I recall a time when I was so close to God—when I was in the pit of despair and in relative hopelessness, ironically, at the pinnacle of my seeking—he indeed blessed me with his abundant Presence. It seems today I’m in “maintenance mode” and the steep journey with the Spirit has levelled out and at times feels to be on autopilot. The growth continues, but in tiny increments.
I can’t apologise to my non-Christian friends for being so “into” God. They just have to accept me, unfortunately. The very fact that I will still often be desperate for him, or feel lost without him, is testimony to what everyone feels—yet others will go to a vice; perhaps a drink, a cigarette or drug, a food, or some other material distraction to ameliorate the boredom, frustration, rejection and other pains of life. I remember that life.
And this is the essence of Psalm 42. As a deer pants for water, the believer’s soul searches for God in the midst of traumatic, hellish life. The psalmist is far from the temple, and as such, in calling back to the ancient Near East tradition, he is far from God’s Presence; or so it seems.
God appears far off sometimes, like we’ve been left desolate of soul. We’re overwhelmed in life and in anguish within. “Deep calls to deep,” (v. 7) but there’s no reconciliation, no way through that seems evenly remotely amenable. Memories of “the way” appear so distant and now so impossible to reach.
The psalm has the flavour of oppression about it. There’s no shortage of foes about; even our minds invent them—or at least accentuate them. We look for evidence and surely we find it. The mind twists our perception.
There is one person for this psalm and one psalm for this person. For the person who’s outrageously beaten-down and irrefutably crushed, the Lord God comes through with sweet words of encouragement that others indeed have felt this way—and indeed, others will in future. Somehow, in the pit, we find solace through this sort of psalm.
What a wonderful God we have that he sees to it that gross injustice and hemming-in tumults are dealt with honestly and forlornly. We have a real God, who’s engaged in this world of pain infinitely more than we’ll ever care to realise.
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.