“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1
My simple mind read that verse and thought I know what waiting patiently looks like. You are quiet and still and waiting. Right? That is what I teach my children.
My two year-old whines, “Milk-y, milk-y, milk-y.” (I do not understand why things have to end in “y”, they just do).
“Is that how you ask?” I respond (some days seething, other days rolling my eyes, and some blessed days with the patience of…Job).
“Milk-y pwease,” he lisps his toddler-ese.
“Ok, son, but I have to finish this, just one minute,” I lay down the law.
Then a fit ensues, time-out and screaming occur. Finally when the screaming has cleared the room, I moralize, “Son, you must have patience.”
My two-dimensional version of patience is when you will have to wait and so you do, quietly, with hands folded in your lap. There is no weeping, no gnashing of teeth. Just silence. Nothing active, but expecting the cup of milk mommy promised to deliver. Oh, but this verse is different. Can you see it? The first thing is that the Psalmist says he waited patiently for whom? For the LORD. The LORD is faithful to fulfill His promises. We often do not know what form those promises will take, but we know He will fulfill them. So we can wait patiently quietly in hopeful expectation, because God WILL do what He promises. However this is interesting, the last phrase says, “He heard my cry.” Wait. Isn’t the Psalmist waiting patiently? Why would he be crying out to God if he was waiting patiently? Maybe my idea of patiently waiting is totally wrong.
So I start digging into what the Hebrew means. I am NOT a Hebrew scholar, but I have some pretty great resources that help me understand the words. This type of waiting patiently is in hopeful expectation. Not bump on a log-ish. NO! Hopeful anticipation. The root of the words translated patiently waited meant, twist, stretch, then tension of enduring, waiting, cord, be strong. Can you see the rope being made? Can you feel the tension, the anticipation? My idea of patiently waiting doesn’t include hopeful expectation. It wouldn’t allow for crying out to God, it isn’t realistic. I am seeing that more and more clearly. I see it in my kids again. When they are hiding from me, but want to be found. It goes something like this:
“Moooommmmmyyyyyyy,” bellows a blessing. “Come find me,” she giggles.
I can’t come right away, but in her hopeful anticipation, in her patient waiting she continues to call in her sweet tone, “Moooommmmmyyyy, you can’t find meeee,”
We can cry out in anger and frustration ruining our waiting patiently and hopeful anticipation. We can lash out and scream. We can allow bitterness to fill our waiting time rather than patience. I will not say the discipline of waiting patiently is easy. It is full of pitfalls. Things that want to steal our joy, doubts that God really is ABLE or FAITHFUL. Waiting. Oh, but I am so glad that waiting patiently doesn’t have to mean waiting quietly, not moving. It means crying out to God, not in bitterness or anger, but in hopeful anticipation. As we cry out this verse promises that God will draw near. Do you see it? He draws near or inclines to us as NAS says. God is near us as we wait and hope in Him. Psalm 40 in NAS goes on to say, “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.” Actively waiting on the LORD results in some amazing things. He draws near, He brings us out of the pit of destruction, He sets our feet upon a rock. He also draws others to Himself through our example.
Oh Lord, forgive me for misunderstanding waiting patiently. Father help me to cry out to You in my need. As I cry out I know that You are faithful and that You are able to meet my needs. I will wait in expectation for You to rescue me from the pit and put my feet upon a rock. I will trust that You will show me what is next. I pray that my waiting can bless others who are watching that they may come to trust in You. Thank You for drawing near to me! Amen.