When I read through Psalms, I bump into so many phrases that are deeply rooted in my memory. I can remember singing a version of this Psalm as a choirboy, (Yes, I was. – No I’m sure all the photos are unavailable. [Mum, if you read this, don’t you dare!!]) “As the deer pants for the water, so my song longs for you” may also be familiar to some of us as a popular chorus from the 80s.
But the emotional connection that chorus, with its gentle, upbeat tune gives us, is far from the brutal reality of what this Psalm expresses. It’s a raw lament, exploring the reality that there are times when our emotions crash. The Psalmist is in a bleak, dark place and can’t explain why.
“Why, my soul, are you so downcast?
And why are you in turmoil within me?”
There are times when our souls crash. An ambush from grief, the black dog of depression growls at the window, regret clouds over our hearts, or the crushing weight of exhaustion. There are moments in life, when we can’t explain it, but we hit a horrible low. Words can barely express that sense of inner collapse.
This Psalm, is that emotion, in a prayer. A prayer of longing, a prayer of confusion and questions, a prayer clinging to faint whisps of faith and thin threads of memories. One of the hardest things about emotional crashes, is when we can’t answer ‘why’, we can’t find a story to tell which makes sense of what is going on inside us, the confusion compounds the sense of loss.
In the midst of such pain, the Psalmist, cries out for God. Imagining a thirst deer, in Israel, a hot dry land, with very limited rainfall. This thirst for God, isn’t the nice thought of a cold drink in a deckchair on a spring day, it’s the dry throated gasping of knowing that without God, it’s desolate.
The Psalmist turns to memories, happy memories, faith-strengthening memories. The good times, together with the community worshipping and celebrating. And then on a playful twist of the theme of memories, asks God if he has forgotten him.
We are living in a very unusual season. We are living with the real threat of CoronaVirus, the potential of personal grief, the unsettling nature of dramatic change. Also when normal life stops, routine changes, the treadmill of pressures slows, our hearts have time to breathe deeply, and as they do, buried, compounded grief may arise. It won’t be unusual for many people in this time to have sudden moments of unexplained sadness and many of our usual coping mechanisms and support structures won’t be there.
I don’t want to give a facile easy answer. Emotional crashes are confusing. A blog can’t rescue you, and tips and practical advice won’t cut it. You need to dig deeper to find God.
But deep calls to deep and underneath it all, He is our rock.
Hope in God, for you will again praise him, he is our salvation and our God.