As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1–2)The author of this guide asks if “feast or famine” describes my relationship with God. I think neither, since I’m not one to polarize how I do anything. However, this morning I feel famished.
Bad news last night added to the highs of Sunday and the fatigue of yesterday. Without sleeping well last night, I feel drained and empty. I come to God with statements similar to the psalmist, knowing that these thoughts are not uncommon for God’s people.
O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)
My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (Psalm 84:2)
I spread out my hands to You; my soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah. Answer me speedily, O Lord; my spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, lest I be like those who go down into the pit. (Psalm 143:6–7)Even in their emptiness, the psalmists know that God is alive. In their day, nations worshiped statues of wood or gold, but no matter how primitive or ornate, a statue is fashioned by the hands of the worshipers. God is our maker, not the other way around. Paul wrote of this to the church at Thessalonica, “. . . how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9)
Going back to Psalm 42, I see more of my own thoughts. Verse three says, “My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:3)
No one is mocking my faith, but as I examine my own feelings, these sorts of doubts creep in when bad news happens. They come from a false expectation that God is creating heaven on earth for me, and that nothing will ever go wrong. Putting that into actual words exposes how naive it is. I just taught a class about the will of God and suffering. I know that God not only allows it, but it can be a gift from Him that will help me grow.
Today I’m less concerned about the growth I might need and more concerned about others whose lives are falling apart. I don’t want God to use disasters in the lives of family or friends to produce growth in me. I want Him to be involved in their lives, helping them hunger and thirst for Him. I want Him to answer my prayers for them and see them turn from idols to serve Him.
Learning patience under trial is part of the Christian experience. Learning patience and maintaining hope when others are under trial is a more difficult lesson, at least for me. I want God to be merciful and fix the problems. He can change lives. Why does He not do it?
The positive side is that unlike the psalmist, I don’t have to wonder when I can come before God. Because of Jesus, He is always available. The Old Testament temple veil has been torn in two. The way is open. I can talk to Him anytime and about everything.
Seeing then that I have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, I need to hold fast my confession. For I do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with my weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as I am, yet without sin. I therefore can come boldly to the throne of grace, that I might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, my own need and the needs of others. (Hebrews 4:14–16, personalized)