“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)
We have a deer that is thirsty in a place where there is no water. And it is not just looking for it; this deer desperately lones for it. Zoologists tell us deer can be so intense in their thirst that they will not even be startled by someone or something rushing towards them! Few things can distract them when their thirst is that intense!
The analogy is that of the Christian wanting to sense the nearness of God that they are not currently experiencing. The psalmist is separated from God and doesn’t want that to be any longer.
Ever get that feeling, where you feel God’s distance? We all have been there! And it would even seem that God doesn’t respond right away, which may have increased his thirsting. Charles Spurgeon gives this description: “Like the parched traveler in the wilderness, whose skin bottle is empty, and who finds the wells dry, he must drink or die – he must have his God or faint. His soul, his very self, his deepest life, was insatiable for a sense of the divine presence.” (The Treasury of David, pgs. 270-271)
And notice it is not just a longing after God or communing with him individually. The psalmist is saying that His longing for God will only be met when he is in the place where he goes to meet God: the sanctuary. His panting for His Creator will only be met when he is with the community of saints gathered to worship God in the House of God. The psalmist is thinking about the sanctuary. He knows there is a special presence of God in the sanctuary with the community of believers that he cannot feel alone.
What an application! Feeling depressed on a Sunday morning or Saturday night? Don’t want to go to church? If the world has beat you down eek, one of the worst things you can do is wake and say, “I am so wiped out from the week. I am beat up. What I need is a day at home or by myself to recuperate and rejuvenate myself so I am ready for Monday morning.” That is not the response that is captivated by the psalmist. He could not relate to such a disconnected idea. The best time to go to church is when you don’t feel like it.
You need water? You need encouragement? Had a tough week? Here’s the prescription: go to God’s house! The psalmist wanted the closeness and the fellowship and the worship in the house of God.
The happiest Christians are Christians who are in the house of God every chance they get and pant after communing with Him like a thirsty deer. I don’t know of any genuine Christian who misses church on a consistent basis and is always joyful; they are the opposite. When we feel depressed, the solution is not to isolate yourself but to fill your life with people.