As a grieving, lonely, frustrated, thirsty deer gasps for water . . .

I grew up singing the over-used song “As the Deer” with the image of a happy little deer in the forest trotting along toward a stream, panting a little (whatever that looks like with a deer by the way), and then bending over for a slurp out of the rushing waters. But my pastoral picture of tranquility falls far short of the picture painted in Psalm 42.

Verse 1 starts out with our friendly little deer who is quite thirsty:
“As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.”

But then of course this is not about deer, it’s about a person who is thirsty for God. And the problem confronted in the verse is that he/she cannot find God at the present moment. No water for the deer, no God for the spiritually thirsty.

And things quickly get worse with faint glimmers of hope:

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

4 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,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and 6 my God.
My [c] soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

8 By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”

10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

The chapter that began with our panting little deer ends with a panting little deer who knows that water is near but has still not been refreshed. There is a longing for God and a downcast spirit, but the writer has now moved toward hope by drawing on his memories of God’s faithfulness and the character of God.

May we always thirst for more of God.