In Psalm 42, the psalmist describes his yearning for God: “As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God” (Psalm 42:1 HCSB).
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?”
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. His memory of these festive times stands in stark contrast to his current situation, where he finds himself in an uproar and downcast.
Yet even in the midst of his present circumstances, the psalmist encourages himself to hope and trust in God, convinced that he will see the Lord’s salvation.
He then proceeds to describe how he feels washed over by his circumstances. He feels forgotten by God and oppressed by his enemies. Toward the end of the psalm, those around him still mockingly question him, “Where is your God?” His circumstances have not changed.
The striking feature of the psalmist in this psalm is that regardless of his situation he never loses sight of who God is—the One who commands His covenant loyalty—and because he knows who God is, he never despairs that God will eventually right his circumstances.
In other words, his situation never dictates 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? Do those around you scream, “Where is your God?” Don’t allow your situation to dictate what you know about God.
The God of the Bible is the true, living God. His ear is not deaf to our cries, nor is His arm short to save us in our time of trouble. Do we have the confidence to say like the psalmist, “Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God”?
Father, my soul thirsts for You as a thirsty deer longs for streams of water. Regardless of my circumstances, You are my rock and my salvation. Amen.