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? Psalm 42:1-2 (NLT)
This is a beautiful beginning to Psalm 42 — wouldn’t you agree? If you’ve been in the church for any length of time you’ve probably heard these verses before. Maybe you’ve written them down somewhere in a journal, or committed the whole thing to memory. To me these verses describe the ideal Christian — someone who longs for God and pursues Him with everything they’ve got. Isn’t this the type of people we are called to be?
I was reminded of this verse last winter during a walk in the woods, when I came across a deer drinking from a brook. She looked towards me when she heard the crunch of my boots, but this didn’t startle her. She just lowered her head again and continued to drink the water. These verses came to my mind immediately. As the deer longs for streams of water…Not every moment feels sacred, but this one did. Yes! I thought, I am like this deer! Thirsting after God!
And yet the words just didn’t feel right. Even with the magic and wonder of the deer, the words felt empty. I’ve read this Psalm a few times since this day in the woods, but each time it doesn’t feel…honest. Which has troubled me — I am a woman who is trying to pursue God, shouldn’t I feel this longing? Shouldn’t I feel…thirsty?
There are times in my life when I have felt right in the middle of this longing, and these verses flowed from me as if they were my own. But right now? Right now I don’t feel very parched.
On his Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. – Luke 6:21 (NIV)
Again, this just doesn’t ring true for me. I want God to look at me and see the person with the hungry soul he was speaking about, but I think he sees someone a little too content most of the time. A few verses later Jesus says
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. – Luke 6:25 (NIV)
Woe to me? Those aren’t the words I’d like to hear from Jesus if he was speaking to me.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t have to end there. It would if I didn’t want anything to change, if I didn’t want God to do anything more in my life. But the good news is this — I can ask for a new hunger!
As pastor Brian Zahnd has said, “Jesus Christ always brings change…If Jesus comes into your life, he comes to change your life…Wherever Jesus goes he goes as an agent of radical transformation and change.”
I do not feel like the aching seeker in Psalm 42 — but I want to be her! What I am learning is that my apathy, my failures, and my weaknesses, can be my springboard to God. From these places of emptiness, I reach out to God.
An honest prayer for me right now might not start with As the deer longs for streams of water…but there are still lots of things I can say to God that will bring me closer to Him. And after all, that is what He wants from me most.
Lord, I am full of doubt…please give me more faith!
Lord, I am too satisfied…please give me a new hunger for you!
Lord, I am too content with the way the world is and the way I am…help me ache for your kingdom to come on earth and in me!