Waiting for God to respond to our urgent petitions is often a challenging experience for Believers. We pray to Him and hope for a quick, even an instant answer. But most Believers quickly come to realize that things rarely happen as quickly as we would like. Therefore, we must wait.
Whether it is for rescue, for guidance, to resolve a difficult situation or to make clear His answer to a prayer, very often we must wait on God’s timing rather than our own. As we will explore below, Psalm 13 captures for us the emotional and spiritual strain that Believers often experience while waiting on God and gives us insight on how to cope.
“How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?”
~ Psalm 13:1-2
The first two verses of Psalm 13 state the problems David faced while he waited for God’s response. Let us examine them carefully.
1. How Long? | Does God care?
“How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?”. It appears David was waiting for God to resolve a problem for what he thought was a long time. So, he wondered if God even cared; maybe God had forgotten about him.
This can be the most painful part of waiting. And it is perhaps the part that requires the most faith: trusting that God cares when there are no outward signs that He does. It is much easier to wait when we have tangible evidence that God cares: that He hasn’t forgotten about us.
When their boat was caught in a storm, the Disciples asked Jesus:
And [Jesus] was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto him, “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” ~ Mark 4:38
They had been bailing water out of the boat and fighting the winds and waves, but, despite their efforts, the boat seemed on the verge of sinking. Yet through it all, Jesus was asleep. Didn’t He care? How could He sleep when they were about to perish? Why didn’t He come quickly to their aid?
It turned out that Jesus did care. And He had everything under control. The only issue was His disciples’ faith.
And [Jesus] said unto them, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” ~ Mark 4:40
But the episode demonstrates how waiting for God to act can challenge our faith, and often leads to doubting God’s care for us.
2. How Long? | Did God hear my prayer?
“How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?” In Scripture, sin is the reason that God “hides His face”; e.g., consider:
“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” ~ Isaiah 59:2
However, there are no suggestions of David being in need of repentance in Psalm 13. Therefore, it seems safe to deduce that God had not actually distanced Himself from David, rather, that was just how David felt.
When waiting for God to intervene in our crises, it is easy for us to feel that He is far away. It can seem that there is a loss of intimacy. Our minds tell us that surely there must be something wrong in our relationship with God, our heavenly Father. Because, if He knew what we were going through, He would definitely have answered. We ask our selves: Did we do something wrong? Where is that closeness with Him that we sometimes experienced?
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.” ~ Psalm 22:1-2
We need emotional contact. Rationale often isn’t enough. Even though we know God’s Word and the promises in it, sometimes we also need a “hug”, closeness, communion, to reassure us that everything is alright.
When we feel God is with us it becomes much easier to face the storms of life.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” ~ Psalm 23:4
3. How Long? | Trapped in turmoil
“How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” In the second verse, David described the inner turmoil and anguish that he endured while waiting for God. Like Jesus’ disciples in the storm, he felt he was about to perish and he felt all alone. It was the waiting, the uncertainty he felt, that was crushing him emotionally and spiritually.
Still, there’s no answer.
Waiting tests our faith greatly:
- Moses waited so long (40 years in the desert) he stopped believing he was cut out for the job of leading the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt (Exodus 3:11).
- Abraham waited so long (~ 25 years) for a son by his wife, Sarah, he asked God for proof (Genesis 15:8) and requested that God change His plans (Genesis 17:17-19).
- After waiting for probably months in Herod’s dungeon, John the Baptist began to doubt whether Jesus was really the Messiah (Luke 7:20). John never made it out of the dungeon: he was beheaded (Mark 6:14-29).
Waiting is tough.
“Consider and hear me, O Lord my God:
lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him;
and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.”
~ Psalm 13:3-4
The petition was straightforward: David asked God to resolve his issues now because he was overwhelmed by his troubles: He felt that he was on the verge of death. And that he was about to buckle under the pressure.
Interestingly, David was not worried by God’s ultimate decision: he was confident God answers would be perfect: David had faith in God’s ultimate goodness, but he had doubts in his own ability to wait on God’s timing.
“But I have trusted in Thy mercy;
my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.
I will sing unto the Lord, because He hath dealt bountifully with me.”
~ Psalm 13:5-6
In the closing verses of the Psalm, David realized that he must find a way to keep holding on until God would answer him: he must endure the wait. Accordingly, David gives us a prescription to cope with the challenge of waiting for God’s perfect timing.
David had expressed his feelings, now he would express his faith. He could not tell God how He should operate: God does not operate on our schedule and His timing is perfect. Indeed, God’s ways are beyond man’s comprehension (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Therefore, David focused on faith with a three-part prescription for waiting on God. The psalm ends without David getting an answer, but David had found a way to persevere:
1. We have trusted in God’s mercy:
Fundamental to the relationship between the Believer and God is mercy. Having put our trust in Christ Jesus for salvation, our relationship with God is built upon the knowledge that God will not give us the condemnation we deserve for our sins. Instead, God will spare us because of the atoning blood of Christ Jesus that was shed for our redemption.
Therefore, having trusted in God’s mercy, we have nothing to fear.
“The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” ~ Psalms 147:11
Putting our trust in God’s mercy enables us to, spiritually, be exactly where God wants us. And makes it possible for us to wait patiently on Him, because we know, ultimately, that God will rule in our favor. Indeed, even if we make mistakes, even if we are in the wrong, God desires to is to help us back on the right path. God is working everything out to bless us because He is merciful.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28
Yes, even waiting works to our benefit.
2. Find joy in salvation
If we are saved, what more should we want? God has already given us the greatest gift. If we have Jesus, we already have everything. In other words, whatever it is we are waiting for is already less than what we have received through salvation. John the Baptist never made it out of Herod’s dungeon alive, but he was saved. His wait on earth ended with a trip to heaven.
But that is the problem.
Typically, we want more than salvation offers, because we seek or joy elsewhere, in lesser things. For example, we seek our joy in comfort, so waiting in discomfort is excruciatingly painful. Or we seek joy in health, so we find living with sickness (waiting for healing) unbearable.
To wait for God’s timing requires that we find joy, not in the alleviation of our crisis, but in the fact that with or without the crisis we have salvation: God’s greatest gift. The prophet Habakkuk puts it this way:
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” ~ Habakkuk 3:17-18
Even if everything falls apart while waiting on God, Believers can still find joy, if they, like David eventually did, look for it in God’s salvation.
3. Praise the Lord for His blessings
Often our problems make us myopic: they distort our outlook. We see our problems loom so large that they block out our view of everything else. An ever-present challenge while waiting on God to rescue us from our crises is to see God at work in other areas of our lives. David, eventually, realized this and made a commitment to remember how bountifully God had blessed and continued to bless him.
If God had blessed us before, will He not bless us again?
But we struggle to see God’s bountiful blessing because our definition of blessings is sometimes quite different from God’s definition. Jesus considered persecution, for righteousness sake, to be a blessing. God considers suffering for Christ to be a privilege. Do we?
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” ~ Matthew 5:10-11
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” ~ Philippians 1:29
We often fail to realize that the crises/trials we go through are themselves blessings from God. Likewise, waiting on God to see us through the crises is a blessing because it grows our faith.
As long as we are waiting for God we are not trusting in our own solutions: Waiting on God is a confession both of our inability and of God’s infinite sufficiency.
“The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” ~ Lamentations 3:25-26