By Chris Treneer
"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1).
David wrote Psalm 63 from the Desert of Judah. He was also in a spiritual desert, thirsty for God, longing for the restoration of his soul. "My soul thirsts for You!"
In 1973, I went through my own spiritual desert. As Psalm 118:13-14 (RSV) describes it, "I was pushed hard, so that I was falling." Several circumstances pressed me to the limit:
- The death of Pat Spivey, a colleague and close friend
- A very long and difficult labor when our first daughter, Ruth, was born
- Developing mono two months after Ruth was born
- A busy student ministry based in our home
- Pressure to “keep up appearances,” complicated by my unwillingness to be open about the state of my soul
There are many causes for a thirsty soul, but discontentment is a principal factor. We are surrounded by fallen people and a broken world. We become discontent with ourselves, our sinfulness, and mortality. All this can cause spiritual weariness. Like David, we live in a spiritually dry land. The world around us is desperately trying to quench its thirst with everything except the Living Water.
Spiritual thirst also increases because our society measures success by a never-ending drive for accomplishment. The ceaseless activity drains our souls of meaning and refreshment. People are tired, not just physically, but in the depths of their souls. We need to remember the promise of Matthew 11:28-29: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . . . and you will find rest for your souls."
As I began to think about what it means for God to “restore our souls,” I realized from this Psalm that the first step is to admit that our souls do experience thirst, as David described. Unfortunately, our tendency is to hide our weakness, even though hiding prevents healing. In Mark 3 we find the account of Jesus helping the man with a withered hand. "Stretch out your hand," Jesus said. Which hand do you think that man stretched out? He extended his withered hand, of course, because he wanted to be healed. By contrast, I often want to keep my withered hand hidden—to conceal the pain, the difficulties, and struggles of my life.
David doesn’t stop with acknowledging his spiritual thirst; instead, he expresses his confident expectation that his soul “will be satisfied.” I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory, David writes. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied.
David’s words are keys to ways that God restores our souls. First, David says that the sanctuary is where he is able to fix his inner eye on God. Where is your sanctuary? Where do you go to see God? Wherever it happens to be, the need is to focus on God Himself—the only One who can restore our souls.
Next, David focused on God’s power and glory and love. When I meditate on God’s power, I am reminded of His sovereignty and control—and my safety. His strength carries my worries and concerns. Then when I consider God’s glory—as well as His beauty and majesty—I am drawn to worship and surrender. Focusing on His glory transfers my perspective from the earthly to the eternal. Finally, gaining assurance of God’s love enables me to come to the One who gave His life for me. He is the One who has loved me with an everlasting love and drawn me close with loving-kindness. He is the One who will build me up again (Jeremiah 31:3-4), whose love will satisfy me in the morning . . . so that I may sing for joy (Psalm 90:14).
God does restore our souls. May the Lord help us to cling to Him, and may we constantly experience His arms upholding us. May the thirst of our souls be satisfied as we see Him.
"My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me" (Psalm 63:8).
Chris Treneer co-labors with her husband, International President Mike Treneer. Chris served with Mike in Kenya for 16 years, after which time Mike led the European work. They have lived in Colorado Springs since 2005, when Mike became International President.