Deer are simple creatures. They are usually skittish, running from perceived danger in a zigzag to confuse predators. They hide by melting into the landscape around them. But when the predators press in and neither running nor hiding work, deer head for the water. They instinctively know that water will hide their scent so they will avoid be chased further. Water also quenches their thirst after a long chase.
It is this kind of longing that the psalmist describes. He is exhausted by the attacks of his enemies and by the taunts of his people who challenge him, “Where is your God?” All the psalmist can think about is finding the waters of God’s righteousness where he can find safety and satiety. He knows the Lord is there; he ends the psalm determined to praise Him in spite of his fear, his depression, and his circumstances.
When we hunger and thirst for righteousness in this way, God is faithful to meet us where we are (Matthew 5:6). He alone can satisfy our deepest needs and He alone can calm our fears no matter what our circumstances may be. In Him we find protection and peace. No matter how dark our days feel, He is with us. His righteousness ensures justice; we can trust His faithful love for us. Even when we feel lost in the dark, we can praise Him, knowing that His righteousness will prevail.