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Like an unexpected, fast moving storm cloud, threatening to rain down torrents of water and even hail, I was growing increasingly disturbed within my soul.

It was a sunny, warm summer’s day, with nary a cloud in the sky, a demand on my time, yet …

I kept asking of myself,

why am I downcast?

I could think of a conversation that didn’t quite go the way I had hoped. I could think of situations in my life that were not where I desire them to be. But …

why such
disturbance within me?

As I asked the questions over and over, I realized they were questions asked by the Psalmist.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?”

Psalm 42:11a

Psalm 42 is one of the laments of the Psalms. These laments give us permission (maybe even direction) to be downcast, disturbed within our souls. They remind us that the human condition is not all wine and roses.

This particular lament from the Psalms is an interesting one, indeed. A song sung by the Sons of Korah, the descendants of those who died when the earth opened up and swallowed them for their dissension against Moses and Aaron’s leadership (Numbers 26:8-11). These musicians … they personally understood lament … but they also personally knew of God’s offering of grace and mercy.

David knew of these as well. His life was a testimony to the grace and mercy of the God who looked on him as a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

This Psalm, starts out so very peaceful, delightful.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.”

Then the lamenting continues for much of the following eleven verses, interspersed with acknowledgements of examples of when Gods protection and presence were keenly felt and experienced. It is as though there is this zigzag of self talk, or, in my imagination the Psalmist is dealing with an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other, each fighting for the attention of downcast one.

Why am I downcast,
oh my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?

I found the answer to my question the day following that downcast day. The Wonderdog and I went for a walk around out neighborhood. I have been discovering new trails this summer that go throughout wooded areas, where we are shaded from the sun and where the walk is more quiet, more relaxing. It was more hot than I realized and we were both soon hot and dehydrated.

When we arrived home, I poured a glass of water for myself and replenished the water in the Wonderdog’s bowl. As it was filling I was pretty certain that his panting was making the entire room vibrate. He couldn’t wait to get to that bowl of refreshing water.

And that was when I realized that I had been reading the first verse wrongly.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.”

This isn’t a peaceful image at all. This is the image of a creature (the deer, ourselves) desperate for refreshment, panting, struggling for breath from being so parched. The creature does not stop until it finds the streams of water … the only thing that would bring true refreshment.

In the same way we are desperate for God, the only one who can truly, completely refresh us. We often know that we are parched, but we seek to refresh ourselves with anything but God. We go to entertainment, food, relaxation, activities, pampering, to friends or family or even to church thinking that if we are renewed physically, mentally, socially, or even theologically we will no longer thirst.

But there is only one who quenches this thirst in our souls, and it is the one who formed them. It is our souls cry for us to be satisfied in God alone.

We benefit from lamenting, but we also need to remember the grace and mercy of better days, when our panting was met with refreshment.

“A lot of times my tendency is to go into a depression looking into myself which only spirals me further down. The song is meant to preach to myself and call me to remember the times when I experienced the glory and goodness of God which can help bounce me out of that vicious cycle. It’s meant to get my eyes off of me and be satisfied in God alone.” Brian Eichelberger

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