Psalm 42

I seem to be on a watery theme this week, and today it is in the psalm, and not now the water for plants to take up and grow, or that of a flood that brings danger, or a channeled stream that cleanses, the morning psalm (or at least one of them - Psalm 42) opens with desire expressed as the thirst of a deer: “Like the deer that years for longing streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.”

This is a psalm which expresses feelings of exile, and engages us with the desire to be where we should be; where tears are gone and feelings of separation and dislocation are changed to the sound of rejoicing and thanksgiving.  This is indeed a powerful psalm; one that breaks into the heart of the one who is crying in anguish, and with it asking the question of which the answer is abundantly obvious, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?”

The writer feels mocked and taunted.  His way back to some semblance of sense; some balance of emotional stability, is found by using his memory.  This forms a bridge for him to travel over, but then to return.  His recall of things out of exile is not driving him deeper into despair, it is bringing to mind just how much God is central to his life; how much the reality of God’s presence is in every aspect of his being.  As he thinks and thinks of how things have been, he comes to see the divine presence even in the situation that he does not like, but is now better equipped in which to live.

This beautiful psalm has a lesson for those brought low for any reason, but may suit the mood that could well be catching at the moment.  A need that suggests that the current crisis can only go on and on.  It may change a bit, but the place that has been emotionally and spiritually found is one of inescapable exile.   I can understand that feeling.  There may be minor ups and downs, but the basic situation is of a cast-down spirit.  This psalm is the tonic for you if you are veering down that particular rabbit-hole, because this writer has been there before you.  It is not a psalm reflecting someone snapping out of a depressed state, it is the record of someone on a journey from sadness to hope, and reaching for the path as a thirsty deer glimpses the running waters of a stream.  So may the journey begin today; may we walk it prayerfully together; may we know the refreshing stream to which we travel; and may we find the place of the living God, where he still is, in the depth of our hearts.


John Mann