As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Have you ever been thirsty? I mean really thirsty. I’m not thinking about ordinary thirst, the kind you can quench with a quick drink of water. Rather, I have in mind an aching, desperate thirst. Have you experienced anything like this?
When our thirst for God is extreme, we find encouragement in the promise of Jesus to give us living water, water that quenches our deep need for God.
The greatest physical thirst I’ve ever known happened several years ago. I was on a hike in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California. A few friends and I took off in the early morning. Our goal was a verdant spot a few miles from the trailhead. When we got there, we spotted a peak that seemed to be just a couple of miles further, so we headed for it. By the time we conquered the peak, we had covered ten miles and had used up almost all of our water. Our return trip by a more direct route was mercifully downhill, but there was not even a tiny spring to slake our nagging thirst. The day was hot and there was no shade to protect us from the sun’s debilitating rays. I spent three hours trudging along the trail, longing for water, thinking of nothing else besides how my body craved fluid and how wonderful it would feel finally to get a drink. (Hiking so far on a hot day without water was not only uncomfortable, but also even dangerous, given the risk of dehydration. I have not repeated this behavior, let me tell you.)
Finally, my friends and I got to our cars and drove to a nearby market. I can still remember how it felt to take that first swig of cool, fresh water. It was heavenly!
Psalm 42 begins with an image that portrays our need for God as desperate thirst. It pictures a deer in dry country, longing for “streams of water” (v. 1). The rest of the psalm explains the cause of the psalmist’s yearning. As he suffers, his enemies taunt and oppress him. When he wonders if God has forgotten him, his opponents scoff, “Where is your God?” (v. 10). Thus the psalmist’s thirst for God comes both from his own pain and from a nagging fear that God isn’t there for him.
We all go through times like those described in Psalm 42, when life is excruciating and God feels terribly distant. I’m grateful for this psalm because, among other things, it reassures me that I am not alone in my thirst for God.
When our thirst for God is extreme, we find encouragement in the promise of Jesus to give us living water, water that quenches our deep need for God: “Everyone who drinks this [actual] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When have you had a powerful thirst for God?
When you yearn for God’s presence in your life, what do you do?
How have you tasted the living water of Jesus?
Gracious God, there are times when I feel just like the deer in Psalm 42, desperately thirsty for you. In these times, it can seem as if you have forgotten me. So, I thank you for the encouragement of this psalm. It helps to know that I am not alone when my thirst for you is overwhelming and I worry if you’re even there to quench it.
Thank you, dear Lord, for the precious gift of your living water. Help me to drink deeply from this spring each day, so that I might live in the reality of your presence each day. Amen.