In one sense it strikes me as an apt psalm for expressing some of the collateral damage experienced during a pandemic.
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? . . . These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
(Psalm 42:1-2, 4 ESV)
Don’t know what was keeping the songwriter from “church”, but he was about done. Dying of thirst to again connect with the living God. And that by entering again into His house, along with many others, to gather before the God worthy of shouts of joy, songs of praise, and festive celebration. Connecting with God’s people in congregational worship inseparable from connecting with God Himself.
Almost a year after we first were told to shelter in place, many still have not been able to re-experience the joy of connecting with the living God by connecting with other living believers. And for those of us who have, we certainly couldn’t say we’ve being going “with the throng” or joining “a multitude” in our weekly, socially distanced worship.
But beyond the gathering with the saints, the song seems aptly appropriate for this seemingly never-ending season because of the cloud of depression that is threaded throughout the lyrics. Three times the psalmist is keenly aware of his “cast down” soul (v. 5a, 6a, 11a), and of the unceasing turbulence of anxiety that ebbs and flows within him. The very core of his being relentlessly bowed low because of the pressure of his surrounding circumstance. Waves of despair his almost daily unshakeable reality. This too a pandemic reality. Mental health almost as much a concern as COVID for those who, though unaffected by the virus, have had their lives turned upside down by of the “treatment.”
Yet, for the songwriter, the remedy for a cast down soul is hope in a living God. The antidote for the unrelenting pressure of the effects of isolation being the anticipation of the fulfillment of one day again praising Him with the people, and of an even greater day praising Him in His very presence (v.5b, 11b). And what fuels such hope? What continues to prime the pump of such assurance?
Verse 8 caught my attention this morning. Chewing on “the God of my life.”
By day the LORD commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
(Psalm 42:8 ESV)
Though tears had been his food day and night (v.3), for way too many days and nights, yet every day He knew — if but only in his head and not so much his heart — that God enveloped Him with a steadfast love. And every night the Spirit interceded with his spirit that there was still a song to sing — even if only a cappella, even if as a choir of one, even if apart from a festive procession. And that, because the songwriter’s God had become the God of my life.
El Chay, the God of my life. That’s who the prayer prayed to, who the songwriter sung to, who the worshiper longed again to worship before in the place of worship. So entwined was the life of the psalmist with the God of life that even in the deepest of depression his cast down soul could affirm his hope in God. His life, though impacted by his circumstance, not defined by his circumstance. His soul, though suppressed by the season, yet not sunk by the season. And that because he knew the God of my life.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
(Colossians 3:2-3 ESV)
Our lives hidden with Christ.
The Father, the God of my life. Because of the Son. Through the Spirit.
By His grace. For His glory.