“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
These words help us by preparing us for the fact that God may put us in positions where He wants us to praise Him when every trace of Him is absent. The psalmist here is in a dry place. Either there is actual physical drought in his land (Israel is basically a reclaimed desert.), or else he is personally in a place of spiritual dryness.
Perhaps you are familiar with spiritual dryness. Perhaps it is not even the case that something horrible was going on in your life; you were simply feeling “dry” in your Christianity. Perhaps you had prayed and not yet received, or perhaps you were not feeling God’s nearness, like C.S. Lewis occasionally did not after the death of his wife:
“… go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited?” (A Grief Observed)
Observed is not Lewis’ finest book, and I fear that my beloved teacher missed the boat on this one. I know a couple who lost six children in a fiery car crash and immediately prayed Psalm 34. This may sound superhuman to you, but praising God in the midst of agony and perplexity is a choice.
Psalm 63—and many similar Psalms—instructs me. Evidently, God does not remove all unpleasantness, even in answer to prayer. So do not expect that. King David undoubtedly prayed about the dryness, whether it was the dearth of water or fervor. God for some reason was withholding answer temporarily. What did David do then? He chose to say nevertheless: “O God, you are my God.” He chose to honor his God by continuing to speak the words God most longs to hear: “earnestly I seek you.”
What could delight God more than to hear His child exert His will and faith to the last bit of strength, to praise Him in the crucible of great suffering? Will He leave His beloved in that state forever? David, for one, did not countenance that possibility for a second:
“But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult …” (Psalm 63:11).