Psalm 42:1 As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.

Psalm 42 tells the story of someone who is going through a hard and painful time. The psalmist has endured some personal suffering which has caused those around him to question God’s existence. The writer’s faithfulness to God has not protected him from this tragedy; in fact, it has made the burden of pain heavier to carry. In order to deal with this unhappy event, the person writes down his feelings and ends up crying to God in prayer.

Of all the psalms written in the Bible, this is the most human. Vulnerability and pain, bewilderment and frustration are all expressed by the psalmist – he longs for God’s comfort like a thirsty deer pants for water. He yearns for God’s compassion to lift up his weary soul.

It’s a beautiful psalm because it deals with pain and suffering honestly. The writer is freely permitted to question God, and not just to seek His comfort. It is a psalm that any one of us could write or recite when painful events occur. It is the raw edge of faith encountering the perplexity of God; it is the plaintive song of every person living on Earth.

The question that is asked and the longing that is sought are never really answered in the psalm. The writer still maintains his faith because he has no where else to go and no one else to turn to. He cannot let go of God despite what has happened and yet he seems to understand that God is with him, experiencing the same pain and enduring the same suffering. They are both in this together – human and divine – in a Christ-like moment of truth and frailty which foreshadows the Cross that is yet to come, for, just as the psalmist asks, “Why have you forgotten me, God?” – Jesus will also exclaim, “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we long for God, especially during troubled times and painful moments. Help us to endure and grant us faith to overcome. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

One of the best renditions of this psalm is the modern song “As the Deer.” You can watch and listen to this beautiful interpretation at this Youtube link: