As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (from Psalm 42:1-2)
There are diamonds in Psalm 42. Miners, like this psalmist are those who find them. Miners are questions askers. Because they learn to ask the right kinds of questions and persevere in their asking, they find the gems. Questions are native to thirsting and panting souls. Listen to this miner’s digging: “When shall I come and appear before God? Why are you in despair, O my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Why hast Thou forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of my circumstances?”
There are different types of questions. Some are mere camouflage for bitterness and unbelief. Others are rhetorical tools used by the proud for posturing and positioning —an actual question would be redundant to them. They already know the answers. Some questions are asked to collect the data we need to support our existing hypotheses. None of these types of questions unearth true gems.
Then there are questions free of agendas and pre-formed notions. They come from child-like, searching hearts. They are often hard questions, shaped in the depths. Hungry and thirsty souls have the courage to unearth them and bring them before their God. Digging in this vein equips the miner with the humility to encounter their God in new ways.
As miners, we are both driven and drawn. From behind, we are driven by pain and fears we dare not stop and face. We know that pausing to face off with these pursuers would be our undoing. We’ve looked over our shoulder before. We have seen those deep and unwelcome questions gaining on us. They were raised by experiences (or their lack) that once nearly destroyed us. We have vowed to outrun them because we are convinced they will kill us. This is not a problem though—we have worked this out. We have learned that we can turn up the volume and speed of life such that these questions are drowned out and left behind in the wake of our efforts to escape them. This is a tragic waste, because the pursued and the pursuer are exactly where the father of lies wants them.
The real Trilateral threat is from the world, the flesh and the devil, who conspire to see that we remain driven. They gladly provide us with diversions and excuses—anything it requires to keep us from excavating deep enough to uncover our long-buried issues and put them in their place as our servants rather than our masters. It is from these unexplored caverns that God calls to us. This is essential because He endeavors, with our cooperation, to overthrow every lie and half-truth we have buried by believing them. These are the very things that drive us.
Then there are those, like our psalmist, who are drawn. They hear the call and they descend. They press on down through the valley of the shadow of death. With a familiar voice, albeit faint at times, calling them, they press through various strata of pain and find Jesus waiting for them. They discover the diamond.
The writer of this psalm descends along a particular vein. He is being drawn. He has bumped into his painful questions and instead of returning to their own story (We could call it The Surface Driven Life), he has written the “Miner’s Psalm.” He gave voice to his questions, paused to articulate them in words. Journaling, by the way, is digging at its best.
The power of journaling rests in its capacity to make us psalmists in our own right—those learning to become transparent before God. We are very close to the gemstone here. This is where deep responds to the drawing of deep. Here, in our depths, His Spirit touches ours; His light touches our darkness. If we will slow down and ask the right questions, we will discover that eternity overtakes time and that a banquet has been prepared on our behalf in this most unlikely of places—in the presence of our enemies.
A precaution: When we start applying the breaks and turn down the volume, the painful questions of the past are going to pull up along side us and call us names, tell us lies, and feed us their best temptations. They have enjoyed driving us—keeping us from the abundance of our rightful liberty. Our Psalm 42 miner gives us a tutorial in his craft. He slows down, listens to the call from his troubled mind, and records his thoughts. He does the very thing we work overtime to avoid. Please listen to this minor shovel:
My soul thirsts. I cry day and night. When will you bring relief God?
I REMEMBER—I HAVE PRAISED YOU BEFORE. I SHALL PRAISE YOU AGAIN!
Why are you in despair oh my soul?
I REMEMBER—I HAVE HAD EXPERIENCE WITH YOU. I SHALL HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH YOU AGAIN!
Thy breakers and Thy waves have rolled over me.
LORD, YOU WILL COMMAND YOUR LOVINGKINDNESS AND YOUR SONG WILL BE WITH ME IN THE NIGHT!
Why hast Thou forgotten me?
I WILL HOPE IN GOD. I SHALL YET PRAISE HIM. MY COUNTENANCE SHALL BE LIFTED!
This psalm leads to the mother-load. It demonstrates a man’s complete emotional honesty before God. It highlights the value of questions. It demonstrates that we do not require an intermediary between God and us. It demonstrates that a troubled heart can be a place of new beginnings. It demonstrates the power of recalling truths and declaring them to ourselves as answers to our own questions. It reveals that it is from our wounds, our failures, and restlessness that God calls us. Can you hear his voice? Are you being driven or are you being drawn?
Father, we are children of light. Teach us to live in Your light, especially when it gets uncomfortable. Lead us into that place where we truly become free souls. Help us to mine deep enough to that place where your sacrifice and suffering touches our depths. Help us to do our part in overthrowing the lies which have robbed us of the abundant life. Succeed in making us that city set upon a hill that radiates your light. When this world asks, “Just where is your God?” they will receive their answer in the joy of our countenance, the vigor of our step, and the wisdom of our council. Amen.