In the midst of the deadly “D”s (disappointment, death, divorce, disease, depression) there is a beautiful and mysterious D phrase: DEEP CALLS TO DEEP. For those of us who are children of God, there is such hope. Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. At the time our heart is sinking down, God may come to us, and His deep voice may speak deep into our souls.Last week Anne, who has journeyed with us for sometime, wrote something profound, something very related to this phrase: Deep calls to deep. She listened to Keller’s message Questions of Suffering on Job and responded:
My greatest take away is the idea that suffering is what bonds me to God. Having just finished the study on idolatry I remember my angst over how to replace my idols with Jesus. I tried everything. I denied myself and sought Him in the word and prayer but in the end I just had to wait for Him to come to me. And He did but not right away. So if I know that suffering will bring me closer to Him, perhaps I can lean in, knowing that I will get more of Him.
I have experienced exactly that — suffering has brought me closer to God. Yet if you would have told me seven years ago that my children and I would be doing well one day, and that I would actually be closer to God, I might have wanted to kick you. And some of you may feel that right now too. It may feel like we don’t understand the depth of your pain. And yet, God gives us real hope and Psalm 42 tells us how to take our souls in hands and to speak to them when we are sinking down. We must all learn to do this — for both times of catastrophic pain, but also for everyday sorrows.
On the very same shore that the above hammock is bathed in joyous light, I took this picture of my beloved months before he died. Steve was a contemplative man, and he often had to take his soul in hand during his illness. He told our youngest, “Annie — I’m so sad I have to leave you — but I’m so glad I got to be your daddy. And I will always be your daddy.” Even in those words I know that Steve was talking to his soul. He trusted God’s promises that we would be reunited one day. And we will! One day we will hug, we will talk, we will laugh — and “everything sad,” as Tolkein put it, “will be untrue.” Joy will come in the morning.
Steve told us that twice in his life God had spoken to him in a voice he knew was not his own — once during a profound depression, and once after his diagnosis of cancer. Each time it was Deep calling to deep with the same question:
Steve, do you trust me?
Each time God called him by name.
Each time He asked the same question.
Each time, Steve answered, “I do.”
Jesus cares about our sorrows and He comes to us. He can see the future, and He knows it is good. He knows our sorrow will only last for the night and joy will come in the morning, yet He still cares about our nights, and will comfort His suffering child. And at times, deep will call to deep.
What does this phrase that has inspired poets and painters mean? Charles Spurgeon interpreted it as “the deep voice of God speaking deep into our souls.”
Share a time when “Deep called to deep,” when in a time of sorrow or anxiety, the deep voice of God spoke deep into your soul.
There are three parts to the study this week:
A. An inductive look at Psalm 42
B. Listening to a free sermon on Psalm 42 by Tim Keller: Link
C. Listening to Midday Connection as Anita and I discuss this chapter from The God of All Comfort. (See link at bottom of page for past program)
READ PSALM 42:
Read as a lover reads, lingering on the images. There are four water images. The first is familiar to us.
1. In Psalm 42:1-2, what is the image? What do the streams of living water that the psalmist is trying to find represent?
2. The psalmist says he is not finding God. He is like a deer dying for water who comes all the way down from the mountain and finds the riverbed dry. What water image is in verse 3? How is this a true lament?
3. Look carefully and see if you can find hidden in this verse 3 the classic signs of depression. (weeping, not sleeping, not eating).
4. Find another causal factor to depression in verse 4.
5. Often, when facing a deadly D, we want to withdraw. Have you felt that way? Why is that one of the worst things you can do?
6. If you are, indeed, withdrawing, talk to your soul and tell her some of the ways being with Christian brethren has encouraged you in the past.
I want to tell you how you, my sisters on this blog, have come to mean a great deal to me. It is often through you that God whispers, encourages, and guides. You are a well of water into which I dip.
7. Now, in Psalm 42:5, the psalmist does something very wise. He takes his soul in hand and asks him a question. What is it?
8. For those who have been through our idolatry study, what do you think he is really asking his soul?
9. What, according to verse 5, does he tell his soul to do?
I was listening to Leslie Vernick on Midday Connection last week on relationships, and she told of going to The Christian Booksellers convention — a mega-event where booksellers and publishers connect and authors come for publicity opportunities. Leslie said that she began to get really jealous of some of her author friends who had bigger displays and more radio opportunities. And so she asked her soul, “What’s going on here?” [Why are you downcast, O my soul?] She realized it was her approval idol, and so was able to tell her soul to find her approval in God instead.
