By David Faust
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1). Picture a thirsty deer—exhausted, parched, huffing and puffing, literally dying for water. Does that describe the way you pant for God?
Have you ever gone through a spiritual dry spell when you feel restless and dissatisfied? You are not merely thirsting for money, sex, entertainment, or companionship. You are longing for God. Even those who love God deeply go through spiritual droughts now and then.
SIGNS OF A THIRSTY SOUL
In dry times, others provide little help. Friends are too busy with their own problems to reach out, and mockers ask, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:3).
During a spiritual drought, you may lose the joy of worship. The psalmist “used to go to the house of God . . . with shouts of joy and praise” (v. 4). In the past you urged your family and friends, “Come on, let’s go to church.” But in dry times your enthusiasm wanes, and worship seems stale and lifeless.
In such times, God seems distant. The psalmist asks God, “Why have you forgotten me?” (v. 9).
What will be your survival strategy when you face a spiritual drought? How can you hydrate a dried-up soul? Psalm 42 offers help.
1. Be self-aware. When you are dry, ask why! The psalm writer conducts a spiritual interrogation, putting his soul under a spotlight and asking, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” (v. 5). It’s good to ask, What’s going on in my soul? Is a particular habit, sin, or discouragement dragging me down?
2. Choose to be faithful while your emotions catch up. C. S. Lewis said faith is “the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” The psalmist tells himself, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (v. 5). Tenacious faith insists, “I’m down, but I’m not done. I’m struggling, but I’ll keep serving. I’m famished, but I’m not finished. I’m tired, but I won’t quit. I will yet praise him!” When dry times come, don’t cheat on your spouse, blow up at your boss, give up on God, or walk out on your church. Decide to be faithful.
3. Enroll in God’s school of hard knocks. “Deep calls to deep” (v. 7). Something deep within God calls to something deep within us. We learn shallow lessons in easy times, deeper lessons in hard times. In God’s curriculum, hardship is a required course. In God’s classroom, some lessons must be learned the hard way. Winston Churchill said, “Mountaintops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them.”
You will be a better lifeguard if you know how it feels to be swamped by waves.
Psalm 42:7 compares a believer’s troubles to waterfalls, waves, and breakers. Hardships often come in waves, one after another—like a waterfall pouring down. At the beginning of Psalm 42, the psalmist says he’s thirsty. God answers with so much water it’s hard to take it all in.
Psalm 42 ends by repeating the self-talk found in verse 5: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (v. 11). Dry times will come on this side of Heaven, but the Lord extends a gracious invitation: “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17).
Personal Challenge: Talk with a trusted friend or a Christian counselor about the current status of your soul, using questions like these: What is the level of my spiritual thirst? What is my attitude about the Lord and his church? Am I physically exhausted and need some rest? Have I been too busy and need a break? Have I been too isolated and need to spend time with others who will build me up? Where can I find resources to refresh my soul?