Growing up in Texas, my summers were filled with memories of satiating my thirst from a water hose. One of the great joys of being a child in East Texas was running through the pine trees until you were panting, only to drink deeply from the cold water of the hose outside. I can remember the feeling now: the first gulp quenching my thirst and refreshing my body. While some reading this may not have the same experience, you surely have enjoyed the initial drink of water when you were extremely thirsty. The longing and the thirst driving you to seek satisfaction.
The Psalmist taps into this universal longing in Psalm 42:
“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?” (1-2)
He uses the imagery of a deer—possibly pursued by a hunter—panting after sprinting through the woods and desperately looking for water. Then he makes this incredible statement: this is how he longs for God. The Psalmist had this deep longing to be in the presence of God; this hungering hole in his heart that could only be fulfilled and satisfied by the Lord himself. What drove him to recognize this?
“My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your 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.” (3-4)
Loss. Heartache. Fear. Memory. All of this drove him to realize that, apart from God, there is no meaningful life. Sometimes, the only event which reminds us of our thirst is struggle. In these moments we see that nothing else satisfies—not alcohol, not sex, not work, not fame, not fun. It is only God, and the pursuit of his presence, which can truly satiate our thirst. His holiness. His goodness. His justice. His reality. His grace. His Mercy. His love. Without him we are nothing; with him we discover everything.
Of course, we can’t help but think of a conversation Jesus would have many years after this Psalm was written. While stopping at a well, Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman about thirst. She was attempting to satisfy her longing for God by multiple sexual partners—Jesus offered her something else:
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14).
The question is, will our response be the same as her?
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty.”