Psalm 42 begins with the poignant image of a deer desperate for water and arriving at a stream bed that is now dry and water. The deer cries out in urgent thirst. Walter Brueggemann describes this psalm as "a prayer of an individual in crisis." He continues: "Just as water is necessary for life, and just as the deer's need is urgent, so is God necessary for life and the speaker's need for the divine presence urgent." Henry Wansborough similarly points out that the psalm expresses "the ardent longing to come close to God."
The idea of longing is a particular focus in this psalm. The deer's hope of getting thirst quenched by running water is a fantastic model of how God's love sustains and refreshes us. There are things that look as though they might overwhelm us, but God's presence assures us of a different result.
The deer of the psalm might be struggling, but is an important reminder of the possibility that is there for us to turn to God.