Waiting is not my favorite. I’m guessing you’re with me. Whether waiting in line, in traffic or to use the bathroom, I don’t enjoy the uncomfortable helplessness of just sitting there. Take that discomfort up a few notches and picture the really hard scenarios: waiting to get hired, to find a spouse, or get past a particular health or relational struggle. Chances are, you’re in a season of waiting. And like waiting in a line for your turn, it’s uncomfortable-times- one-hundred!
The psalmist David can relate. Psalm 13 begins with the oft-repeated question, “How long, O Lord?” We feel David’s angst and desperation as he pours out his emotions to God: “Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” The “how long?” puts an emphasis on length of time. David is struggling to find endurance to go on under exhausting and seemingly unending circumstances. Been there? I have! So what’s a soul to do?
Praise God Anyway. David doesn’t describe any breakthrough or happy ending to his struggle in all of Psalm 13. What we do see is David’s response in the waiting. Right in the middle of his storm, David makes three bold declarations: 1) he will keep trusting in God’s unfailing love, 2) he will rejoice in the gift of salvation and 3) he will praise the Lord for His goodness (vs. 5). “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” When you think about it, none of these things will ever change, even when life circumstances feel flimsy and uncertain. God’s steadfast love is solid, His gift of salvation cannot be revoked and God’s goodness can be seen absolutely anywhere, no matter how tough life gets.
Cling to Jesus. Sometimes when the Bible tells us to wait, the Hebrew word being used (qavah) carries the idea of gathering strength, or of tying or twisting together a cord or strand of rope. Psalm 27:14 uses the word multiple times when it says, “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes wait for the Lord.” Because of this rich word picture the Passion Translation renders the verse, “Don’t give up; don’t be impatient; Be entwined as one with the Lord.” Your season of waiting need not be a time of wasted, idle inactivity. Instead, it’s an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus, and allow Him to wrap your heart closely into His heart and purposes. As we do this, our perspective often shifts and we gather courage and strength which isn’t dependent on ourselves, but Him.
These are the things we can actively do while waiting, but it’s still hard to hold on when outcomes are unknown and waiting seems to drag on and on. What do we do with scenarios that look like unmoving mountains? Maybe you’ve prayed, sought answers and struggled to trust God, yet nothing seems to be happening. Can anything good come from waiting?
God Marks You. One of my favorite Biblical characters is Jacob. He definitely wasn’t perfect, but he persisted in wrestling all night with a man he’d later recognize as God, saying, “I will not let go unless you bless me” (Gen. 32:26). I used to think Jacob was being kind of manipulative here; after all, that was in his nature. But I think there’s something powerful about staying on the wrestling mat with God—not throwing in the towel and going home—but persevering through the questions and struggles of our heart—being brutally honest with God and not quitting because it’s tough. Jacob came away from that wrestling match with a permanent limp, but also came away blessed. When we allow ourselves to stay in the uncomfortable wrestle with God we’ll be marked by Him–maybe permanently in some way—reminders of our weakness, dependency or need. But also with a greater strength than before, new revelations about Himself or a deeper relationship with Him.
You’ll Appreciate the Miracle. Psalm 30 is a powerful song of celebration and breakthrough, yet right in the middle David writes, “By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.” How is an unmoving mountain a display of God’s favor? The text seems to imply something about a lesson in humility: “I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved’” (vs. 6) and then enters the unmoving mountain (vs. 7). It’s reminiscent of Paul’s words: “To keep me from becoming conceited… there was given me a thorn in my flesh…” (I Corinthians 12:7). We anticipate and celebrate the miracles, breakthroughs and long-awaited answers! However, writer Ann Voskamp acknowledges that “we may not always get our miracle, but we always get God… Living in the tension of mystery and miracle ties a broken heart to God.” The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 long years before finally entering the land God promised them. Songwriter Sara Groves’ reflects lyrically on that story: “If it comes too quick I may not appreciate it; Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?” Perhaps God is preparing you to be able to recognize, receive and appreciate His answer, His mountain-moving miracle! But perhaps right now the miracle you need most is to experience God’s presence in the midst of your messy process! Stay on the mat and seek His face.