Waiting (cont.) … then Beholding!

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.  -Isaiah 43:19

When you speak of waiting, the wait times can vary. Taking a ticket for 098 when the counter displays 016 feels disheartening, but taking one for 94789 when the counter is 94787 is almost, just almost, like winning a lottery. When you wait on God, there is no counter, and often no definite outcome, there is only trust. He will do good.

Suddenly, all my troubles seem so far away…

Alright, that was in a quote offset, but it’s not actually a quote. It’s a misquote of The Beatles song, Yesterday. It actually goes, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…” and, “Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be…”

My point is, though, that God works almost under the radar. Oftentimes it seems like He’s just waiting until you let your guard down, until you reluctantly lay down a burden of your own expectations and desires or whatever else, and as soon as it leaves your hand, BAM, he roars, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

I know this section in Isaiah is foretelling Christ as the new thing God is doing, the path to God in the desert of sin, but just like you seek God, find Him, and then continue seeking God for the rest of your life to know Him more deeply, Christ is The New Thing to a worn and weary generation, and yet God keeps reminding us to look to Christ anew, and to look to Himself for new things. New hope, new life, new beginnings.

No matter how much I try to guess what the new thing is, I never get it. Ever. It’s always always beyond what I could come up with, though I may come close. (I think I do like it that way.) It’s at a different time, or under different circumstances, or in a different way.

Here goes one more on the counter for a new thing that has sprung forth! God is funny, and I feel like Jesus must have been tremendously humorous as a man.

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Waiting

Waiting, a topic which reminds me about why this blog exists. The point is to dwell on and consider ideas, expressing thoughts and testing them so that I give myself a mnemonic in some ways about certain themes and concepts that emerge as I write.

A long-ish while ago I wrote about learning to see “waiting” as an activity that is not a totally passive thing, but like waitressing. “Waiting” (tables) does not mean kicking back, relaxing, and zoning out. “Waiting” (tables) is certainly not constantly pestering where you are serving. “Waiting” (tables) is more like approaching to do what should be done at the suitable time, and hanging back at suitable times.

Now don’t take my waitressing advice too seriously in a restaurant business sense, as I once infamously waitressed a few times one summer, on my way to discovering what I am and am not good at. You can guess whether I was or was not good at waitressing. Anyhow, this past Sunday, I was reminded about waiting once again, but from a different perspective. God waits for us. Why doesn’t He reveal Himself to everyone if He wants humanity to worship Him? Why doesn’t He change us instantly if He really wants us to be a certain way, or be a certain kind of person? Why doesn’t He this or that and whatnot? Sometimes He waits for us to change our attitude first and return to Him broken and contrite; then, at the suitable time, He acts.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel,
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
But you were unwilling, and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”;
therefore you shall flee away;
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”;
therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
at the threat of five you shall flee,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
like a signal on a hill.
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
(Isaiah 30:15-18 ESV)

By nature, waiting implies that there is something that you are waiting for. In our waiting then, if we are waiting in the ways we should so that we can act at the suitable time, let us be watchful waiters. Watchful, for we do not always know what we are waiting for.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…

…will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I’ve heard a cancer patient talk about how difficult it was when she was waiting to hear back about whether it would be a serious cancer or not. It was a rough month of waiting and not knowing. Then she realized this: that the result that came back did not matter, but if she would receive whatever news with the peace of God, having trusted his goodness in either scenario, that was what mattered, and what she had to cultivate.

Coming from November 11th, Remembrance Day here in Canada, and the associated stories of soldiers told by family members who remember God’s faithfulness in narrowly saving this soldier or bringing that soldier home despite the odds, it remains that more still were not spared the bullet and were not brought home safely. What of God’s faithfulness to their family? As such, it is essential to cultivate a thankfulness and remembrance of God’s faithfulness in all circumstances, to not reduce God to being powerful only when He is granting our desires against all odds, but to see Him as mighty to accomplish His good, pleasing and perfect will even through everything that is not so pleasant.

This is still beyond my understanding.

The Pen

A sword to stab into the mire of thoughts
A point to seek their worth
A blade to test their balance
The sheen to illumine confusion

A swipe to wipe out obstinance
A slash to cut off the pain
A parry to ward off futile thoughts
The sheathing to wait and to trust.

To write thoughtfully, honestly, and forwardly (Christwardly)
about the changes and challenges you most resist
takes greater courage than samurai seppuku.

