There are certain necessities in life that must be fulfilled for life, physically and spiritually, to continue: water, food, and love. So, it is fitting that when one of the three is missing that we will do anything to satisfy the longing, so that life can return to some semblance of normality. I once stole chicken gizzards from my next-door neighbor because I was so hungry that it felt like my stomach and back had touched, and I was too proud to just ask others for food.
In the psalm for this week, Psalm 42, the psalmist, one of the descendants of Korah, who were musicians and attendants in the Temple, described the need for God with an analogy of a deer who has a deep thirst. Psalm 42 is a great psalm to examine on this day of love, for it reminds us that love, like water, is a necessity for human beings to live truly healthy lives. It is a prayer and hymn to God for intervention, but it also is a vote of confidence as he reminds his soul to put its hope in God.
He understood, even as we must, that we have a quenchable thirst, because God offers us water that satisfies the deepest longing of the soul, which is the love of God and the chance for eternal life. Indeed, in John 4:13-14, Jesus offered to quench the thirst of a rejected and lonely Samaritan woman, saying, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.”
Each time I read Psalm 42, I am amazed at the intensity of the psalmist’s desire for God’s presence and love, especially in the time of trials and tribulations. That need has not changed across time, and everyone at some time or another find themselves thirsting for rescue and a sense of belonging, but not everyone turns to God to have that thirst quenched as only He can.
Psalm 42:1-3 As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?”
If you watch any of the science or nature shows on television, you will eventually see how the encroachment of human beings impacts the lives of animals who lose access to water and food supplies. The shows are quite graphic in exhibiting the harsh reality of impending death due to the lack of necessary water or food. A deer that can find no water, becomes desperate. The deer searches for streams or brooks with plentiful water, for seldom do you see one deer, but whole families or herds of deer, and each one needs their thirst satisfied.
So, it is for human beings! We do not all thirst in equal measure, mainly because of the differences in What we thirst for, when we last had our thirsts quenched, and the level of satisfaction that resulted from it. The psalmist had a problem so concerning that he knew that the only help for him was in God. So, he searched for God and His help. His desperation suggests that he had been waiting for an answer for a while, for he said that he cried day and night, but to no avail. Moreover, his enemies, who knew of his deep and abiding faith in God, taunted him by asking, “Where is this God of yours?”
Even today, people who have not experienced the loving touch of God in their lives look at Christians in disbelief as they pray for help, taunting them with words that question the ability of God to answer their prayers, but also words that indicate that depending on an invisible God means that you are either weak or crazy. They tell us that we can only trust in what we can see, so we must only depend on ourselves or other human beings, even though neither us nor other human beings have the power and faithfulness of God.
But, the psalmist knew from past experiences that it was only God who could quench the spiritual thirst of the human soul, just as the deer knows that their thirst can only be quenched at the streams and brooks around them, which is why both the psalmist and the deer search so diligently for that which they need so desperately. And so he cried out as another instance of trouble touched his life, praying for God to intervene and soon, so that his tormentors would leave him alone, but also, when God answered, they would come to recognize that no one could quench our spiritual thirst like the God of heaven.
Psalm 42:4-6-8 My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration! Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar. I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.
The psalmist seemed to have stopped worshiping at the Temple, for he said that he remembered how it used to be, which means something had changed in his life that had led to his being separated from the congregation and the presence of God. In the house of God, there had been singing and giving thanks, two actions that tend to lift our spirits and are at least two of the reasons we attend religious services still today. Why he no longer participated is not evident, but the consequences to his soul of not attending can be felt just in the reading of the psalm.
I would argue that the necessity of sharing in a community of believers is still very much needed today, although I respect people’s decisions on whether to attend or not to attend. I also know that many people have been hurt in church by idle gossip or the falseness of some Christians, but, for me, even a couple of weeks away from church leads to such loneliness and a feeling that my cup is quickly being depleted. I feel a need to be refreshed and have my spiritual stores replenished, especially if I am to continue bringing the Hope of glory to others.But, I know that we must do better in our churches, if we are to help the lost and hurting.
