Desperate for God

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In Selah this Winter/Spring, we did a Bible study called Honest to God: Learning from the Psalms. The Psalms are my FAVORITE. I love the examples of prayer and praise, and seeing all  the different ways the Psalms express the heart of God’s people. 

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. 

You’re probably familiar with the opening of Psalm 42: It covers the walls of Christian bookstores, often printed on a peaceful picture of a sweet fawn tenderly approaching a quiet stream. Lovely.

But that’s not the picture the psalm is painting. Psalm 42 opens with desperation. Joel 1:20 uses the same word, “pant” describing animals when the brooks are dried up and the pastures devoured by fire.

Perhaps a better translation: “As a hunted deer, dying of thirst, pants for water, so my soul longs for You, O God.” But no one wants a picture of a dying deer hanging on their wall.

What is the deer dying for? What does the Psalmist want?

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

I am convinced that the Psalmist is not thirsting to know about God. The word for “living” is a nature word, living or alive in the sense that vegetation is green, water is fresh and flowing, humans are lively and active, springtime is reviving.

The psalmist is thirsty for life. He’s running to God, naming God as the source of life and liveliness.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. (Psalm 42:1-4)

Do you relate? Are you thirsty for God, perhaps even remembering a time when you praised Him and were more sure of His help?

What is a woman to do when she feels hunted, knowing God is her only hope and thirsting desperately for what God has promised?

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. (Psalm 42:5)

 Whether we like to talk about them or not, we all have negative emotions. Sorrow, grief, disappointment, confusion, anger: At ourselves, at each other, at our circumstances, at God.

And we have a choice: We can ignore these negative emotions. We can bully and bury them with truth. We can eat them to death, drug them, numb them, run far far away from them. We can be so busy we never have to face them. We can settle for living with them, assume these negative emotions are all we have, always. We can complain about the reasons for them.

Or we can let them drive us, desperate, to God.

The root sin of humanity is the desire to be God, to live independently from God. What if the hardships that come from living in this fallen world can help save us from that independence? What if we let those things drive us, desperate, to God?

This is the great lesson of the lament Psalms–honest, specific, even poetic descriptions of the hardships of life on this earth.


What would it look like for you to allow more room for negative emotions, in yourself and others?

What would it look like to bring your hard things to God, and wait in that tension, the difference between what God says is true of and for us (we are chosen, dearly loved, valued, cherished) and our circumstances (feeling so far from chosen, loved, and valued)?

This world is a hurting, broken place. Things are not as they should be, in the world or in the church among God’s people. Things are not as they should be in our own homes and families.

Whether we realize it or not, we are desperately in need of God–the living God.

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 42:11)

*Renee’s post is the first in a short series of blogs that will transition us through these last few weeks of spring into our summer study. Check back here each week to hear how the past year’s classes impacted others in our Equip Her family or sign up on the CONTACT page to have new blog posts delivered to your email weekly.

3 Replies to “Desperate for God”

  1. I have been studying prayer and meeting each week with my encouraged partners.They encourage me and believe in the power of prayer.So excited to hear about prayer from Renee.I am sure it will be a blessing.

  2. Renee, I agree with your question, we need to think about “What would it look like for you to allow more room for negative emotions, in ourselves and others? We need to be real, not wear masks, give comfort and speak the truth in love when needed.
    Thanks for your wisdom and sharing it so well!

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