There are times when we feel so drained in our spirit that we need to be refreshed. We often wonder if this can happen even to those who are strong in the faith. Well, this feeling is normal, as the Psalmist revealed. He said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1). He likens himself to a deer that is tired and thirsty for water after being chased around by hunters and predators. He needs to be refreshed and encouraged to survive another day. This is also a good picture of one who longs to be in the presence of God and be counted as one of those who are especially blessed, as mentioned in the beatitude. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matt. 5:6).
But before we consider the blessedness of panting for God, we need to consider what brought us to that situation. In the case of the psalmist, he appeared to have lost fellowship with God. In fact, this was his cry: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:2). He had lost connection with God. According to the prophet Isaiah, God had hidden his face from him so that he could not see him, and God could hear his call. He said, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
The suffering of one who once had an intimate relationship with God is aggravated when he looks back and remembers how life was so good then. The Psalmist said, “These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng” (Psalm 42:4). The thought of having fully enjoyed God’s fellowship back then made him want to be reconciled with him again. Notwithstanding his circumstances, he did not lose hope. He commanded his soul saying, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). Indeed, God is able to restore us unto himself. We only need to repent of our sins.
Life that is separated from God is like a land that is parched. Just like the deer that pants for water, we long to be watered and refreshed. King David expressed this desperation when he said, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). This longing of David was heightened by the fact that he was running for his life in the desert of Judah. Only the presence of God could satisfy him, just like water that quenched his thirst.
As the deer pants for water, so should we. But what is the symbolism of water in Scriptures? Water symbolizes Jesus as the well of salvation. In his conversation with a Samaritan woman, Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14). Just as we need to drink water to quench our thirst and stay alive, Jesus gave us of himself to quench our thirst for righteousness and have eternal life. He is the well of salvation that the prophet Isaiah was referring to when he said, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isa. 12:3).
Water in Scriptures also symbolizes the Holy Spirit as the living water within us. Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38). The Holy Spirit resides in us and we are continually refreshed. The Holy Spirit was fitly described by the prophet Isaiah as the living water that is poured on believers. He said, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants” (Isa. 44:3).
Water in Scriptures symbolizes the Word of God as a cleansing agent. The apostle Paul said, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Eph. 5:26-27). Jesus also said, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).
Therefore, as the deer pants for water, let us also pant for the water of life that gives us eternal life, refreshes us from within and cleanses us from the filth of this world. Hallelujah!