They both had to have something. For the Seal, it was water. For David and the Psalmist, God.
There is a story about a well-known Navy Seal who was escaping the Taliban in Afghanistan.
After his team members were shot and killed in an ambush, the Seal ran desperately through the rugged, sandy terrain to escape the enemy. Blood and sweat covered his body as he sprinted through sand, jagged rocks, then up a steep, narrow mountain pathway to try to get to safety.
The Seal carried his heavy backpack and weapons, making his escape even more taxing on his already aching joints.
The terrain was extremely dusty. With each step, the sandy dirt swirled up from the ground and filled his mouth and nostrils. After going hours without any water, each step produced within him a greater desire for even just one drop of water.
Because of the dry dust and the 100+ degree temperature, the little fluid his body had left poured out of him, leaving him dehydrated. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. He couldn’t speak.
His tongue stuck so tightly that he was afraid to separate his tongue from the roof of his mouth. It might literally rip open his tongue.
The Seal desperately needed water. Otherwise he would soon die of thirst.
David and the Psalmist felt that way
Desperately searching for God’s presence is like craving water when you are parched to the core – you must have God.
King David felt that way. But instead of water, the King desperately needed to hear from God. He wrote:
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)
Like the Seal, David was a warrior. David lived in the Middle East. He knew what it was like to be in a scorching hot land, desperate for water.
In Psalm 42, the Psalmist says something similar:
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 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, while men say to me all day long, “Where is you God?” (v. 1-3)
But in this instance, the Psalmist adds another crucial detail: “My tears have been my food day and night.”
Put another way, the writer had given up food. He was fasting and weeping in order to seek God’s presence. I could learn something from that. Can you?
When you skip lunch to exercise, or when you spend all day running errands, what is it that you start to think about? Generally, you want food. And it tastes all the better once you get your hands on it.
But when you are desperately seeking the Lord, and God reveals Himself, what then is it like? According to David, it’s like a feast: hot, savory steak, turkey legs, lavish fruits and vegetables, and chocolate crème pie.
After all, David writes later in Psalm 63: “My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods.”
David was a King. He knew rich foods.
In short, here’s the takeaway for us:
In those times when we are desperately seeking God, like David and the Psalmist, fasting is one way for us to grow closer to Him. By denying ourselves the short-term comforts that we want (food or other things we might fast), we get the eternal benefits that we need (God’s presence and Word).
That brings us back to the story about the Navy Seal. After the long, desperate sprint of getting his parched, bloody body away from the enemy, he came across a camp. He finally found what was best for him: people.
The commoners helped him. They tended to his wounds, put to his lips the water he needed to survive, and aided him on his path home.
In the same way, God tends to our wounds, nourishes us with His presence, and prepares us for His will. But first, we must desperately seek Him.