While on a winter walk in our suburban neighborhood, my wife and I halted when a deer leapt across our path and disappeared into the woods. Four more deer, in quick succession, followed after the first. These graceful creatures are resigned to a restless, exhausting life of running from the suburban sprawl shrinking their safe habitat.
The writer of Psalm 42 confesses that his spirit is like a deer–weary and panting from being chased and in search of a flowing stream of fresh water to quench its terrible thirst. We do not know what circumstances have left the Psalmist so depleted, but it is clear that he feels harassed, pursued, and anxious.
In his distress the Psalmist announces his longing for the Divine, the living presence of One who is water for a thirsty soul: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God (42:3a).”
Eugene Peterson, in a book titled Praying With the Psalms, reminds us that God “comes to us in the depths, sharing what is most eternal in Himself with what is most needful in us.” When life chases us to the point of exhaustion, body and soul, we offer ourselves over to a Divine Mercy.
In this Lenten season we need the twofold reminder of the Psalmist: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my help and my God (42:5, 11).”
Eugene Peterson voices a prayer we all could speak: “Eternal God, I thank you for getting underneath the surface clamor and frenzy of my life and creating a reality in me that is impervious to oppression, springing up in hope and praising your great name in Jesus Christ. Amen.”