“As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, ‘Where is your God?’ I remember this as I pour out my heart: how I walked with many, leading the festive procession to the house of God, with joyful and thankful shouts. Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:1-5 HCSB).
Do you ever find yourself longing for God? Do you ever feel so overwhelmed by your circumstances that you cry out to God in absolute desperation yearning for His help? Do you ever find yourself asking, “God, where are You?”
The writer of Psalm 42 felt that way. He found himself overwhelmed by his circumstances, downcast within his soul. He felt buried under the billows and waves. His memories of the past—when he experienced the joy of traveling to the house of the Lord on pilgrimage—didn’t soothe his torment; they actually added to it: “Why, my soul, are you downcast?” He longed for God, for His deliverance.
His circumstances, those around him, and even he himself questioned of God, “Why have You forgotten me?” It’s understandable when we find ourselves overcome with life and our circumstances to feel forgotten by God, to feel isolated and alone. The author’s strength, however, comes from his ability to affirm his hope in God within his circumstances: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”
He asks the question twice (verses 5 and 11), “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” The answer, in part, pertains to the very real and overwhelming circumstances in which he found himself. Yet, both times, he answers his question affirming his belief that God had not abandoned him.
By the end of the psalm, his circumstances have not changed and neither have his emotions; he closes the psalm asking why his soul is downcast. But, in spite of his circumstances and emotions, he confesses his confidence in God and that he will yet praise Him. This is not merely the power of positive thinking. His conviction emerges from a deep realization that, regardless of his situation and feelings, God had not abandoned him; God is still his hope.
Faith is not willing ourselves to believe. Faith doesn’t require a lot in moments of joy, fulfillment, and security. The test of our faith appears in those moments when, even after professing our belief in God, nothing changes. Maybe the depression even deepens.
Do we have the deep, penetrating conviction that God has not abandoned us regardless of how things seem? Can we remain convinced that He is our hope, even when we do not see or feel it? When we feel abandoned by God, do we still long for Him even as the parched deer longs for the cool streams of water?
Father, regardless of our circumstances or feelings, You are our hope and our God. Come to us in our desperation. Amen.