Still, the hike through the canyon was striking. The cacti stretched their arms towards the sun, and let their needles glow in its light, The boulders radiated their red warmth and showed off their quartz sparkle.
Then there was the stream. My eyes were drawn to the juxtaposition of a cool bubbling brook streaming through this arid land. It danced over rocks and meandered its way in and out of our path as it led us up the mountainside.
And I wondered if the yearning for water isn’t just about quenching our thirst, but about the way water can lead us to someplace new.
Enter now Psalm 43, which is really just the conclusion of Psalm 42. It even repeats the verse used twice in Psalm 42,
But there is a difference between the two Psalms. While in Psalm 42, the psalmist declares his thirst and laments of his plight, in Psalm 43, he asks God to direct his path to someplace new.
Send me your light and your faithful care, Let them lead me; Let them bring me to your holy mountain, To the place where you dwell. – Psalm 43:3
What good would it be if God quenched our thirst for just a moment, but kept us in that same arid place? The psalmist asks for more than that: he asks God to lead him up his sacred mountain.
A mountain gives us perspective. We see the magnificence of rocky trails and dry places that along the way, felt only difficult and frustrating. We see pathways of future journeys, and find direction about where we might go next. Mostly, though, we see how vast the world is and how tiny we are in comparison.
God’s presence gives us that same kind of perspective. The psalmist knows it, and he prays for God to lead him there.
Then, like a desert wanderer daydreaming about a refreshing oasis, the psalmist pictures himself in that place.
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. – Psalm 43:4 (ESV)
He calls God his exceeding joy. Not just his Prayer-Answerer or his Happiness-Giver, but his Exceeding Joy.
What is amazing is that he calls God this name while still thirsting for him. While still feeling abandoned, the psalmist calls God his Exceeding Joy.
The psalmist has faith that this time in the desert is only part of his journey. That God will send his light and care to guide him to someplace new.
Perhaps those are the two most important things to know when we are in those desert times in our faith journey: that God is there, even when we don’t feel him, and that this part of arid path will not last forever.
When we appreciate those two realities, we can pray with faith. We can lift up prayers of lament, confident that God will not abandon us, and prayers for help, confident that God will one day lead us out.
One day, God’s loving care will lead us up His holy mountain, and we will be amazed by the view.
Walk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.