As the Deer Pants…
“As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.”
The other day I was thinking about and meditating on a few Scriptures. One was Psalm 42:1 (written above). I have probably read this verse hundreds of times. It was in an old praise song from my college days. A small piece of Scripture that I was very familiar with due to mere exposure and familiarity. But on this day this verse really jumped out to me and challenged me.
As I sat reading it over and over again, the imagery really hit me. I could picture a deer that is so thirsty for water that it is panting as it hunts for even a few drops to quench its dry mouth. It is probably not an every day occurrence for any of us to see a deer panting for water. However, most of us have seen dogs pant for water. So let’s picture that instead. Their tongues hanging out, breathing heavy, running towards their water bowl after chasing someone or something in the yard. The only thing that dog (or in the verse a deer) wants is a drink of water. Something to cool it down, replenish its tired body.
The Psalmist says that just like a deer that is longing for a drink of water, his soul is longing for God. He is literally panting for more of God. He is seeking to be replenished by and filled up by God.
That blew me away.
It blew me away not because of its great imagery or poetic elements. Not because it is spiritually hardcore and mystic-like. It blew me away because, if I am honest with myself, I do not have that same kind of longing for God in my life. This is not a verse that I could use to describe my spiritual life most days.
So as I sat there thinking about this verse and its intensity I just began to pray that God would give me that kind of longing for him. I want to pant for God, thirst for him, desire him, and ultimately be satisfied by him.
As I continued to pray about this verse in relation to my life, I also began to think and pray that in my soul-level thirst for God I don’t want it to stop at mere longing. I want to be fully satiated by God and be able to taste and see that God is good (Psalm 34:8). I want to experience the presence of God in my life in a real way and drink deeply from the living water that he provides.
I think what it really comes down to for me, and what God has been teaching me recently, is that I need to find my full joy and satisfaction in God alone. I need to be so fully satisfied in him that I can look at everything else in this world and say, like Paul, that I count it as loss, as rubbish compared to the surpassing value of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:7-8).
I want to be able to honestly look at my life and be able to say that Jesus is high and lifted up above all else. This will come from a sincere longing after God deep within my soul.
So how can my soul pant for God as the deer pants for water? I need to inundate my heart and mind with the word of God. The Psalmist says, “I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for your commandments” (Psalm 119:131). He also says, “How sweet are your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:103-104). The word of God is given to us as a gift so that we might grow in our knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10) and in turn be satisfied in him, for his word is truly sweeter than honey.
I also need to spend consistent and focused time in dialogue with God. I need to cry out to him to create a longing in my soul for him, because I cannot do this on my own. I need to pray that God would create this longing and that he would satisfy my soul.
This is both exciting and challenging for me. As John Piper says, it is both liberating and devastating. Liberating because of the great freedom it allows in our lives, and devastating because we often place other things higher in our lives than Jesus Christ.
I am excited to see where God takes me, and I hope that you will consider praying towards the same end in your life.