“I waited patiently for the Lord, and he turned to me and heard my cry for help. He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and they will trust in the Lord.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
I haven’t done this for a while, but this morning is going to be a bit of a grab bag. Honestly, that’s because I didn’t know what I was going to write until I got up this morning. That’s sort of true every day because I tend to write each post the same day it goes live, but most days I’m only completing a thought I first started sketching out two to three weeks before writing. Fridays, though, are for taking a break from the rest of the week and reflecting on something different. I spent the time I lay in bed awake last night prayerfully pondering what I would write about this morning. So, we’ll call this morning an answer to prayer. Perhaps it’s an answer for you. Here’s to a bit of a stream of consciousness morning.
Psalm 40 here is the source of a quote the author of Hebrews will unpack some in chapter 10 and which, Lord willing, we’ll talk about in a couple of weeks. That’s what first drew my attention to this psalm. These verses aren’t that quote. But they are the opening declaration David makes in a remarkable song of praise and prayer. This is yet another of those psalms I have read but never really read. This one was worth looking at again (they all are, of course).
For the last few weeks, I have been rewatching and watching an animated superhero series called, Young Justice. It originally ran for two seasons on Cartoon Network years ago when the channel was occasionally worth watching. It’s really not anymore. They’ve changed over to a new approach to animation and storytelling that I don’t care for in the least. In any event, the show was a small screen adaptation of a comic book series by the same name. The original team was composed of the sidekicks of various members of the Justice League. Wanting to branch out on their own, the Justice League formed them into a team that would handle covert operations the League couldn’t be seen as involved in because of the public scrutiny they were under from the United Nations.
The series originally only ran for two seasons because its target audience (elementary-aged kids) just weren’t getting into it the way the network was hoping. This did not, however, mean the show wasn’t popular. It wound up being immensely popular among an older crowd of superhero fans. As a result, several years after being cancelled and after Warner Brothers went through a merger with HBO and transferred all of their DC comics franchise to the latter’s new streaming service, there was a sufficiently large outcry from the fans that the show was given a third season. That did well enough to garner it a fourth and a forthcoming fifth. Having watched back through the original two seasons, I’m now about halfway through the third. The latter seasons are definitely written with their adult audience in mind. While it played at being a kids’ show in the beginning, all such pretense is gone now. If you’re an older comics fan, you’ll love it. But don’t watch it with your kids. While there isn’t anything outright objectionable, it has so far hinted strongly at a variety of themes they won’t be ready to discuss yet including human trafficking which is the major theme of the season.
Honestly, from the standpoint of overlap with the Christian worldview, there isn’t much to say. It’s a superhero show that leaves the question of God or really even deeper questions of theology pretty much completely off the table. But as I was reading back through Psalm 40 this morning, something here in the beginning of the Psalm caught my eye.
In the third season, set about seven years after the first, the character Nightwing (who was the original Robin, Batman’s first sidekick…there have been at least three other characters to take on the Robin name since) stumbles into putting together a superhero team of his own. One of the members of the team is the twin brother to the prince and then king of the fictional nation of Markovia. In his efforts to solve the mysterious disappearance of his sister and to protect his nation from a growing threat of rogue meta-humans (superpowered individuals) he activates his own meta-gene and gives himself superpowers (I know, I know, but it’s a comic book series, so just go with it). Throughout the first half of the season then, he is impatient to put his new powers to work searching for and rescuing his sister. As each episode progresses, he gets more and more frustrated with Nightwing’s apparent pace. The older hero offers him one bit of counsel again and again and again: be patient. If he tries to go after his sister before everything is in place to save her, he risks making a complete mess of the situation and possibly losing her as well as his own life along the way.
This was all in the back of my mind from having watched it recently as I read back through Psalm 40 this morning. Seeing David’s declaration of God’s rescue here finally put everything into place. Look again at what he said: “I wanted patiently for the Lord, and he turned to me and heard my cry for help.” God’s rescue of David from whatever trouble he was facing did not necessarily come on David’s timetable. It didn’t come on demand. God didn’t roar to the rescue at the first whiff of tension. David had to wait for it. God showed up precisely on time. Like Gandalf, God never arrives early or late. He shows up precisely when He means to arrive.
In our own lives, we face times and situations when we want God to jump in and help. We cry out in frustration because things aren’t going the way we want when we want them to go that way. We even get angry and turn away from God in search of other, more timely help. We don’t find it, of course, but in our desire to have the help we want on our own timetable we search for it. But God’s help comes just when He knows it is right. If we are willing to wait on it, it will come.
One of the challenges here is something I’ll explore in a bit more detail in my sermon this weekend. It is frighteningly easy for us to develop a faith that is more squarely centered on what God can do for us than it is on God Himself. That is, we trust more in God’s expected activity than in God. When we do this, if the activity we expect from God doesn’t happen on the timetable of our choosing, we begin to panic. We panic because it feels like God Himself has abandoned us. Nothing could be further from the truth, but our distorted perception resulting from our misplaced trust feels like reality in the moment. Receiving from God requires waiting on God. This doesn’t mean we sit around and do nothing. We keep doing the things of God in whatever situation we are in until His rescue comes. But we must indeed wait on His rescue. When it comes it will be complete, but it won’t often come on our timetable.
If you are in a sticky situation in your life and you are waiting on God to intervene on your behalf, then, here are a couple of things to consider. First, has God already given you a command you are not actively following? Sometimes we are waiting on God’s activity on our part not because our respective timetables aren’t in alignment, but because He’s waiting on us to do something He’s told us to do. All other activity on His part hinges on our obedience. Second, has His rescue come in a form we were not expecting, and we have simply overlooked it? God once told a man seeking rescue to wash in a dirty river to be made clean. He balked at the command at first, but once he washed, he was made clean. Third, is God’s rescue simply not yet. You may have to wait on it. There may yet be something for you to experience in your pain that He is planning to redeem when the time is right. Don’t lose heart or hope. He will yet come.
There’s one more thing. Look where David ends this introduction to his song. Out of God’s rescue of him, other people will see the goodness and mercy of God. They will come to love and respect Him. They will learn to trust in the Lord. If you are waiting on God’s rescue in the midst of a mess, it may be that you are having to wait patiently so that someone else can come to a trusting relationship with Him. Your hard situation is being used so that others can know the Lord. That’s a pretty good outcome, all things considered. So, if you are hurting today, wait on the Lord. He will yet reveal His power and good plans.