In the NIV this same verse reads as, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God" and continues with "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night ..." (Psalm 42:1-3).
We long for God as a deer who longs for water. Thirsty, we search for the life giving water of God Himself. We desire to be in His love, but in our despair and sorrow, we call out "But when can I do so? Where are you?" Like with physical thirst we can become weak, weary, and worn out, needing the One who can only satisfy.
Our souls thirst for water and our hearts cry streams of it. It is these tears that seem like our food, day and night. How many have you been there, too, where in our deepest pain, we can not eat, but only weep, and it is these tears that become our food. I believe that God uses these tears to nourish our soul. It is a paradoxical nourishment as we pour out our inner grief in tears, God uses this very act, as we are in utter dependence on Him, to bring us sustenance and to strengthen us.
The reality is, and who of us can not speak of the great struggle that it is, that side by side our deep longing (panting) for God lies snug up against the deep pain of our heart. We desire God and at the same time, our tears flow day and night. It is hard to live in the complexity of this. We may know to lean in to God and bring Him all of our brokenness and pain, and in that there is rest and hope. Yet, our emotions remain real and sometimes, very raw. Desiring God does not take away our broken hearts.
Have hope, dear reader. "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18). As your soul weeps and your tears that feed you day and night flow, continue to lean in to God thirsting and longing for Him. He is close to you and will save.