Running on Empty

Carol Bechtel

READ : Psalm 42

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. (v. 1 NRSV)

Earthquake survivor Evan Muncie could be considered the world’s foremost authority on thirst. Rescuers pulled him from the rubble in Haiti almost four weeks after the quake. He was suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration. He told his mystified doctors that someone had visited him under the rubble and given him water. Authorities concluded he was hallucinating.

“I’m thirsty.” These are words we’ve all said. Thirst is a basic, powerful sensation that can drive us to acts of utter desperation. It is also a built-in alarm bell. With bodies that are roughly 60 percent water, there’s no such thing as “running on empty.”

When the psalmist compares himself to a thirsty deer, he is admitting to a certain level of desperation. This is a matter of spiritual life and death to him. His longing for God is like a dying animal’s search for water, not like strolling to the fridge saying, “Gee, I think I’d like something to drink.”

If you’ve ever felt like the author of this psalm, you know the pain that gave birth to this ancient prayer. But there is comfort here too. The thing that keeps this psalmist alive “under the rubble” is the memory of God’s steadfast love, which rushes over him like a waterfall (v. 7). Like that thirsty deer, he lifts his head at the scent of water and finds the strength to live another day.

What memories of God’s steadfast love give your thirsty soul the scent of water?


We hope in you, O God, even when we’re running on empty.