As a deer pants for flowing water 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?
-Ps. 42 Of the Sons of Korah
On my walk today I gained a new insight into this psalm that I've loved for many years. The desperation expressed in it has always spoken to me- a longing for a connection with the divine, for eternity, a longing for a closeness with God that seems unattainable because of my worthlessness in comparison to God's greatness. Maybe it is the human longing for what is out of reach- for the impossible. Yet, the glory of this psalm is in it's humble confidence that God will pardon, sustain, and provide salvation.
There is a big difference between humility and insecurity. In this case, both qualities would acknowledge how great the psalmist's need is for God, but only one results in the satisfaction of that need. Whereas the humble can approach God asking for grace to be sufficient in their weakness, the insecure get stuck in their fear, convincing themselves that they are too unworthy to ask anything of God and / or allowing their minds to fill with doubts about God's graciousness to them. The humble exalt God, acknowledging and praising him as the provider of their needs, but the insecure doubt God, and therefore, unwittingly limit his power in their lives because of their lack of faith. Insecurity stunts our growth. This is scary! God works through the faith of the humble on this earth, and Satan works through the cowardice of the insecure. For a long time, I've been under the impression that my insecurities were in myself- doubts of my own abilities and conviction of my weaknesses, but I now see that when I am insecure, I am insecure in God. And if I doubt God's love for me, then I have cause to doubt everything else about my life. God, please increase our knowledge of who you are and how great is your love for us so that we can escape this downward cycle of fear and no longer give ourselves as instruments for wickedness during our time on earth!
If the psalmist were insecure, he could not and would not say with such desire, "When shall I come and appear before God?" because appearing before God involves judgment. If he were insecure, he would despair- as if God had left him in addition to his conflict with his enemies. Yet, he longs to appear before God, confident not in his own righteousness but in God's grace to him. I have not been able to say in my heart yet, "I long to appear before God." I have said that I long to see his glory and gaze on his beauty, to feel close to him, but to say that I long to appear before God would be to say that I am ready for judgment and confident of the verdict for my soul. I know in my head because of the Scriptures that I can be assured of my salvation, and yet, I again see how much easier it is for me to doubt my salvation than trust God's grace to me. My first thoughts when I ask myself why I would not feel ready to stand are, "Have I done enough? Have I repented enough? Did I share enough? etc..." I asked some of these questions the night before my baptism, and I have grown much since then, but that way of doubtful thinking, self-reliant thinking, is still ingrained in me. I am growing more and more grateful for scriptures such as this psalm to help me overcome what I know I cannot myself. The more I understand grace, the more that understanding will result in action- the more I will repent, do, and share- but my actions themselves will never result in my salvation.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
I love the final stanza of this psalm, and I pray that I can fully embrace it. To be able to ask myself as the psalmist does, "Why are you down, my soul? Why are you scared and insecure?" To be able to command my soul to hope in God and praise him because he IS my salvation.