Originally, I wrote this post for my personal blog, but for some reason, it seemed to “fit” on Backseat Writer. It may still show up over on my personal soapbox; we shall see.
By Amy Sondova I was going to read Psalm 46, my steadfast passage where I turn where I don’t know where else to go. But the pages in my Bible stuck together so I ended up on Psalm 42 (read here), which starts out, “As the deer pants for the water…” If you’ve ever been to youth group, Bible camp, or a exceptionally touching bonfire, you’ve heard the song. It’s such a happy little tune, you know? You can even sing it as a round.
Yet Psalm 42 is far from a cheery church song; it’s a passionate plea for help. It starts out pleasant enough stating, “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You.” That is, until you realize animals pant when they’re REALLY thirsty. Have you ever seen a goat or cow or horse pant? Dogs pant all the time; they look happy, but other animals tend to pant when they’re VERY thirsty.
The soul in this passage is practically dehydrated for God.
Reading down to verse 3 it’s easy to understand why the psalmist’s soul was so parched. It reads, “My tears have been my food day and night…” There were several dark times in my life where I was in this place. I would cry myself to sleep, wake up with swollen eyes and cry again, and then I’d hobble through the day trying to make sense of my life between tears. If you’ve been there, you know how absolutely exhausting this type of extreme mourning can be–and how you may only stop crying because you have no more liquid left in your tear ducts.
The verse then continues, “…while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?'” As if things weren’t bad enough, now you’ve got “the liars” questioning your very real emotions because obviously those who trust God don’t have problems or feelings or anything, right? (The term “the liars” comes from Amy Courts’ song “The Liars,” which you can listen to on her MySpace page. Part of the song goes, “But now the liars say that you’ve deceived me/ And I can’t hear your voice above the crowd/ So can you speak a little louder”).
The passage seems to hit a crisis of belief on verse 5 which starts out with writer addressing his own soul, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” I can’t even begin to tell you how many of my prayers to God are just questions. And then the writer shifts focus with this line, “Put your hope in God…” It seems like he (it’s probably a “he”, sorry girls!) is actually telling himself to put his hope in God, like positive self talk.
Then the psalmist finishes the statement with this assertion, “…for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Let’s recap and put this all together. The psalmist soul is dehydrated for God and he is crying day and night (literally and/or figuratively). While he’s in his state of misery, he is mocked (much like Job was mocked by his wife) by “the liars”. Where is your God now? Where indeed? It seems like the writer asks himself that very question and then says, “But, wait, why am I so depressed? I’ve no idea, but YET I will trust God. I will believe in Him no matter what the liars say or how things appear to be.” The rest of the psalm repeats this pattern, but the writer also reminds himself that God has always been faithful to Him.
The most powerful word in this whole passage to me is small and seems almost insignificant. In fact, it’s so short it only has three letters. The word is “yet”. This psalm doesn’t deny that human tragedies, depression, emotions, and horrible experiences or times when faith cannot be found, when God seems distant, and we just want to give up. Instead of denying emotion and feeling, this psalm embraces it and then flips it on its head with a simple “yet”.
Yes, this sucks, yet I will trust God.
It’s in the “yet’s” of life where we truly find the stuff of faith. We hold on to what seems foolish to a dying world, gasping for air, as the liars look on and laugh, “Where is your God now?” Yet we believe, even as we struggle with doubt. Yet we believe.