As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
Psalm 42:1 (NASB)
My hands tremble and my body shakes uncontrollably as the cold air of loss blows deep into the hollows of my soul. Like a broken record, I keep hearing the words, “He has passed…He has passed.” In my mind, I’m running away. It’s as though my heart has grown feet and they leap in response to the runner’s gunshot as I speed to out-run my opponent—in this case, reality. I struggle to escape this place of utter despair with the fibers of the soft mattress underneath me. The cotton blanket that swaddles my body offers no comfort. I can feel my husband’s strong arms encompass me as guttural cries come from the depths of my core.
I’m unfamiliar with this pain, so I grasp for a solid place to rest my heartache. Where can I go when my heart is overwhelmed and loss is consuming?
On Thursday, December 17, 2020, my father unexpectedly slipped into heaven. He suffered from COVID in the hospital for eight days. On this particular day, he seemed to be improving. In fact, during a phone call with my mother a few hours before, his voice was stronger and his breathing easier. Yet, the appointment to meet his Maker at 11:05 pm that night would not be postponed. He stood in the Presence of His Maker and bid this world goodbye, leaving a gaping hole in my heart.
As I lie there wrestling with accepting the unacceptable, my voice whispered words that I recalled, hidden somewhere in the shadows of my soul, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.” (Ps. 42:1)
“What?” My husband whispered his question even as the strength of his arms pinned me down in order to protect me from my own thrashings. I whispered again, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.” (Ps.42:1)
Once the words were repeated the second time––a prayer of my subconscious––a dam was opened and the floodwaters of comfort drenched my dry, thirsty soul. Immediately, my body stilled in the silence.
Weeks later, as I reflected upon that moment, I took to my Bible and commentary to study more about the origins of this scripture and the surrounding verses that bubbled up in my heart. The author of Psalm 42 penned these verses during a time of deep pain and loss in his own life. He found himself held captive in a foreign land, unable to go to the temple for worship in Jerusalem. Left with shattered hopes and consuming despair, he called on the Living God for consolation and peace.
He shared the answer to his cries and revealed his conclusion by imploring his heart––and the reader’s––to hope in God, to praise Him for His help and His presence. (Ps. 42:5,11)
God, in His gracious goodness, heard my heart’s cry on that dark night. The tears continued to flow, and there have been moments in the following days that the pain of loss has wrecked my soul. But I am finding comfort in the Source of my hope. And because I have this hope I can take heart that:
- the pains of this life are yet for a little while and will produce eternal glory (2 Cor. 4:17)
- there is nothing I can experience nor anywhere that I can go that God is not with me (Heb. 13:5; Ps. 139:8)
- every need He will supply (Philip. 4:19)
- even when I don’t understand God’s timing and plan I can trust that He is still God, He is good, and He is in control (Isa. 55:8; Rom. 8:28; Jer. 29:11).
Friend, have you found yourself sitting among the ashes of loss? Maybe your loss is not of a person but of a dream, your health, a job, or way of life that you thought you would have attained by now. Whatever it may be, we all find ourselves grasping at the coattails of hope and hanging on for dear life at some point in our journey. May I encourage you–and my own soul–by sharing that the God of all hope can be trusted to fill us with joy and peace as we believe in Him (Romans 15:13).
Thank you for being our God of hope. Thank you for not leaving us alone in our despair and heartbreak, but for being the God who is ever-present. Help us to reach for you when we are empty and find our souls filled with joy and peace by Your presence. We place our burdens at your feet as we trust that you will give us rest from the heartache (Matt. 11:28). We praise You for these, and all our blessings.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Leaving a Well