10. As the psalmist (we aren’t sure if it was David, though Spurgeon says it reeks of David!) is far away from others who love God (he may be fleeing in the wilderness from enemies, he may be captured) he remembers times when he did have fellowship with brothers and sisters. He remembers how God was close to him. He is lamenting when suddenly God comes to him. In verse 7 we have the famous phrase “deep calls to deep.” What water image is it paired with? What do you know about the roar of waterfalls that would go with “deep calling to deep?”
10. The fourth water image is both negative and positive, though I for so long only saw it as negative. Find it in this same verse.
A. How could this water image be negative?
B. Verse 7 paired with verse 8 shows how this water image could be positive. What do you see?
11. After the psalmist has talked to his soul, what must he do again in 42:11 and 43:5? What does this tell you?
12. Watch this and comment on it. What images from Psalm 42 do you find? Other thoughts?
13. Any other thoughts from Psalm 42? Application?
LISTEN TO KELLER’S FREE SERMON ON PSALM 42 AND RECORD YOUR THOUGHTS: Link
ONE THING THAT IS INTERESTING TO ME, IS KELLER REFERS TO PEOPLE WHO SO BACKED AWAY FROM GOD IN THE MIDST OF PAIN THAT THEY ARE NOT SURE THEY ARE CHRISTIANS. WHAT THOUGHTS DO YOU HAVE ON THIS?
LISTEN TO MIDDAY CONNECTION: Link
We must speak to our souls. Keller says he reads Psalm 96 to himself everyday to keep perspective about what is ahead. One day Jesus will come, and all weeping will be gone. The trees of the field will clap their hands. May we keep speaking the truth to our souls.
UPDATE: Here is the link to the “God of All Comfort, Part 4″ on Moody Radio: Link
This video may make you feel a bit seasick, but there’s nothing like a visual to tap into the right brain. How I want you to see what the Lord has for you in this. The first water images were of an absence of water — a thirsty deer who has come to a dry riverbed — the psalmist saying his only water is his tears, day and night. (Isn’t that a picture of depression?)
But now, we have waves and breakers and a waterfall.
Meditate on Psalm 42:7-8. Write it out. This is one worthy of memorization, for it is so deep.
1. Several of you have caught that the mood if both positive and negative, there is water now, yet still the psalmist is talking to his downcast soul. How can “waves and billows” both drown you yet also save you? (Think of the story of Noah)
2. How may the very thing that you think is pulling you down, actually be an instrument of salvation? (If you can’t see it in your present circumstance, then look back to something you lost, something you thought you had to have, and now you see how God knew exactly what He was doing for your soul? Hope to hear some concise beautiful testimonies.)
3. Waves and breakers keep coming — what thought parallels this in verse 8?
4. Google Annie Johnson Flint’s poem “His Billows” — what insight does this give you?
5. Listen to the positive water images in Deep Deep Love of Jesus — share what you hear
6. My favorite phrase of all: “Deep calls to deep” — what do you think it means? I’ll share some favorite quotes, but want to hear from you first.
It’s Ash Wednesday — a perfect time to begin in earnest to seek God, especially in the desert times.
We’re going to look at a psalm that I know can really help those of you in pain, those of you who are not sensing the presence of God, or those of you who long to be a comfort to others. It’s Psalm 42 and there are four vivid water pictures in it that can soothe and heal. The first is really a picture of no water — it’s a picture of the psalmist who identifies with a thirsty deer who has come all the way down the mountain, absolutely panting for water, but the river bed is dry!
He longs to sense the presence of God like that dying deer longs for water, but WHERE IS GOD???? Isn’t it comforting that God knows we will feel like this at times and gives us this picture? The psalmist says, in effect, “My only water is my tears, day and night.” (verse 3) That’s where some of you are, right now. God sees you, He understands, and He cares.
My prayer is that you will not give up. When I was preparing to write this chapter, “Deep Calls to Deep” I had an experience that was one of those rare moments when I absolutely knew the God who made the universe was speaking to me, and to you, my friends. Here it is, from The God of All Comfort:
I was at my cabin in Wisconsin, almost three years after Steve’s death. Here, I do not pull my shades at night for I love seeing the sun sink into the waves of Green Bay as I go to sleep. Sometimes I wake just before the dawn—and a very few blessed times I have opened my eyes to see the vague shapes of a doe and her fawn drinking deep draughts from the bay. They come silently, before the world awakens, hoping they are safe.
In the dawn’s dim light, I have tried, unsuccessfully, to photograph them. Even my best photo is simply shadowy shapes, which my dad claimed were just stumps in the water that my fertile imagination desired to be deer.
