. My body craves water; my soul is to crave God.
This morning verse 4 really stood out to me, These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God. My spiritual life has been on the dry side lately. I don't mean just the past few weeks; I am talking dry for over a year. I've questioned more in the past eighteen months than I have for a very long time.
I've not questioned God's existence. I've questioned my salvation. I know that I know I'm saved. I've questioned my fruit and my lack of visible (to me) fruit. I have questioned, Since I've read you need to bear fruit, you need to do xyz if you are a believer, and I don't. I must not be, right?
Praying has been hard, at times seemingly impossible. God has been a million miles away. I have told myself repeatedly, Well, guess who moved? I'll admit that hasn't helped. I've done all I can do to force myself to become the perfect Christian on my own. I've come up empty.
In the fall of 2005, I was involved in a Beth Moore Bible study. We were going through Believing God. To date that is my favorite one by Beth. I loved it and I grew more during that study then I have in a long time. I went with the multitude to the house of God. I was eager. I knew, I reveled in God's undeniable presence. He was real. I was real with Him and my life was good.
As the group was concluding the study, and I was leading the procession to God's throne, several very real, very terrible things were happening in my life and in my extended family.
I became very disillusioned. I knew God was still God. I banked on that. But He lost some of His real-ness to me. I did not and I do not blame God for any of it. I've tried to run to Him, tried to make sense of His silence in the midst of my tragedies.
I remember the sweet fellowship I had with God. I long for those times again.
Why so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed with in me? Have you been there? Have you been disturbed in your soul? Has your soul been downcast? Mine has.
What is the answer to our downcast soul? The verse goes on to say, Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. How do we do that? How do we put our hope in God? We remember Him. We choose to remember Him and His goodness to us.
The Psalmist goes on to say My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon--from Mount Mizar. One commentary I read said this could be rendered as "far from Jordan", meaning the psalmist is far from Israel, far from God. He is probably in exile. The synagogue was the center of Jewish life, without the synagogue, their relationship with God was severely handicapped. Add to that they did not have the Holy Spirit residing with in and God often seemed far off.
But let's bring this to modern day. Does it ever feel as if we are exiled from the presence of God? Do you ever feel "far from" God? Do you long for the time when you would lead the procession to God's very throne? I know I have.
I can't speak for you, but I know I have a habit of listening to the wrong voice. The psalmist says, I say to God my Rock, 'Why have You forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? My bones are in mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, 'Where is your God?’
I think the psalmist is talking about actual physical foes, quite possibly his own son who had driven him from the palace in Jerusalem. But he chose to listen to them more than he listened to truth about God. I'm guilty of that as well. Most of my foes are in my own mind. Those voices I listen to that says, "Where on earth is your God now? If He really cared He'd fix this. If He really loved you, He would not be silent."
When God seems far off, my body suffers. I can't say my bones are in mortal agony, at least not my physical bones. We do suffer when taunted by foes.
In putting our hope in God we are in essence saying, God, I can't find You. I know You are here with me. But You seem so far off. I feel far from You. But Lord, I am choosing to listen to Your voice, to truth from You. I place my hope in You. Lord, I'm choosing to praise You.
And then we put one spiritual foot in front of the other one and walk in faith. We walk knowing God is there, regardless of our feelings. We choose to feed our spirit, we feast on God. We still listen for His still small voice. We feed our spirit because we know feeding on Jesus merely whets our appetite for more of Him. We long to "hunger and thirst for righteousness", knowing we will be filled.
We take our downcast soul and put hope in God, and we praise Him. We realize without Him, we die spiritually just as the deer die without water. Our soul pants for God, for the living God. Jesus in essence becomes our water; the very thing needed to sustain life.
And we realize that our spiritual life is no longer dry. In fact it is lush with God's presence as we lead the procession to His throne in praise and thanksgiving, in hope.