I’ve been waiting … and it seems like a very long time. With little discernible evidence of God’s activity, the clock ticks relentless forward turning days into weeks, and weeks into months. As each new morning dawns, I find myself wondering whether anything will ever come of my dreams. I know enough to realize that the Lord moves according to His own timetables and that my inability to recognize His movements doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing is happening. Yet, the same questions drift through my mind… Is God really working? When will His plan unfold? Did I hear Him correctly in the first place? It’s striking how much my internal musings mirror the words of Psalm 13. Verse 1 sounds so much like some of my prayers… “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?”
I love that the Bible is so honest. Instead of always presenting an overly rosy picture of a life of faith, many of the subjects in the familiar stories grappled with the same issues that we all have. Even God’s most faith-filled servants often struggled to overcome familiar hesitations and questions. I can relate well to those emotions, but I’m also grateful that they didn’t leave us to drown in our uncertainties when things don’t go according to our schedule. If we look a little more deeply, the Psalms do more than just echo our inner anxieties. If we apply their truths, they can help us move beyond dwelling on our doubt-inducing questions. While we may not be delivered from our situation in the time or way we want, these writers’ affirmations help us lean on God to give us sure footing during our seasons of discontent.
Psalm 42 is a great example. Verse 1 says “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God.” These familiar verses are often equated with an inner longing and hunger for the Lord that drives us to know God better. But in context, the psalmist isn’t yearning for a spiritual revival as much as he is calling out for help. As verses 3 and 10 indicate, the psalmist finds himself feeling distant from the Lord and in agony, so he cries out for God to show Himself. Usually when we encounter those kinds of situations, similar sounding words ricochet around in our heads making us wonder where is God. But instead of getting bogged down in that mindset, the latter verses encourage us to look beyond our heartaches to the only source of strength in difficult times.
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
For I will yet praise Him,
My God, my Savior.
This writer concluded his Psalm by acknowledging his desperate feelings, but he doesn’t stop with having a pity party. He challenges himself to change focus from his problems to the One who rules over all things. The attitude altering word in that verse is “yet.” He responded to his circumstances with praise, not because God showed up to fix his problems… not because the situation is resolved… and not even because he understood what was happening. The psalmist deliberately chose to lift his voice during his suffering, and purposefully acknowledged God as his only source of sure and dependable hope. As Bible commentator Matthew Henry put it, “The way to forget our miseries, is to remember the God of our mercies.”
So as you face the unique situation you almost certainly find yourself in today, take the time to police your thinking. Though it’s OK to acknowledge desperate feelings, you’ll only rise above them when you consciously and deliberately reject pity and choose praise the Lord.