I have never seen them brave the open water when the sun is up.
Until the day I began researching the word pictures of Psalm 42—beginning with the image of the deer panting for living water. Though I am often suspicious of people who have constant God sightings, I must admit, this was a God sighting.
Sunday, July 22
Two years and nine months after Steve’s death
Thank You, Lord. I am amazed at what You just did for me, for the readers of the book I am planning to write. I want to record it now, lest I forget.
When I saw what a beautiful morning it was, with the lake like rose-colored glass, I decided to have my time with You on the dock. I was immersing myself in Psalm 42. I sang “As the Deer” and “All Who Are Thirsty.” I began reading various translations of verses 1-2 of the psalm, turning the phrases over in my mind, asking You to “quicken” me and help me see, when suddenly, I was startled by a large shape moving on my right, below me, on the beach.
The timing was so uncanny I thought at first I was imagining it. But no. There she was. A graceful doe, and right behind her, her fawn. Gentle steps clicking softly over the rocks, beside the dock, and into the water. Then they stood like statues, except I was so close I could see them breathing.
The doe was alert, her nose quivering. I feared she would smell me, prayed she wouldn’t. All was still, and I was frozen in my deck chair, holding my breath.
I was so aware that this was a gift from You. The overwhelming thought of Your mindfulness of me. Of this book and its readers. I knew there was something You wanted me to see—so I was as alert as the doe. I knew better than to try to get my camera. I stayed motionless, praying I would see, really see—through the living picture to the meaning.
She walked gently, her fawn followed—just barely into the water, ready, if necessary, to bolt. Then—the picture that will forever linger in my memory: she spread her long legs so as to reach the water, her long neck reaching down. Her fawn did the same. They drank and drank. Deep draughts.
A seagull cried and her head came up, ears taut. Then, soft head down again.
I shifted just a bit to see them better. My book, Derek Kidner’s commentary on the psalms, open to Psalm 42, fell from my deck chair. Her head came swiftly up and she bolted, her fawn scrambling after mother over the rocks.
I stood to watch them go—white tails disappearing into the woods. Gone. As if it never happened. Yet it did, and the picture lingers in my memory, this gift from You.
What did I see that I believe God meant for you and for me? I saw a deer so thirsty that she braved the danger of daylight and humans to come. I saw a deer in a position of prostrate piety—the same position that God is pleased to see in us in body, but certainly in heart, as we show how earnest we are to hear from Him.
Suffering is like salt, increasing our thirstiness. In grief, we can recognize that our thirst is for God and press harder into Him, still believing that He is sovereign, caring, and our only hope. Or we can look to quench our thirst through drugs, constant sleep, destructive relationships, or work. We can abuse our bodies through cutting, or overeating or undereating—hoping to make atonement or to gain control of lives out of control. But those “sources of water” are mirages that can neither quench our thirst nor soothe grieving souls.
Only God can do that. And God longs for us to thirst for Him as the deer thirsts for streams of water. The word pictures in the psalms ultimately point us, in a kaleidoscope of ways, to Jesus. But we will not see Him unless we come in prostrate piety, earnestly desiring the Spirit to open our eyes.
Come, like a thirsty deer.
Here’s your homework. I promise you this will minister to you if you come like a thirsty deer.
1. Read Psalm 42 in its entirety as an overview
A. What question does the psalmist keep asking of his soul? What does he tell his soul to do?
B. Find the four water pictures in the psalm. We’ll be looking at them in depth, for each is filled with meaning, but for now, simply find them and identify the verses they are in.
2. I’m hoping that many of you will download and listen to Tim Keller’s sermon on Psalm 42. It’s 2.50 so I realize some of you won’t be able to do it. But it is 2.50 well spent. Paste this into your browser and listen to it and give us your comments.
3. Some of the songs that might minister to you with this are:
As The Deer (but does this post shed new light on that) (Any fresh renditions you know of?)
All Who Are Thirsty (Kutlas and other groups do this beautifully)
Why Are You Downcast? (a group from India: Abney, Swapna… does it with wonderful water sounds)
The Deep Deep Love of Jesus (Many groups, and Amy Shreve’s is beautiful)
Give us your recommendations and thoughts.
4. If you are one who simply is not sensing the presence of God — tell us and we’ll pray for you.
5. If a verse pops out at you from Psalm 42, comment on it.
6. We talked about this psalm yesterday on Midday Connection — and also had a great interview with Elisa Stanford, on her feelings when her first child was born with Down’s Syndrome. If any of you listened and have a comment on that or anything in the interview, would love to hear it. (You can listen to past programs online.)
Praying for each of you!