I remember all too well my younger days of playing fall sports—first football, and then soccer. What those two sports have in common (aside from both being referred to as “football”) is that training camp (at a collegiate level) was held in August—when the weather is hot and humid and draining and there is no relief. After years of August camps and the conditions in which we trained, it made me really appreciate why baseball has, for many years, referred to these times as the “dog days.” You just can’t crank up enough energy to compensate for the drain you are experiencing. And, when you can’t replenish fluids sufficiently, it makes it hard to think clearly—let alone perform at anything close to a high level. Rehydrating becomes a real key—not only to maintaining decent performance, but also for your own health and well-being. The tremendously debilitating effects of the dog days of summer are just that way.
Interestingly, David would have understood that as well. As the psalmist-shepherd king of Israel, he experienced his own dog days. These days of draining and weakening, however, were not connected to athletics. They were the very fabric of his life experience at that moment. We read about one such moment in Psalm 42, where David was being pursued. He sang:
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, “Where is your God?” When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance (Psalm 42:1-5).
What athletes experience physically, David felt spiritually and emotionally. He described his soul as thirsty for God in a way that made him desperate for the presence of God. He talked about struggle and loss. He even described a despair of soul. In the dog days of his experience, David felt separated from God at the moment he needed Him the most. So how did he spiritually rehydrate? In verse 5, we see two key words that brought refreshing to his spirit and energy to his fading heart. The first is hope and the second is help. In spite of the fatigue and weariness of his heart, David challenged himself to confidence (hope) because he was reassured of God’s presence (help). For those who are followers of Christ, it’s true: When we are spiritually weary, there is no greater assurance we can have than this—His presence is assured. Even in the dog days of our lives.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain