IT’S TIME TO PANT
¶ As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
It’s all too easy to become lax in our desire to know and love God. I’m not sure if this is just the blight of the middle-aged who have families to tend, bills to pay, careers to manage, health to maintain, and relationships to repair. I think this laxity also beguiles the young who have friends to please, crowds to hang with, exams to pass, relationships to form, social-media posts to update, pimples to hide, and clothes to buy. How then does the deepest drive in the human soul – the drive to be with, know, and love God – find its fulfilment? This is how.
After the Reformation began in the sixteenth century, the English Protestant Reformers were faced with the challenge of transmitting the truth of the Bible to a generation of ordinary people who were mostly illiterate. They formulated their own ‘Catechism’ (a series of questions and answers to be memorised). The result was The Westminster Shorter Catechism. The first question reads-
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Fulfilling our deepest desire – a desire greater than that of wanting human companionship – begins by learning to pant. King David had been going through a tumultuous time in his life when he realised that his circumstances had distracted him from pursuing God. I think life can do this for the believer today. We get busy. We get distracted. We get lax. We must remind ourselves that our chief purpose in life is not to find a job, get married, buy a house, start a family – but to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever! Panting for God as a parched deer pants for water begins in our heart where we still our souls and prayerfully ask God to come closer into His presence.
Being still and doing nothing are two very different things.
(Mr Han to Xiao Dre, in Karate Kid 2010)
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
Our enemy wants us to be distracted and distant. God wants us to be still and close. In Psalm 42 King David tells us about his difficulties. He describes his despondency (“my tears have been my food day and night” Psalm 42:3) and the ridicule he endured (‘they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”’ Psalm 42:3). And he then reveals to us the master strategy for fighting our way out of such mental and emotional oppression which often sugar-coats its distractions with happiness.
¶ 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,
As David fought through the multitude of distractions in his life which kept him from seeking God first, he tells us that was him choosing to seek God like a thirsty deer sought for water. It involved praying, reminding himself of God’s faithfulness from His Word, singing in worship to God (Psalm 42:8) and praising God with thanksgiving (Psalm 42:11).
I have found myself being distracted. Pain in my deteriorating body, pressure of responsibilities, and the things common to us all, and I have reminded myself that my greatest desire and need is to know God, love God and enjoy Him forever. My panting prayer has been to ask God to speak to me and to grant me the ears to hear Him. It has included a cry to know Him more intimately and to make Him known more clearly. It has asked Him to soften my heart and to help me to feel the pain of others and to truly see and hear them. It has encompassed a prayer that He might still my soul so that I can draw closer to Him through His Word.
In a world where the enemy has found a powerful ally in world’s distractions, it’s time for God’s people to pant.
Happy new year.