Psalm 42 – Desiring God

Reading Time: 7 Minutes

I have used the Psalms as a regular part of my prayer life for at least 20 years. They put words in my mouth that express the feelings that I have in my heart.

The Psalms often cause me to think more seriously about my relationship with God. When I prayed Psalm 42 today, I was challenged to ask myself if I really meant what I was saying.

Jesus quoted from Isaiah and said, “These people, says God, honor me with their words, but their heart is really far away from me” (Matthew 15.8). I had to ask myself today if I was just saying words, or if I really meant what this Psalm had to say.

I am asking you today to use this Psalm as your prayer, but also to engage in some honest self-examination. Are you earnestly seeking God, or are have you become complacent in your relationship with God?

Longing for God

The writer of the Psalm was grieved that God seemed to be absent or silent in his life. Even his enemies noticed the lack of God’s presence in his life.

As a deer longs for a stream of cool water,
so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for you, the living God.
When can I go and worship in your presence?
Day and night I cry,
and tears are my only food;
all the time my enemies ask me,
“Where is your God?”
(Psalm 42.1-3)

The Earnest Seeker – One of my friends enjoyed a close connection with God. When that connection seemed to be absent he called me in distress. He wondered if he had done something to cause God to withdraw his presence.

That conversation has been duplicated numerous times in my ministry. Once people experience a close relationship with God, the absence of fellowship with God is a cause of grief.

The Complacent Christian – As I prayed these verses today, I had to ask myself if I had the same passion for God’s presence as did the Psalm writer.

If I am willing to live distant from God and not be grieved about it, I am genuinely cheating myself out of God’s best for my life. I think the term, “complacent Christian,” unfortunately fits this description.

Remembering the Past

Think back to the most moving worship experience of your life. Do you remember it? If you are not able to participate in worship as you have in the past, the words of the speaker will resonate with you.

My heart breaks when I remember the past,
when I went with the crowds to the house of God
and led them as they walked along,
a happy crowd, singing and shouting praise to God.
Why am I so sad?
Why am I so troubled?
I will put my hope in God,
and once again I will praise him,
my savior and my God.
(Psalm 42.4-5)

The Earnest Seeker – The corona virus has made radical changes to the way we conduct worship services. Jake Taylor, the Pastor of Maywood Baptist Church, has told me of frequent conversations he has had with young people who greatly miss the opportunity to worship with others.

One of the painful aspects of old age is the inability to attend worship services. God designed us to worship him together. When that is missing, there is a definite sense of loss.

The Complacent Christian – I recently read an article about post-COVID worship. The author believes that many people will not return to church, because they have replaced it with some other activity.

Prior to the corona virus, a significant number of people were dropping out of church activities once their children left the home.

As we seek to be honest with this Psalm, let’s examine ourselves. To what degree do we resemble the spirit of the Psalm or that of the “complacent Christian?”

Verse 5 is a genuine statement of self-talk. Can we encourage ourselves to pursue God with all our heart, despite the corona virus or other factors that diminish our current worship experience? Let’s make the effort to do so.

Distant from God

The writer of the Psalm was unable to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem. His distress in not being able to worship led him to pray for God’s constant love to come to his aid.

Here in exile my heart is breaking,
and so I turn my thoughts to him.
He has sent waves of sorrow over my soul;
chaos roars at me like a flood,
like waterfalls thundering down to the Jordan
from Mount Hermon and Mount Mizar.
May the Lord show his constant love during the day,
so that I may have a song at night,
a prayer to the God of my life.
(Psalm 42.6-8)

The Earnest Seeker – This person is flooded with sorrow, because the presence of God seems to be absent. Daily experiences of God’s grace are so important that they are essential to life. Prayer is made to God throughout the day for the return of a close relationship.

The Complacent Christian – This person may have sorrow over a number of personal issues. However, little thought is given to the absence of a personal relationship with God.

Prayer has become to them a hit-or-miss activity. It seems to be more like a duty, than the fulfilling joy of living in a friendship relationship with God.

Most people are not in either of the two extremes mentioned above. They fall somewhere on the spectrum between being an earnest seeker of God and complacency.

As you use this prayer to examine your life with God, ask God to show you how he wants you to respond to the gift of his presence.

God, My Defender

The inability of the speaker in this Psalm to recover the sense of God’s presence leads his enemies to taunt him saying, “Where is your God?”

He ends the prayer with positive self-talk. He reminds himself that his situation is temporary and will be remedied by God’s answered prayer.

To God, my defender, I say,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go on suffering
from the cruelty of my enemies?”
I am crushed by their insults,
as they keep on asking me,
“Where is your God?”
Why am I so sad?
Why am I so troubled?
I will put my hope in God,
and once again I will praise him,
my savior and my God.
(Psalm 42.9-11)

Earnest Seeker – God promises people who earnestly seek his presence this: “You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29.13).

Doubt, fear, worry and anxiety may whisper in our ear, “God has abandoned you.” The truth is that God may have withdrawn the feelings of his presence to strengthen our faith.

If we remain faithful to our daily prayer and to faithful living, God will reward us with the joy of his presence.

Complacent Christian – This person may live in such a way that people wonder about their relationship with God. They may be known as a Christian, but their actions and words make people doubt the reality of their claims.

After we have prayerfully examined our spiritual life, let’s apply the words of Isaiah to our lives.

Turn to the Lord and pray to him,
now that he is near.
Let the wicked leave their way of life
and change their way of thinking.
Let them turn to the Lord, our God;
he is merciful and quick to forgive.
(Isaiah 55.6-7)

May We Pray for You?

Maywood Baptist Church’s prayer team is honored to pray for you. If you have a prayer request, please email me at or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and ask the team to pray, too.


  1. I wanted to add photos to my comment, but do not think that is possible. This is another Psalm in my study Bible with many highlights and notes, it would be easier to share them with snapshots.

    Most notably, is the intro to this Psalm which says “When you feel lonely or depressed, meditate on God’s kindness and love.”

    This passage starts with words used as the lyrics to a Maranatha! song “As the Deer.” If I’ve learned Scripture in song format, I find it difficult to read with erupting into song, at least mentally if not audibly. The song goes on to declare God as my strength and shield, my friend, more than gold or silver….it is a passionate love song to our Father.

    And then, in my Bible, verse 4 is blocked in with a note “4-20-2020 Coronavirus shit our church. No church since March 15. Tentatively 5-17” We now know it was longer than that, much longer before we could go inside the building and 8 months later we still don’t have provisions for our littlest. I don’t think I will ever again take going to church for granted.

    Keep reading and verse 5-6 offer hope – “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You…”

    And even though verse 8 is not the last verse, it does sum up this chapter of longing and love “By day, the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life.”

    Thank you, Pastor Bob, for breaking down this chapter and reminding us to get real in our worship and adoration of our God. Even those days we don’t feel Him, we can know that He inhabits our praise and therefore we can draw closer to Him through our worship. I guess we can say that’s part of faith – knowing He is there, even if we don’t have “all the feels.” Trust.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Denise for your thoughts. Psalm 42 is one of the most significant to me, also. I think of the song that you mentioned when I read it. God certainly used Don Moen with that one. The Psalms are always appropriate, but during this time they seem even more so.


  3. Note, Denise asked me to remove her comment, because of a typographical error. I don’t have good enough computer skills to do that. She wrote, as always, an excellent comment to the blog. Like me, you probably knew there was a typo in her comment, but it didn’t take away from the profound thoughts she expressed.

    Some day I will write about the many bloopers I have had in 50 years of preaching.

    Thanks Denise for all of your comments. Have a blessed day.


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