Writing has been difficult for me lately. It’s not that I haven’t desired to… but every time I sit to put pen to paper (so to speak) I feel my that my well of thoughts and words has become empty and dry, as a desert stream in the hot August days. So I have kept my silence, occasionally offering up a few thoughts from my sporadic reading of the psalms.

This time of wordless-ness may have many causes. A new book I am reading is bringing up some old fears that I am starting to think are impacting my writing, thinking, and life as a whole. This book explores manic-depressive mood disorders and the artistic temperament. As I said, it brings up old fears of mine and is a hard read. But is has brought me some honesty in this current time of silence.

Psalm 42 and 43 (originally a single psalm) have put a worshipful voice to many of the emotions that these silent times and old fears stir in my heart. It is a psalm written by the gate keepers of the temple, and gives voice to the loneliness, alienation, depression, and hope that often mix within my soul.

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’

These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help 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 thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
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 must I walk about mournfully
because the enemy oppresses me?’
As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people;
from those who are deceitful and unjust
deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you cast me off?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because of the oppression of the enemy?

O send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy;
and I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

Psalm 42-43 (NRSV)

Throughout this entire song/prayer there is the constant theme of longing for Yahweh. Yet the thirst for the Holy Presence doesn’t come from a joyful time of life. There is a desire for Abba because the void of His presence is there. It is real, and I am in need of Him to act out His salvation and fill this void.

Putting into words the feeling of the absence of the presence of Yahweh is a dangerous thing to do. Often, when I begin my attempt to utter these words, I choke them back because how can I – a Christian, a believer, a child of Abba – ever be lonely for my omnipresent Father? Even now the temptation to shut up and sit down offers me the chance to delete this post and continue with my silence. But the Word of Yahweh won’t let me. You see, the honesty of this psalm is Scripture, inspired and preserved by the Spirit of my God which I am longing for here and now.

Make no mistake, this is a brutally honest psalm about the emotional tempest in the psalmist’s heart. Let’s put it into a context we can relate to a bit more. Think of your congregation on Sundays. Think of the people in your congregation that always welcome you into the service, whether they be an usher or greeter or just the friendly face of the congregation. They are usually pretty happy folks, dolling out the smiles, bulletins, and maybe a joke or two. Now imagine them praying the words of this psalm. Put a real face with these words, and they cease to be words from the middle of the Bible and start to become an honest, painful, hopeful cry for the Presence of Yahweh.

So, this psalm is the cry of my silent heart… and to be honest, I have been attempting to remedy the emptiness myself. I have found no comfort in seeking to fill my time and mouth with everything I should do and say to be a good Christian. How foolish we believers of grace are, for we know the unbridled favor our Lord has for us, yet we still seek our own salvation. But now, this night, this moment the 43 psalm has become my prayer again.

Father, You know my condition. You have recorded it in psalm 42, and reading it is like looking with honesty into my own heart. Now I pray: Vindicate me, and let Your light and truth lead me once more to Zion, Your holy hill. There I will go to your alter and offer my joy, and I will praise you with my guitar, my voice, and my words. Break this silent time in my life with Your thunderous call to my soul and the refuge of Your presence.

Why are you so downcast, oh my heart? Why so hopeless within this chest? Hope in Yahweh, for His steadfast love is with me all day and His song is with me in the night. This is a prayer to God my life: I shall again praise Him, my help and my God!