I agree with the writer of Hebrew 10: 23-25, “Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Certainly, the psalmist seemed to miss the interactions at the house of God, but, that does not stop him from knowing who is the Source of his hope.
This is the part that I love in this psalm, for the psalmist asked of himself, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” It is as though in the midst of his trials, he had a spiritual epiphany: In spite of my discouragement at how long the answer is taking, regardless of whether God seems slow in answering, and whether I attend church or not, I can still trust and hope in Him who is faithful and just to help. What a Hallelujah moment for him and for us!
In the midnight hour or the early hours of the morning, when the pain of our situations tends to hit us the hardest, often that is when we suddenly remember what God has done in the past and begin to understand that He has not forsaken or abandoned us. When I felt that I could no longer endure the craziness of being a Christian trying to date in a broken world, I found myself late one night stretched out on the floor with my hands reaching toward the hem of Jesus’s garment or His feet, praying for an answer.
I started to remember all of the times that He had come to my rescue, and I knew that He would answer again. I just needed to trust him as my Savior and my God. Like the psalmist, often when trials come, I find myself singing the old gospel songs of my youth, such as The Old Rugged Cross, I Come to the Garden Alone, What a Friend We have in Jesus, and my hope is renewed and my patience increases as I learn to wait on God to move in my life.
Psalm 42: 9-11 O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?” Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?” Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!
Like the psalmist, when troubles come our way, even the most seasoned Christian can find themselves questioning God on his timing and his ways of handling their problems. We are human, after all, and we live in a microwave world where we want things done and accomplished in the shortest time possible. Impatience seems to have increased as we have more technological gadgets that help solve problems in minutes that used to take hours or in days when it used to take months.
Certainly, every time I travel, I find myself marveling at the speed of travel today, saying, “Wow, in about 10 hours, I will be in another part of the world!” I think about either the impossibility of it happening or of how long it would have taken just 100 years ago, and I stand in awe of the technology. But, I, like the psalmist, never forget that the answer to my soul’s thirst is God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I remind my soul that all will be well, for my Redeemer lives!
But, when it comes to troubles, regardless of others who may be trying to tell me about putting my trust in other people or in things, I find myself today not so much worrying about how long it takes God to answer, but just the assurance that He will. I say to God, “I don’t know how you’re going to do it. I don’t know when you are going to do it. But I know that you will answer, according to your time and your will.” It is this certainty that causes me, similar to the psalmist today, to continually praise and thank Abba, Father, for His unfailing love and faithfulness.
This psalm is a reminder on this day of love that God loves us with an unfailing love, and that nothing can separate us from His love. But, it is also demonstrates that, while human love is great and the capacity to love and be loved are some of the greatest gifts God bestowed on human beings, it is the love that God offers that will quench our thirst. In Revelation 7:16-17, there is a promise that confirms our quenchable thirst. It states, “They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Hallelujah!
Whatever you are thirsting for today, know that many of our problems and worries stem from the desire of our souls to meet and know the God who created us to love and worship Him and to be in fellowship with him. We need to know Him and, through the Holy Spirit, have Him with us and in us. As the psalmist discovered, it is the only way to truly quench our thirsts.
Dear Father in Heaven, Abba, the Great I AM,
On this day of love, I thank you for loving us so much that You sent Jesus into the world to pay the ransom price for the forgiveness of our sins, giving us a chance for eternal life and to never thirst again. This can be a hard day for those who have no romantic ties, for we live in a culture that often determines our value and worth, Lord, especially us women, according to whether we have a man in our lives and whether on this day we receive gifts and chocolates. The bigger the diamond or the bigger the box of chocolate, the greater the value of the recipient, according to the world. But, I know better! It is Your love we need, and if we teach children early in their lives to seek You and Your unfailing love, then these man-made holidays will not find us thirsting for other human beings, but for You. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.