An Advent Journey, 2013: Looking for the Light – Day Sixteen

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As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.

I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?
Day and night I have only tears for food,
while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
“Where is this God of yours?”

My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Now I am deeply discouraged,
but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
from the land of Mount Mizar.
I hear the tumult of the raging seas
as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.

But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.
“O God my rock,” I cry,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
oppressed by my enemies?”

Their taunts break my bones.
They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Psalm 42 - NLT

I love this psalm — the back and forth between lament and praise, the sometimes dizzying roller coaster ride through the peaks and valleys of the life of faith. And threading its way through the entire, beautiful ride, is the glimmering thread of desire.  

What do I want? What do I really want?

I want more of God. I do. There are times when I hunger for God above all things, when I desire to experience God’s grace and love, God’s presence and comfort. And there are times when I experience the ‘goodness of God in the land of the living.’ 

But I also want to be comfortable; people to like me; my children and grandchildren to be whole and healthy; my mom to be more fully the mom I’ve always known; to be a stronger, more disciplined person; my life to be easier. 

And when those things are not happening, I can easily become discouraged. Like the psalmist, I hearken back to days of old, when I felt God’s presence, when everybody was well, when mom was mom, when my body was less creaky, when I had more energy.

So I cry out in those times, cry out to God for relief and for reminders.

And what I’m learning to ask for in the midst of these times of discouragement is the gift of remembrance, the ability to think back on ‘the good times’ without nostalgia. Why? Because I think that nostalgia, at its heart, involves regret. And regret — wishing for things that cannot be — is counter-productive to a life lived in gratitude and praise. Remembrance, which I define as reflection-without-regret, seems to naturally elicit exactly that — gratitude and praise, both of which help to lead me to peaceful memories of what was and joyous acceptance of what is. 

During this season of Advent, and its invitation to the quieter emotions, when I reflect on this favorite psalm, I try to picture the ‘streams of water,’ our source of refreshment and rest. And in my mind’s eye, I try to see the Rock which is underneath it all. The Rock, out of which the only true refreshment I know emerges.  And as that River of Life flows downstream, I pray that it will burble its way right into the likes of me.

Our Rock and our Redeemer, will you help us to desire you above all things? Help us to remember well, to let praise and gratitude flow right out of us as your loving presence flows right into us. Thank you. Thank you.

Comments

  1. just what i needed today

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