Reflections on Psalm 63 —
We can discover the depths of God when we learn to be dependent on Him.
In a culture of do-it-yourselfers, the church needs to know it’s OK to be needy. Co-dependence is a good thing. Grown adults should be encouraged to take up residence in the house of their father. I am speaking of co-dependency on a Heavenly Father, not an earthly one, and the residence I’m referring to is the temple of God, not a dark, wood-paneled basement.
It is OK to have a needy soul. In fact, it is a prerequisite for discovering the depths of God and the satisfying thrill of life that lies within. It is not the self-sufficient, pious saint that inherits the Kingdom of God, but the one who is poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3), destitute within himself.
Many Christians have lost touch with their soul. This is a by-product of the modern church’s overemphasis on evangelism and inundation of building projects and fundraisers. Others have no need to consider the health of their soul, being completely comfortable in their plush homes and well-paying jobs. If we are to grow in our knowledge of the Father and experience the fullness of joy He offers, we need to cultivate desperate souls. It is an exclusive and narrow path that leads to the richness of knowing God.
Embracing the Needy Soul
In Psalm 63, David shows us what it’s like to embrace our needy soul. He wrote this psalm while fleeing for his life from the jealous King Saul and his cronies. Probably hiding in a cave somewhere in the wilderness of Judah, the man after God’s own heart teaches us how to discover God’s fullness by connecting with the desperate state of his soul.
“You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” — Psalm 63:1
David’s words are foreign to us. We don’t talk about thirsty souls or yearning flesh these days. Such talk seems desperate, uncertain, or a overly dramatic. But the one who is honest with himself, humble, and quiet in spirit knows when his heart is not happy. He has tried many of the world’s vices, but is discontent, weary, tired of disappointment. He finds himself in a “dry and thirsty land with no water.”
It is a miracle that God enables a man to awaken and find himself in such a state, to suddenly be open to fresh ideas. All at once, the truth of God makes perfect sense. He comes to a place where the only thing that makes sense is to pursue God. As his faith matures, he finds he does not require instant gratification. He is able to wait on God, holding fast to a belief that God is good and wants to help, even when it doesn’t seem that way at the moment.
Such is the desperate faith of one in touch with the neediness of his soul. He clings to God (v8), like the object lesson of the belt in Jeremiah 13:1-11. There, God says to us through Jeremiah…
“For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory.” — Jeremiah 13:11
We were designed to be dependent on God. Too often, church sermons sound like guilt-trips. They raise the standard of perfection and leave the congregation depressed and ready to shrink off to the exits. The note-takers underline the one or two applications recommended by the preacher and promise themselves, “this time, I’m really going to change”, knowing full well they’re embarking on another fruitless attempt to live victoriously, secretly fretting yet another disappointment waiting to happen. Our emphasis is all wrong, for we were not designed for perfection. It is the false gospel of self-reliance rearing its ugly, deceitful head, for even the most disciplined saint has a mountain of sin hiding underneath his facade. Those who live in such arrogant self-reliance become unusable to God, unfit for His service like a ruined waistband is unfit for its owner.
We were made to cling. Jesus is the Great Physician who came to heal the sick, not the healthy (Matthew 9:12). The desperate tax collector who bore the weight of his great sin and begged for mercy came away righteous, not the priggish Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). Rather than buckling down and battling our sinful urges alone, Paul encourages us to ask the Spirit to do the heavy lifting instead (Romans 8:13). In example after example, God tells us to relax, and cling to Him.
The Needy Soul Finds God
“…thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.” — Psalm 63:2
Only when David thirsted for God was he able to see Him in a sense. In his neediness, David experienced God’s sanctuary–a refuge from the storm, a strong tower of defense. He experienced God’s power and glory manifested in multiple narrow escapes from Saul’s hordes. Psalm 63 tells us that the one with the needy soul can experience God in a variety of ways.
First, he discovers God’s mercy is so rich it is better than life (v3). He will be surprised to find himself satisfied, even when he doesn’t possess all the glittery things he once coveted. He will giggle silently to himself with an inexplicable happiness–the joy the world desires but can never seem to find. He will be so overwhelmed with the goodness of God, his worship and praise will be sincere (v4), not contrived. He finds security and confidence (v7) even in the face of hateful attacks. He discovers that he does not give in to anger and vengeance as in days of old because he understands God’s role as judge. He entrusts his case to the Heavenly Magistrate that faithfully deals retribution on evil. He finds this enables him to be patient, and even love his enemy as he is called to do (Matthew 5:43-47). He is quiet in his soul in spite of the treachery done to him, knowing God will take up his cause and deal with unrepentant oppressors in due time (v9-10) and will shine the light on their untruths and silence their lies (v11).
This is what it’s like to find God. It is patience, contentment, security, and inexplicable joy. The one with the needy soul understands this.
Growing More Dependent
Getting in touch with the soul is not easy. From our youth, we are taught to do things on our own…we are weaned in our infancy, cheered on when we stand and take our first steps. We get our pictures taken as we step on the bus on the first day of school. All aspects of society encourage us to be increasingly independent.
Christianity in its truest form is exactly the opposite. We grow, not by becoming self-reliant, but by becoming more dependent.
I don’t think you can get there apart from experiencing a few difficult trials. I blasted out of college with such self-reliance and arrogance, I feel I need to apologize to all my friends and acquaintances I knew back then! It wasn’t until God upset my apple cart that I started to realize I wasn’t all that. I had to learn that God designed me, not to be independent, but totally dependent on Him. Some would say I’m a confident person, but my confidence is not from stoutness of heart. Seldom a day goes by when I do not feel angst in my soul and offer up repeated appeals to God for deliverance, for salvation from all the worries, fears, and insurmountable challenges my mind conjures up.
Christians, it’s OK to be needy. We need to know the condition of our soul, sense its weariness, listen to its need for healing. Let the soul’s longings fuel our quest for fulfillment, and drive us to seek the only One who can satisfy our deepest needs.