As I roamed the ruins beside San Francisco el Grande Church in Antigua, Guatemala, on a sunny morning, I decided to climb a set of stairs. By the time I reached the top of the stairs I was short of breath from the heat and the climb as I stepped into a panorama that took what remained of my breath away. Mountains on three sides and the ruins of the church on the remaining side, and I thought, God, you are too wonderful!
Such are the words of the psalmist. Our God is too wonderful for our comprehension!
“I waited and waited,” the writer of Psalm 40 begins. He has been experiencing a time of trial and wonders, will it ever end. We here, in Michigan, in the midst of a seemingly endless winter might well ask, will spring ever arrive? What does it mean to wait patiently for God?
We don’t know what was afflicting the writer of this psalm, we only know that his patience was rewarded. God put a new song in his mouth (3); God gave him reason to praise him. Perhaps it was the restoration to health of one long sick. Perhaps it was the gift of spring after a long winter. Or perhaps it was a change of attitude that allowed the writer to realize how truly blessed he was. Sometimes this is the greatest change of all. We can change our circumstances but if we don’t change our attitude about those circumstances, to what avail is it? We carry with us the baggage of our past.
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord (4), the writer tells us. His trust isn’t on the things of this world that can rust or fade away but on the Lord who is solid and real, whose thoughts and deeds are too wonderful for us to comprehend (5).
The writer goes on to tell us that God doesn’t ask for burnt offerings and sacrifices, he only asks that we do his will, a hard task, and yet to do God’s will is the delight of the writer (8). The writer just has to break forth into praise (9), as I had to break forth into praise before the wonder of God. He speaks of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love (11).
Then the psalm shifts to a cry for help. While it appears that there are two different psalms that have been joined together, there was a reason for this. Convinced of God’s steadfast love, we may then be put to the test. We never remain too long in any one state but are led through different stages in this journey of life. These moments of praise and awe before our God are but a taste of what is to come. We do not remain on the mountain top but we hold onto those moments to help us get through when back in the valley of tears.
In the Catholic Church, during the season of Lent, as we reflect on Jesus’ suffering and death, we are also reminded of his glory with the reading of the Transfiguration on the mountain top on the second Sunday. We need those mountain top moments.
I could not remain amidst the mountains of Antigua forever but thank God for those moments for they sustain us. In the end, let us join with the psalmist in saying, “May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’” (16) The psalm ends as it began, with waiting, “do not tarry, O my God!” (17b)
We spend our life, waiting for our God, but oh, those moments when God is present! Have you had any mountain top moments? I would love to hear them.