As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?
Day and night I have only tears for food,
while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
“Where is this God of yours?”
My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Saviour (NLT)
We so often turn to the Psalms in times of trouble or confusion. Not because the Psalmist offers snappy solutions to our situation, though he does offer helpful and reassuring perspective. Rather, we embrace these ancient songs and prayers because they are ruthlessly honest.
In this Psalm, the writer admits his longings for God are not yet fulfilled. His troubles are such that his faith is fragile. Others mock his faith: it doesn’t seem to be doing him any good. His memories of better days haunt him. He doesn’t try to cover all this up with pious platitudes. He is sad and discouraged and not afraid to admit it.
So we can face whatever uncertainties confront us. We can call distress for what it is. We can admit we have experienced better days. We can admit that prayer and faith and all the usual routines do not always provide instant relief.
But we need to do such things in the context of faith itself. The Psalmist enters into his unsettled longings with tears. But he doesn’t stay there. These are not the bottom line; these are not ultimate bedrock reality. He will yet have confidence in his God despite his present feelings and present circumstances.
As one saying has it, faith is not shelter against difficulties but belief in the face of all contradictions.