As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
I am sure that many praise songs and Christian hymns have been founded on these two verses. And I have sung a few. But what is going on with this extreme soul thirst that the sons of Korah are teaching us to know in this psalm? I'd like to understand that kind of driving passion that can only be quenched in God! In a world where such meaningless is given such importance (name a cultural icon), how can my soul be overwhelmed with a longing for God?
Thankfully, the answer is clearly elaborated in the rest of the psalm (though I have never really heard it sung about in praise songs). It is not a topic that is very popular in contemporary Christian culture... which is why you don't sing praise choruses based on Psalm 42:3..."my tears have been my food day and night." Tears are the mechanism that leads us to long for God so exquisitely. When experiencing sorrow, the soul is encouraged to seek God (42:5,11). It is in the tears that we can want God. Sorrow is the secret to soul thirst.
It appears to me that this psalm encourages us to take action when we face such emotions. "These things I remember..." indicating a choice not to dwell on feelings but instead to appeal to the past facts of God's goodness and his ability for the present and future. "Hope in God... remember Him... say to Him" ... these are calls to action when feeling sad. It is through the pain that we find our thirsty souls in need and in the seeking of God that our needs are met. God uses our pains to draw us to Him so that He can satisfy our sorrowing souls!