Panting through the Pandemic
A popular worship song by Maranatha proclaims, “As the deer panteth for the water / So my soul longeth after Thee. / You alone are my heart’s desire / And I long to worship Thee”
The words are those of the sons of Korah, taken from the first verse or two of Psalm 42, “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?” (Ps. 42:1-2)
The song is a lovely expression of the heart’s longing to reach out to God, an acknowledgment of the pliants need for Him, of one’s reliance and dependence upon Him for life and spiritual sustenance. But it does not grow out of a sense of joyous nearness to Him: in fact, it grows from quite the opposite. It grows from the psalmist’s experience of great absence of His Presence, his experience of a great depression in his soul.
“My tears have been my food day and night,” he laments. “I remember…how I used to go to the house of God… with shouts of joy and praise.” But now his acquaintances mock him. “Where is your God?” they scoff.
This son of Korah is bewildered, downcast and very depressed! “Why, my soul, are you downcast? / Why so disturbed within me? He says to himself “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him.” He likens the depth of his soul’s longing to waves and breakers bursting and calling out to what he knows of the ocean depth of God’s goodness and love. He cries out “Why have you forgotten me? / Why must I go about mourning…” and he questions his soul once again “Why, my soul, are you downcast? / Why so disturbed within me?” He reiterates his former self plea, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Animals both wild and domestic do not need lessons in panting. Thirst immediately prompts the quest for water. Finding it, they instinctively know what to do. This psalm ends with the author still panting… still desperate. He writes another… and concludes it with the very same plea,
“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.” (Ps. 43:5).
Perhaps you are feeling somewhat like him. Four times now we have hoped this pandemic was ending, yet four times this hope turned again to despair… bewilderment… depression. Let me encourage you to persist… to speak challenge to both your weary soul and the souls of others and affirm “I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Believers are in this world Christ’s Ambassadors… light and salt… bearers of hope to a hope-less humanity. Even now you know for Whom you pant. Many others do not. “Come now… rise… let us be going…” (c.f. John 14:31).