Pants and Praises

Last week we introduced the topic of loving God and living lives with our whole souls. We will be continually referencing the passage of Scripture in Deuteronomy 6:4-6 where God instructs His people to love Him with all of who they are. 

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Remember that the original language of the above text was Hebrew and the word for “soul” is nephesh meaning “one that has breath”. Since God created us in His image and for His glory, He desires us to love Him with every breath we draw. 

It is really a marvelous thought when we take time to think about the fact that according to the Bible, God created everything. He created the trees and plants that help produce the oxygen we need to breathe. He created us with lungs that can inhale and exhale, and by that action we can talk, sing, run, walk and above all live! 

This talk of breathing seems elementary and boring until we cannot breathe. Those who suffer from asthma or other respiratory issues could probably teach us what it is to appreciate the ability to inhale and exhale properly. I confess that even when my nose becomes congested due to a common cold, I become so frustrated and aware of the struggle to breathe in and out. 

You see, our intake of oxygen directly effects all of our health. Therefore, we want to take care of our health through exercise in order to maintain strong lung capacity. 

Now, in the spiritual realm it is equally important that we maintain a healthy intake of the Spirit or breath of God. We inhale God’s truth primarily through studying the Bible and then we exhale words of praise to Him and loving truth to others. To this end, we will be using an incredible Psalm (or song) today as our text. Psalm 42 is a brilliant example of our dependence on and need of spiritual oxygen for a healthy and whole soul love for God and survival in this world. 

“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
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?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
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.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
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.”

This song paints a beautiful picture of someone who “pants” for God from their soul. The word pant is defined as “to breath hard and quickly, to gasp for air, to long for or to yearn for.” Did you see it? This person doesn’t just want the intellectual exercise of thinking about God, or want a religious experience…NO WAY….they want to come into contact with the living God. This is a deep soul yearning for the living God to interact with His child. 

We can all recount situations and life experiences that have made us desperate and given us the sense that life is hopeless and we are helpless to change anything. Unfortunately, many of us choose to turn to other people or other things to help us. Whether human relationships, or food or alcohol or shopping, or change of scenery we are tempted to receive that sense of soul hurt with things that can never truly help us. 

The writer of this psalm goes to the Lord and states his sense of desperation and longs for God to help. He doesn’t pretend that it’s all okay!  Did you catch that? So many in the church have confused faith with acting that everything is fine. We must learn to “pour out our souls” to the only One who can soothe the soul. There is such a freedom in honestly exhaling your frustrations, your hurts and your fears before the Lord. Remember He gave us breath and He loves us and He knows every thought anyway. To finally admit our true feelings and thoughts about things can be the first step to loving God with all our souls instead of holding back portions of our souls that we believe He won’t understand.  This is also why we need to be reading and studying the Bible daily, so that we can remember God is faithful even in the middle of life’s worst seasons. 

The psalmist talks to himself! This is a great encouragement to me as I find myself recounting what I need to do next in my daily routine. And then, look so funny when someone walks into the room. But seriously, we have got to learn to tell ourselves the truth! We must preach to ourselves and discipline ourselves to continually turn to God and His love for us. Our own pride and bent toward self deception will either convince us “we’re fine” or “God is not really good in this situation”. Both of these statements are lies and can only be debunked by the truth of God’s Word. 

Also, we must be careful about memorizing random verses we find that we think speak to our specific feelings at the moment. Often times we fail to look at God’s complete character as He shows us through the study of the whole Bible. We can mistakenly take a verse and lay claim to it as a promise that may or may not really apply to our current circumstance but make us feel better and then God moves in a way completely consistent with His character but not just like we wanted Him to and we become disillusioned with Him and doubt His kindness. 

I love that the writer of this psalm places all his “hope in God”! We can so often hope in “good” things or a certain perceived “good” outcome, but not in the living person of our good God. God alone defines Himself and we can put all our hope in Him being true to His character. Once the writer places his full hope in God (despite the way he feels or his unchanged circumstances) he is encouraged by the very breath of God, the Spirit who reminds him that he can praise God because He is God. The writer is reminded again that, for the true believer in Jesus, this world is not all there is. He has been saved from the penalty that was due his sin by the grace of God. With that truth, his panting turns into praising! 

Oh friend, are there circumstances in your life right now that have you out of breath spiritually? If so, I beg you to let your soul pant to and for God. Be honest with yourself and with God about your frustrations, fears, disappointments and hurts. Then, from God’s Word, let His breath preach truth to your soul and believe that He is good. He alone has the power to save us and we can praise Him for all that He is! May your sorrow be turned into joy, may your weeping turn into dancing and may your panting be turned into praising. 

Angela and her husband currently live in GA, USA. They have four children at home and one married in 2018. Angela is passionate about ministry to women and loves to meet new friends. She’s been teaching the Bible for over 25 years and desires to encourage women to study the Word for themselves and see the beauty of Jesus in their lives.

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