“the next best thing to living in the light of the Lord’s love is to be unhappy til we have it, and to pant hourly after it…when it is as natural for us to long for God as for an animal to thirst, it is well with our souls, however painful our feelings” – Spurgeon
Psalm 42 is one of the most beautiful pieces of worshipful literature that I have encountered in the Bible. In this psalm we see a believer who is so troubled, so despondent, and yet so confidently hopeful. We see a faith that is deeply rooted in the hope of God, even amidst doubt, fear, and sorrow. David provides a beautiful example of what it looks like to hope in God even in the darkest of nights. His fears and sorrows are legitimate and crushing, but His faith in God never wavers. Over and over he voices the fears and doubts that plague him from without and from within, but over and over he reminds himself (and us) of the steadfastness of the hope of God. In the midst of his throws of sorrow and depression, his soul craves the one thing that he knows will strengthen him. He longs for the presence of God.
Reading this psalm over the last week has deeply convicted me. Do I long for the Lord in this way? Do I crave His presence? When the world is crashing down around me and I feel the weight of my brokenness, does my soul naturally crave His presence? Verse 1 of Psalm 42 compares David’s longing for God to a deer panting for flowing streams of water. There is a desperation here in his voice, a longing for the one thing that will renew him. Oh, may the presence of the Lord be sustenance to me in the same way that water is sustenance to a deer!
One of the most beautiful things I see in this psalm is how real the psalmist is with God. He voices doubts and fears to the Lord, all the while beseeching his heart to hope in the Lord. Sometimes I fear that my doubt and grief might distance me from the Lord. I’m afraid that the Lord will be disappointed with me because of my wavering or my despondency. But the beautiful thing is that fear is not contrary to faith and lament is not contrary to praise. Praise does not have to be glad and joyful – worship can be sorrowful and desperate and beseeching and still be beautiful worship to the Lord. David here is worshipping the Lord by clinging to Him with everything He has. He is still in the depths of the valley when he begs his soul to “hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.”
Hope in God. David proclaims what I would do well to remember – that even if everything around me gives way, even if evil and darkness rule my life, there is still hope because God is unchangeable and steady and unshakeable, “His grace is the ground for unshaken hope” (Spurgeon). Even if you are in a place where you don’t feel God’s love, it does not mean that He is not present. Even if the darkness does not lift, “the darkness is not dark to him” (Psalm 139:12) and there is still hope.
Oh, believer, know that in the darkness God is with you and that he wants to hear you reach out to Him. You can have confidence that both your sighs and your songs have access to God and both are a fragrant offering to Him. He never wearies of hearing your laments. We have the freedom to question the evil and trouble in the world, but we cannot let go of our hold on the Lord. We can ask “why?” but the answer is not always for us to know. God is our rock and must continue to be our rock even when things seem to give way and we don’t have an answer. If our anchor holds in the truth that God is loving and faithful and sovereign and good, then we can endure all things. We can know that God is in control and He works all things for good. Have confidence that you are securely held by and cared for by God.
Also this song is a beautiful reworking of Psalm 42 put to music. You should listen to it.