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Psalm 42


When unfairly targeted or excluded, we can easily slip into depression, which makes it painful to remember all we’ve lost. That’s when we must hold onto the truth that our God hasn’t abandoned us.

A descendants of Korah psalm.

Like a deer pants for rippling brooks
so my soul longs for you, O God!
My whole being thirsts
for the God who is my life.
When will I behold his face again?
Day and night
I’ve had nothing to eat but salt tears
thanks to my enemies’ incessant taunting
“Where’s your God now?”
I ache to think how I used to lead
the pilgrim throng to your house
swept along in the joyful din
of our songs of worship and thanks.

Why are you so downcast, my soul?
Why in such turmoil?
Hope in God!
I will yet praise him for rescuing me—
being my God.

Depressed as I am
I think of you wherever I go
from the Jordan trough to lofty Mount Hermon
to the last little no-name hill.
One churning plunge-pool calls to the next
in the roar of your waterfall
only then for your raging rapids
to pummel and pound me and spit me out.
Yet Yahveh sends me
tokens of his unfailing love by day
and puts his song in my heart by night—
a prayer to the God who is my life.

I cry to my rock face of a God
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I tramp about in gloom
harassed by my enemies?”
10 Their relentless taunts murder[1] my bones:
“Where’s your God now?”

11 Why are you so downcast, my soul?
Why in such turmoil?
Hope in God!
I will yet praise him
for coming to my rescue—
being my God.

The psalmist is deeply depressed. His cross-country trip is no sightseeing excursion. He’s running for his life, his enemies hounding him at every turn. He’s pained to remember the good times, when he led happy pilgrim throngs to God’s house. Now his enemies’ taunts make him feel like he’s dying, as they exclude him from that holy place—to them, clear proof that God has abandoned him.

In fact, he knows they’re wrong: God hasn’t abandoned him. Through his tears, he sees God as fully present, at work in his life. Roughing him up—disciplining him. But also sending him clear tokens of his love each new day and giving him God-songs, like this one, in the night.

Wonderfully, the psalmist knows he’s made for intimacy with God, can’t live without him. So he does the two things he needs most to do. He talks to God, rock-solid dependable, pouring out his longing for him. He also takes himself in hand. Since depression locks us into ourselves, our overpowering emotions and our often-faulty mental narratives, he engages in self-talk, redirecting his thoughts to God, his only hope. And he does both things multiple times because depression never gives way easily.

I long for you, O God. Without you, I’m locked into grief, into myself. A voice inside says you’ve sidelined me—are done with me. But you say, “Never!” Now that you’ve got my full attention, you’re beginning anew. I will yet praise you for rescuing me, being my God. Amen.

In your free moments today, pray these words:

Like a deer pants for rippling brooks, so my soul longs for you, O God!


[1] This, the verb’s literal meaning, suggests that the psalmist feels his foes’ murderous intent in his bones (Robert Alter, 151).

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.