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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Today’s Reading | Psalm 42

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
     so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
     for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
     the face of God?
My tears have been my food
     day and night,
while people say to me continually,
     “Where is your God?”

These things I remember,
     as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
     and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
     a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
     and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
     my help and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
     therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
     from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
     at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
     have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
     and at night his song is with me,
     a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock,
     “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
     because the enemy oppresses me?”
As with a deadly wound in my body,
     my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
     “Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
     and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
     my help and my God. (NRSV)


When you think of the past, do you imagine that life was less stressful compared to taxing situations that you’re facing—or we’re facing as a community—today? While this may seem to be so, today’s text—an ancient lament—expresses a deep and common distress over the human condition that ties us, as people of God, to those who have come before us. The similarities are undeniable: we still face unknown enemies, oppression, and feelings of being overwhelmed. And sometimes these feelings cause me to feel angry at God.

Psalm 42 gives us a refreshing example of how to mitigate anger and frustration and develop the kind of authentic, argumentative relationship with God that I find so enviable in the Hebrew Bible. Notice that every complaint registered by the psalmist is followed by an upward glance—expressing hope in God’s compassion and willingness to step in and change the situation. When the psalmist asks, “Why are you cast down my soul?” he answers, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him.”

Bernhard Anderson, writing in Out of the Depths, encourages us to read the lament psalms as “expressions of praise, offered in a minor key in the confidence that Yhwh is faithful, and in anticipation of a new lease on life.” In the ancient world, people were subject to the forces of the universe; we too face unpredictable storms, destructive winds, and raging waters. In the midst of both physical and psychological turmoil, we too “thirst for God.” Psalm 42 suggests a way to engage with “the living God.” It challenges us to be up to the life to which God call us—to face our enemies, our fears, our frustrations—while “praising my help and my God.”


My soul longs for you, God. Bless me with your steadfast love. Let your song be with me day and night as I call upon your name. Quench my thirst for you by renewing and strengthening my relationship with you so that I might praise you in the face of adversaries and adversity. Amen.

Written by Beth Truett, member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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