What is your deepest desire? What do you long for? For many in Michigan, living through this seemingly endless winter, we long for spring, wondering, will we ever see her face? We know spring is near, that it has to come, but when we keep waking up to dreary, cold days, thirty degree weather and stubborn, dirt-covered snow mounds that refuse to melt, we begin to have doubts.
The writer of this psalm is longing for God. Like a deer that is tired and thirsty from being hunted longs for refreshing waters, he longs for his God. “As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God.” (1) He thirsts for God – it is a physical need. Much as we need water, he needs God. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?”
He remembers a time when he joined in procession to the Temple and experienced God’s presence, “These things I remember as I pour out my soul; how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving.” (4) But now God seems far away.
He talks to himself, trying to reassure himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” (5a) He reminds himself of God’s steadfast love, “By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” (8) He speaks to God who God seems far off, “I say to God, my rock; ‘Why hast thou forgotten me?’” (9a)
He ends up talking to himself again, insisting that his joy will return – “Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God,” (11) – much as we may insist that spring will arrive!
The psalmist strikes me as someone who is moving from a young faith, a young love, to a deeper faith. When we first fall in love, they sky is brighter, colors more brilliant, everything is reflected in the light of love. But we can’t remain in this state for long. We eventually come down to earth. When we first experience God’s love, the world is brighter, basking in God’s glory. But we don’t rest in this sentiment. We are called to go deeper in our faith.
The writer speaks to God whom he says seems far away. Sometimes God, who is nearer than our breath, seems far off. It isn’t that God has run away; rather he is calling us ever closer to him, to love him with a love that has been purified through the test of time; a love that is not dependent on consolations and warm, pleasant feelings, but that is solid and present even when we don’t feel it.
Is it the God of consolations whom we love, or the consolations of God? If it is the consolations we seek, then our love will falter when the hardships and sufferings that are part of every life appear. God didn’t even save his own son from suffering. How can we ask for more?
As we grow in faith, our desire for God grows. Our God, who seems far away, is calling us to come closer. God is purifying our heart’s desire.
At the end of the day, what is it you desire most? How is God purifying your desires?