Psalm 42 – Tears for Food
My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’Psalm 42:3
People cry a lot nowadays. Quite often it can be for the simplest of reasons. It can be while watching a movie, or while sharing a thought with a friend. In our hug-and-kiss society, one man’s sorrow quickly becomes another man’s reason to cry. We’ve become much more sensitive to things around us and we’re not afraid to show it.
I don’t remember people being quite as demonstrative in showing emotion when I was younger. Recently I was reminded of how emotional and sensitive issues have become when a majority of MPs in The Netherlands voted in favour of phasing out hundreds of mink farms over the next ten years. Fifty years ago we showed little emotion on our mink ranches in southern Manitoba when pelting season rolled around and mink were put on the “carousel of death.” Neither were we sympathetic when Bridget Bardot made it her mission to stop the seal hunt.
We’ve tried to be happy and carefree since the last world war. It was felt that by letting the children make their own decisions instead of taking over the flawed ones made by their parents, society would be better off. “Give peace a chance,” the children said in the 60s. Not all of their efforts were wrong. Becoming more sensitive to animals and the environment was indeed a needed thing. But is our society where it needs to be as result of these efforts?
It’s difficult to keep a brave face when the evening news gives evidence that our attempts at being good have failed miserably. Efforts to offer concessions for our human weakness have not offset the reality that something has gone terribly wrong in our society. At no time in recent memory have we seen so much in the way of murder, stealing, anarchy, disrespect, divorce, pornography, child abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity, rape, and violence in general.
Humanity’s hugs and tears have attempted to say: “We can make it together.” But I believe that more often than not they have become an expression of fear. And why is that? Our society is missing a foundation – a comfort zone – namely, the providential care of God. Those who have pushed God aside have only themselves to hold onto. Obviously it is not enough, judging by the rise of drug use and the abandonment of social principles.
The psalmist of Psalms 42 and 43 gives us the answer we need to know in such times. He knows that life in itself does not hold the solutions. He has felt the effects of a well-intended society and he has suffered much:
My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’
However, he has not given in to despair on account of this. He knows about a way out of this agony. And it is not a conventional way. To counteract those who taunt him, he gives us the words of verse 3, as a parallel to the words of verse 10: “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’”
Tears for food, the psalmist says. Hugs and tears in our society suggest helplessness and fear. Those who cry, cry only to each other. But in the brokenness of life, tears open the door to a solution for the psalmist and for every believer. Jesus would later say in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Tears lead us to blessing.
It is only when we see the reality of this world being a broken place that we will stand in a position to look to God for help. I don’t know how many of us are willing to go that far. All too often we are content to live with sin and hurt and not to look for the help that is offered by God. What is it to pant and thirst in our souls for the living God “as the deer pants for streams of water”? What is it to “go and meet with God” through weeping, on account of the persecution of our souls? Are tears not the food that is needed for finding hope and contentment with the living God through Jesus Christ our Lord?