In Psalm 42, the psalmist describes his yearning for God: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (v. 1). He imagines a deer thirsty from the heat seeking out the refreshing water of the stream, and he says that he thirsts after God in the same manner. What brought about this yearning in his heart?
We realize upon reading the psalm that the psalmist is not in a great place in his life; in fact, he is being led off into captivity. He comments that his tears have been his sustenance night and day. Those around him look at his circumstances and question, “Where is your God?” (v. 3). In the midst of his present circumstances, he recalls those times of great joy and celebration as he joined the festive crowds traveling to Jerusalem and the Temple (v. 4). His memory of these festive times stands in stark contrast to his current situation where he finds himself in an uproar and downcast. Yet, in the midst of his circumstances he encourages himself to hope in God convinced that he will see the Lord’s salvation (v. 5).
He then proceeds to describe how he feels washed over by his circumstances (v. 7). He feels forgotten by God and oppressed by his enemies (v. 9). Towards the end of the psalm, those around him still mockingly question him, “Where if your God?” (v. 10). His circumstances have not changed.
The striking feature of the psalmist in this psalm is that regardless of his circumstances he never loses sight of who God is—the One who commands His covenant loyalty towards the psalmist, the living God (v. 2), the God of my life (v. 8)—and because he knows who God is, he never despairs that God will eventually right his circumstances (v. 11). In other words, his circumstances never dictate his reality or perception of God. He recognizes that God answers those who cry out to Him. He responds to those who long for him as the thirsty deer does the streams of water.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your circumstances? Have you ever felt forgotten by God? Does life and even those around you scream, “Where is your God?” Don’t allow your circumstances to dictate what you know about God. The God of the Bible is the living God. His ear is not deaf to our cries, nor is his arm short to save us. Do we have the confidence to say like the psalmist, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God” (v. 11)?
Father, my soul thirsts for You as a thirsty deer longs for water. Regardless of my circumstances, You are my rock and my salvation. Amen.