Waiting is a routine part of life. We are always waiting for something or someone, and yet, for all the waiting we do, most of us do it poorly. We are in a hurry, easily frustrated and can burst into anger when we have to wait more than a minute for a download of a video from u-tube.
Our psalmist for today is older and wiser. His years in life have taught him the value of waiting on the Lord, “Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him,” (7a) “Wait for the Lord and keep to his way.” (34a) Evil may appear at times to triumph but this triumph is short-lived, “For the wicked shall be cut off; but those who wait for the Lord shall possess the land.” (9)
Another acrostic psalm which starts each verse with a letter of the alphabet, this one includes a number of quotations from the book of Proverbs, loosely joined together under the theme of wise counsel from an old man. Those who are afflicted can take solace in hearing these phrases from their childhood, repeated, reminding them that good will prevail. Often phrases and slogans from our childhood which we may reject as adults, take on new meaning as we age and become a source of comfort.
The primary theme of the psalm is stated in the first verse, “Fret not yourself because of the wicked, be not envious of wrongdoers!” The word fret occurs three times in the psalm, stressing the point not to worry or be jealous of evil doers who seem to prosper. The writer “holds that God deals with men by an unchanging law of retributive justice; and that if the facts of experience at any time point otherwise, it is only a seeming disturbance of the balance of justice, for in due time, if he does not faint, the godly man shall be gloriously vindicated.” (Interpreter’s Bible, Psalms, p. 192)
The writer states, “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread.” (25) Those who wait for the Lord will inherit the land, “But the meek shall possess the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” (11) “Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to possess the land.” (34a)
As someone who worked with seniors for years, I can attest to the perspective that age gives us. I heard frequent stories of how something happened at just the right time, moves or chance occurrences that in retrospect happened precisely when they were meant to happen after a long wait and much frustration and thinking it would never work out. It may have been a chance encounter that led to a job and a move that resulted in meeting the person they eventually married.
In my own life, I’ve been witness to this as well. After my divorce twenty years ago I wasn’t opposed to someday marrying again, but the life of a single mother and minister left little time for dating. I trusted that if it were meant to be, it would happen in God’s time. I never expected it would take twenty years, but now I can see how even though it took longer than expected, it happened in God’s time, right when it was supposed to happen with the right someone.
Far too often we get impatient with God’s timeline. We want to be in control of our life. We want everything to happen in our time, not God’s time. At times couples divorce and are remarried before the ink has time to dry on the divorce papers. Then they are surprised when the same problems they encountered in their first marriage reappear in their second. They rush to marry without taking time to heal from the hurts of their divorce, rather than trust that God will provide all that they need if they are patient.
It can be hard to wait for God. It takes giving up our false sense of control in order to let God be in the driver’s seat. It requires being willing to let go of what we may want in favor of what God wants for us. The infertile couple anxiously trying to have a child, may need to try adoption or accept that they may have to parent in a different way than what they had anticipated. The single adult may have to stop desperately seeking a love relationship and accept that this may not be what God has in mind for them. It may mean accepting that the job you thought you had to have but lost, was not the right one for you anyway.
It means doing what the psalmist tells us to do, “Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” (7a) And sometimes, precisely when we have given up, we get that which we had wanted–the infertile couple becomes pregnant, the single adult finds love, or we land the job of our dreams. What may seem like forever, like it will never happen while we are waiting, in retrospect will go by in a blink of an eye. As the writer of this psalm tells us, wise are those who wait for the Lord.
Reflecting back on your life, is there something you wanted and had to wait for a long time before it happened? Are there events that happened in God’s time not your time? What are you waiting for in your life now? What is God telling you?