Anytime I hike, I hope to see deer, but I’ve never seen one panting.
One day, as I finished a hike at a nearby state park, I rounded a grove of trees. He stood there looking at me, his brown eyes shining, with the rack on his head standing tall. If deer have a king, he was it—or at least a prince. Behind him, dozens of does and fawns grazed on tender spring grass. A few nibbled at leaves. He simply stared at me, assessing the threat.
I slowly removed my camera trying to catch a good shot. They obliged for a moment, but a sudden movement and they all bolted. Their leader calling them away to safety.
When I read King David’s words in Psalm 42, I wondering about the panting deer. If I don’t know why a deer would pant for water, how do I determine how to thirst after God that same way? So I do what any intelligent person might do. I go to Google.
Deer really don’t require much drinking water, according to Buck Manager. They get most of their water from their food sources. If that is the case, then what would cause a deer to pant?
Pregnant or Lactating Deer
That’s no surprise. When we need to sustain life for another being, we need more water. Hmmm… In a spiritual sense, that makes total sense. If I minister to other people, I have to keep returning to the source of Living Water. Otherwise, my own supply dries up and I not only risk my life, but also that of the others I’m trying desperately to support. I have to thirst after God to be any good to someone else.
How many times do I feel like the heat has been turned up on my life? Circumstances aren’t optimal. Stress surrounds me at every turn. Work, family, friends, health—unrelenting demands on my time. The heat rises. I’m so busy I never get caught up. But like the deer, that is when I most need refreshing water. If I don’t stop and return to the source of water, I will burn up, and burn out. I cannot keep running hot for extended periods.
Shortage of Food Supply
If the deer gets most of its water from food, it won’t pant for water when it is well fed. Let me interject a thought—deer fed pellets by people require more water. The pellets don’t really satisfy the deer’s most intimate need. God created us with a deep need for him, an addiction to His presence. When we fill that hunger with anything other than Him, we have an unsatisfied hunger and a thirst that nothing else can slake.
Too often, we thirst and we don’t understand what we thirst for. The water of our soul is the very presence of the Creator. Until we come to His quiet brook and drink from Him, we will not be satisfied.
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, Oh God.” Psalm 42:1 (NASB)