I now realise, As the Deer and Psalm 42 is as much about being thirsty (…duh!) as it is about being sad. It’s as much about searching for God as it is about trusting in and finding hope in him.
I am thirsty for God. I am thirsty for the living God. When can I go and meet with him? – Psalm 42:2
It’s the words of one who once had the joy of God’s presence, the joy of worshipping God with other believers, but for one reason or the other, is missing that now.
I remember how I used to walk along with the crowd of worshipers. I led them to the house of God. We shouted with joy and gave thanks as we went to the holy feast. – Psalm 42:4
Everyone knows that for the latter half of the year I’ve been to the airport almost as many times as I’ve been on the metropolitan train. I had a vague awareness that travelling, whether for recreation or work, would impact on church life and my relationship with God. So I tried to be back on weekends, or go to a local church when I was elsewhere.
God’s people who live in our land are glorious. I take great delight in them. – Psalm 16:3
But reality is, even attending church doesn’t mean you’re at a place for long enough to have meaningful fellowship. After awhile it becomes incredibly hard to be a Christian by yourself. I don’t know how people in the Bible did it when they were on the run or in jail. I have a new sense of empathy for new believers who return home after graduation, especially in countries like China where churches are nowhere as ubiquitous as here (and fellowships even less so). I don’t know how people who travel frequently for business or backpack for any length of time stay connected.
Suppose someone falls down. Then his friend can help him up. But suppose the man who falls down doesn’t have anyone to help him up. Then feel sorry for him! – Ecclesiastes 4:10
Having a regular time set aside to study the Bible, intentionally talk about God, and pray with other people who are travelling the same narrow road makes a difference. Even if church politics is more complex than office politics (as my ex-Christian friend, or even the church pastor would say). Even if you can technically do something similar alone with God. My time away was great but I missed fellowship and I missed God. And I still do. I feel like I’ve been in a daze for the longest time and it’s taking me ages to find my way back.
Lessons noted: if we are going somewhere, plan for time with God and fellowship. Why should we not plan for the spiritual, when we all plan for, say, flights and accommodation (the physical) and getting Internet or phone access to keep in touch with family and friends (the emotional)? And if we’re not going anywhere, appreciate the church community and make the most of the time spent together.