Confession…I’m not the most patient person on planet earth. While I have grown in my patience over the years—thanks to the help of three children—I still have difficulty in practicing patience. Patience can be defined as “an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.” Wikipedia states the definition of patience as, “The state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on negative annoyance or anger.”
But to jump out on a limb, I don’t think I am the only one in our culture that finds patience difficult. In fact, I can go to the local grocery store or fast food place and point to the numerous cash registers or the two-lane drive-thrus that have been created for an impatient culture. If we have ever been to the doctor or dentist for a 9:30 appointment only to be ushered back in at 10, we have found patience lacking. What about that internet page that takes 10.3 seconds to load? During that grueling 10.3 seconds we’re thinking to ourselves, “load, load, load…what’s going on here?” Or one of my more frustrating moments is the spinning dial on Netflix or Hulu where my connection is buffering. Let’s not forget our children, they epitomize the innate nature of human impatience.
These are more of the light-hearted moments that enlighten us to our lack of patience. But, what about waiting out the more serious moments? Maybe it’s waiting on a spouse. A job. A promotion. A wayward child. Getting out of debt. A restored relationship. The test’s results. A treatment plan to work. A spouse to come back from deployment. Graduating. The improvement of your marriage. For directional clarity. Whatever it may be, the truth is, our culture finds waiting patiently difficult.
Patience is directly linked to our acceptance that we are not in control. Impatience is directly linked to our anger and annoyance that we are not in control.
In Psalm 40, the psalmist writes a song that tells his story of waiting patiently. In his song he answers three questions: 1) How he waited patiently? 2) What happened when he waited patiently? and 3) What happened after he waited patiently?
How he waited patiently?
We know that David wrote the psalm. But what was David waiting for? We don’t specifically know what David has in mind. It may have been waiting on an opportunity to aid (in some way) his brothers and his nation who were at war with the Philistines. It may have been his waiting on the throne. From the time the Lord revealed to him that he would be the next king until the day it came about, David waited well over a decade. Or maybe, it was when he fled Jerusalem at his son’s (Absalom) takeover of the kingdom, and he was left waiting for the outcome.
Whatever the specific situation was, the psalmist reveals that he “waited patiently for the Lord.” Once again patience, or waiting patiently, is directly linked to our acceptance that we are not in control. Thus, the psalmist waited patiently because his gaze was fixed upon the one who was in control.
But the psalmist didn’t passively sit by waiting patiently on the Lord. He actively cried out to the Lord. I could imagine the sleepless nights of David, crying out to the Lord as he sat in the field concerned for his brothers’ safety; or laying in the cave wondering where Saul and his men were; or fleeing Jerusalem weeping at his son’s violent takeover and hoping for a peaceful resolve. Sure, he could have taken matters into his own hands and tried to do something in his own strength. But he didn’t. In every trial, in every period of waiting, the Lord taught David about his sovereignty and that David could completely rely on and trust in Him.
Periods of waiting are not meant to be puzzle-boxes to see how quickly and creatively we can escape, but are faith builders to learn about the faithfulness of God.
I don’t know what you’re waiting for, but the glory of waiting patiently is found in trusting the sovereignty of a glorious God.
What happened when he waited patiently?
Continuing his song, David pens that in waiting for the Lord, God “inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” In other words, David said waiting patiently on the Lord paid off. Tracing the steps of waiting patiently, David shares that:
- God heard him
- God rescued him
- God established stability for him
- God deposited joy in him
God hears the cries of His people! One of the many metaphors that Scripture uses to describe God is Father. A father wants what is best for his child. The same rings true with our heavenly Father. For instance, Jesus states, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:9–11).
However, many wonder whether or not God hears their prayers because they never feel like there is an answer or an alleviation of their request or problem. For David, there was deliverance. God rescued him from the pit of destruction. Just like David, other saints experienced rescue and deliverance—people such as Joseph and Job. However, for many other saints, although God heard their emotional pleas and prayers, they didn’t experience deliverance or rescue from the particular situation.
In short, whether it is experienced temporarily in this life or eternally in the life to come, waiting patiently on God leads to rescue and deliverance. In addition, waiting on God also leads to the establishment of stability—this happens regardless of whether or not one experiences rescue or deliverance from their situation. In fact, the psalmist in Psalm 46 writes, in the context of God being a refuge and strength and a very present help in times of trouble,
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns (Ps 46:2–5).
Even though you may be sitting in the midst of the storm or walking through the valley of the shadow of death, the presence of a sovereign God becomes the anchor of one’s soul. God becomes the rock, the stability, for weary or feeble feet.
Furthermore, waiting patiently for God leads to the installment of joy through a new song. Again, this happens regardless of whether or not one experiences relief from their troubled situation. When I think of singing and the installment of joy in the midst of waiting or having waited, I think of Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16:25). Even in the midst of trial, waiting on whether or not God would deliver them from jail, Paul and Silas sang hymns while crying out to God. Where do those songs, and the inspiration to sing them, come from? The psalmist says, “He put a new song….” In other words, God installs a new song in the heart of those who wait and who have waited patiently for Him.
God places songs in our heart to accompany us through the night and to give witness that we’ve made it to the next day.
I can’t sing a lick, but I love to sing. As I look back over my life, I remember seasons where God gave different songs to me that had more meaning than others. For instance, over the last year David Crowder’s song, “Come As You Are,” has really meant a lot to me. The song opens up with, “Come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been; come broken hearted, let rescue begin; come find your mercy, oh sinner come kneel; Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.” I have found myself driving solo in the car blaring and singing this song. In each time, God instilled a sense of joy and hope.
In sum, the glory of waiting patiently is manifested as God gives us songs to declare His praises in light of His great work in our lives. What song gets you through the night that you can declare in the morning?
What happened after he waited patiently?
Last, the psalmist expresses, “Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” The psalmist teaches us here that the glory of waiting patiently is really never about us, but about the Lord’s work in our lives for the watching world to see. It’s about people seeing the faithfulness of God at work in the lives of His faithful followers.
Many saw the patient waiting of the psalmist and how the Lord personally and powerfully worked in his life. As a result of them bearing witness to the work of God in the life of the psalmist, many responded in faith.
Keep in mind, the nature of our waiting can maximize or minimize the work of God in the lives of others.
This isn’t to say that we hinder God’s work in the world, for God is going to work regardless of what we do; it is to say that we can minimize His working through us in the world.
In closing, the glory of waiting patiently happens when we wait for the Lord, experience His personal and powerful work in our lives, and bear witness of His work so that others might see and come to know and trust Him.
What is it that you are waiting on? How are you waiting?