Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your troubles? Wave after wave of distress washes over you. You pull yourself up to shout for help and another wave knocks you flat. You start to wonder: where is God now, in this situation?” “Why doesn’t he help? Is he really there?” You fight the suggestion that he doesn’t exist – then you cry out to God: “Where are you? Do something! Help me, so that I know you’re there.”
The person who wrote Psalm 42-43 must have felt like that. He needs God like a deer longs for water, and he can’t find Him. He cries constantly, he hasn’t even stopped to eat, he’s so anxious. And his enemies keep taunting, “Where is your God?”
Psalms 42 and 43 may once have been a single Psalm, bound as they are by a common refrain. Take a moment to slowly read Psalm 42-43 in your Bible or at this link.
The psalmist is in desperate need, and his response gives us a model to follow when we’re in the same situation:
1. The Psalmist remembers.
He thinks back to a time when he knew exactly where God was: in this case, the time he led a procession up to the Temple during one of the festivals and they sang and shouted their thanks to God. He’s like a man crawling through the desert, parched with thirst, thinking “oh, I remember putting my face in that cool water and drinking, back at that oasis.”
2. That memory strengthens him.
There is water! I just have to find it. God has met me in the past; and–
3. Based on the past, he has hope that God will save him.
He will see God again, will be in his presence and praise him.
4. This hope allows him to look in a new way at his difficulties.
Even as the waterfalls and waves of water tumble down from Mt. Hermon, down the Jordan valley toward Jerusalem, the waves of trouble surrounding him are God’s waves, washing him toward Himself.
Read Psalm 42 and 43 again, and feel the rhythm of emotion. Read it and you will be caught up in the cycle of one who is knocked down repeatedly by waves of trouble, but who gets up again and again to turn toward God. Remember how He has been with you in the past. Then enter his presence. Seek him out – in the Word, before the Blessed Sacrament. Cry out to him, through this pair of psalms. Notice how God’s steadfast love and song uphold the psalmist day and night and in spite of continued trouble, so he is able to say over and over, Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my savior and my God. Make this your cry.
This pair of psalms feels just the way our struggles do often, when it’s all we can do to keep our heads above water, coming up for air and crying out to God for help. Because it’s not specific, we can easily take it up as our own. And as we read it from the heart, it takes us through the steps we need to go through if we are to take our attention and desire off the things we normally would rely on for strength and direct them toward God and the hope and help that only He provides.
©2015 Sarah Christmyer. All rights reserved.
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This is part of a series of posts on Thirsting for God and how the Psalms teach us to reach out in thirst to the One who can satisfy.
For the first post: Thirsting for God
For the next post: Acquiring Desire for God
You might also like this post, on a similar topic: When the Waves Come, Stay in the Boat