I’ve been grateful for the psalms. Since my training in spiritual direction at the Pecos Benedictine Abbey, I’ve found great encouragement and help in praying the psalms as I start my day. One of my favorites is Psalm 42.
As the deer longs for the water brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God. My soul is athirst for God, even for the living God; when shall I come before the presence of God?
When a deer is thirsty, it searches for the fresh, flowing water of a nearby brook. It wants living water—fresh water. In the same way, my soul is thirsty for a fresh encounter with the Living God.
When I feel thirsty, I feel need. I don’t yet have what I need. There is an emptiness that needs to be filled. My soul needs God like my body needs water. He is basic to my life. God isn’t an optional enhancement I might consider (alongside exercise, healthy eating or such). He is my life. Without Him, I am not really alive.
The psalm asks, “When shall I come before the presence of God?” When will I enjoy an intimate audience with the Almighty? What about now?
More thoughts on Psalm 42:
My tears have been my bread day and night, • while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is now your God?’
How are tears my bread? Do tears somehow feed me? Do I cry instead of eating? The psalm writer has tears for food in his felt experience of dryness (vss. 1-2), while unbelievers around him ridicule him for trusting an apparently absent God.
Now when I think on these things, I pour out my soul: • how I went with the multitude and led the procession to the house of God, With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, • among those who kept holy day.
My journal, perhaps like this psalm, is my place to pour out my soul. I remember times past when I shared an obvious, felt sense of God’s presence with the crowds. More often I feel no drama. Is it loneliness or solitude? Loneliness is empty and isolated. Solitude is holy seclusion with Another. I’ve led people into God’s presence. How do I continue to trust His real Presence when I don’t as often feel Him near?
 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, • and why are you so disquieted within me?
A heavy soul. That’s what that feeling in my chest is. Why so heavy, soul? Why are you carrying the weight of the world around? Instead of carrying that weight, pour out your soul. There is nothing in you that is not safe to pour out before a loving, merciful, gracious Father.
A disquieted soul. Instead of peace there is noise in my soul. I am hungry to know deep peace in my innermost self. This will come through honesty, trust and openness to God and trusted others.