I remember the first time I heard Psalm 42. I was a young adult trying to understand God’s calling on my life and was in a class at a Bible Institute. I had grown up in church and participated in Bible drills, scripture memorization, and Bible reading programs. So, I had heard Psalm 42 read before, I’m sure, but until my first day in that class, I hadn’t truly heard it.
On that day, the professor asked everyone to close their eyes and listen. When she began reading Psalm 42, for the first time I heard the words of the psalm. I imagined the psalmist and felt his thirst for God, and at the same time, I recognized my own feelings, realizing that I felt beaten by the waves of life.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:1-3)
Then I was reminded that God understands, hears, and accompanies me through the journey.
By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)
Finally, the psalmist portrayed the mixture of emotions that come with illness, grief, pain, and suffering, and I sensed permission to feel all that comes with these life circumstances.
I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:9-11)
As I heard this beautiful psalm for the first time, I knew that it described how I was feeling, and I began to cry.
I had recently experienced significant loss and was struggling with the process of grief work. Like the psalmist, I also felt like God had forgotten me. I, too, asked myself, “Why are you sad? Just trust God.” I saw my own experience reflected in Psalm 42, and I felt normal. Someone else had felt as I did! I prayed Psalm 42, read it, and used it to deal with my grief.
Ever present God, you promise to be always with us. Show us your presence in personal and clear ways. Lead us to love you and trust you as the psalmist did and to recall our experiences with you and remember that you journey with us. Amen.