In Psalm 42, the Psalmist has his priorities in the right place. God is his first thing. The psalmist needs. He yearns. He pants for God as a deer pants for streams of water. Our soul is the deepest part of who we are. It is from this place that the psalmist calls out to God. We are not told the psalmist's circumstances or why he no longer feels God's presence except that he is in a hard place. He says, "My tears have been my food day and night." (42:3) People are even asking him where his God is. He feels like God has forgotten him. Most people might say he is depressed.
What does the Psalmist do? Does he ask for God to change his circumstances? Or maybe he decides who cares, I will just do what I want to do? He doesn't do any of those things. Instead the Psalmist gives us three good examples of how to respond when God feels far away.
1. He remembered. The Psalmist remembered what God had done in the past. He remembered going with others to worship God in the temple. When God seems far away, I need to remember God's faithfulness and provision. When I am longing for God's presence, I can remember the times when his presence was what kept me going through the joy or the pain. Remembering God is a powerful thing. It is when I forget that I start to falter and sink into discouragement.
2. He set his mind on God. The psalmist says in verse 5 and then again in verse 11.
"Why are you downcast O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise, my Savior and my God."The psalmist basically gave himself a pep talk. Sometimes putting our hope in God is a conscious choice. In Colossians 3, Paul urged believers to set their hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. It is not always easy, but it does make a big difference in our outlook on life and towards God.
3. He prayed. In verse 4, he poured out his soul to God reminding him of the times of worship in the past. In verse 9, he asked God why God had forgotten him. He knew that God would hear and answer.
There are two things I really like about this Psalm. The first is that the Psalmist longs for God and God's presence. His priority is a relationship with God. He is not just needing God to get him out of a tough situation or rescue him. He longs, yearns, and pants for God. When was the last time, I wanted God that desperately. It is so easy to take God for granted. The second thing is that he didn't let his feelings dictate his actions. As believers, God is always with us whether we feel it or not. The Psalmist choose to remember, hope, praise and pray even when God seemed far away. It is so easy to wallow in self pity or lash out. He did none of those things. May I learn from his example.
Dear God, Thank you that you hear us when we call. May we seek you today as this Psalmist did knowing it is you and you alone that brings life. May our souls always hope and praise in the good times and bad. Be with us today. Amen