Psalm for the Depressed

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

[42:1] As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
[2] My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
[3] My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
[4] These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
[5] Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
[6] my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
[7] Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
[8] By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
[9] I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
[10] As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
[11] Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

(Psalm 42 ESV)

Dealing with pain, as apparent from this psalm, takes more than just defiance. Note the repetition: turmoil doesn’t simply go away. You can’t say to your soul, “Why are you cast down, and why are you in turmoil within me?” and then just add, “Come, let us just move on,” or, “Let us just go and live as we were, ignoring this.” It’s not possible to just decide that you’re better or OK or happy or will go on to new things. You cannot just replace what was broken and expect to be healed. Humans aren’t cars that only need new parts – or new jobs or new friends to get better. Our souls need to hope in God, where hope is holding out for the unseen goodness in the land where God will bring us. Hoping in God is not hoping for better/best situations or better/best times, or else you will forever be sorely disappointed by a broken self and a broken world. Biblical hope is not hoping that God will eventually give you the earthly desires of your heart; it is learning to actually desire God beyond all, and sometimes, or even quite often, that will mean laying your desires on the ground and walking away.

As with Lot’s wife, the one who looked back and turned into a pillar of salt (ironically enough the mineral in tears), it is hard not to look back, wondering all manner of things. It’s hard not to want to replay, and you can replay levels and whole games in video games, probably pandering to this desire. Perhaps I sucked at gaming, but I always made the same mistakes even when I replayed. This is not necessarily a theological link I wish to draw by mentioning Mrs. Lot, but more so just a visual. At the weekend retreat that I mentioned in another post (Throwing off burdens (and some spectacular use of grammar in the Bible)), I was told something else that made me sit up:

Exercising self-control in our thinking and living (i.e. casting the whole of your care once and for all on Christ) involves:

  • not multiplying our suffering by rehearsing or reliving our troubles
  • keeping from futile speculation (Romans 1:21 in AMP)
Funny that we do these things, but we do. There’s some weird satisfaction in it. Thinking is the hardest to exercise self-control over. You can beat your body and make it your slave much more easily than you can beat your mind and make it your slave. (Ref: 1 Cor 9:27 NIV) Futile speculation, too, can seem like it’s not an entirely futile activity: we think we protect ourselves by speculating a worst case scenario so that we’re prepared for the worst and save ourselves the hurt, but in the meantime, that’s just more constant and fictional pain for something that might not even happen. More so, it’s indicative of not casting all cares, anxieties, worries and concerns on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7 AMP) and throwing off those burdens.
Now I will quote verbatim my favourite introductory paragraph from the prayer guide we were given:

Have you ever felt helpless? Helplessness is an unsettling and sometimes terrifying thing to most of us. We resist it, deny it, and when we are finally face to face with it, we sometimes find that we are unable to endure it. But helplessness is actually one of the greatest assets a human being can have. Crisis brings us face to face with our inadequacy and our inadequacy in turn leads us to the inexhaustible sufficiency of God. Spectacular answers to prayer can come following a period when you can do nothing for yourself at all and therefore find yourself waiting on God alone. This hemming in process is one of God’s loving and effective ways of teaching you that he is gloriously adequate for all your problems.

The Puritans had it right in this prayer from The Valley of Vision:

Desires

O THOU THAT HEAREST PRAYER,

Teach me to pray,
I confess that in religious exercises
the language of my lips and the feelings
of my heart have not always agreed,
that I have frequently taken carelessly upon
my tongue a name never pronounced above
without reverence and humility,
that I have often desired things which would
have injured me,
that I have depreciated some of my chief mercies,
that I have erred both on the side of my hopes
and also of my fears,
that I am unfit to choose for myself,
for it is not in me to direct my steps.
Let thy Spirit help my infirmities,
for I know not what to pray for as I ought.

Let him produce in me wise desires by which
I may ask right things,
then I shall know thou hearest me.
May I never be importunate for temporal blessings,
but always refer them to thy fatherly goodness,
for thou knowest what I need before I ask;
May I never think I prosper unless my soul prospers,
or that I am rich unless rich toward thee,
or that I am wise unless wise unto salvation.
May I seek first thy kingdom and its righteousness.
May I value things in relation to eternity,
May my spiritual welfare be my chief solicitude.
May I be poor, afflicted, despised and have
thy blessing,
rather than be successful in enterprise,
or have more than my heart can wish,
or be admired by my fellow-men,
if thereby these things make me forget thee.
May I regard the world as dreams, lies, vanities,
vexation of spirit,
and desire to depart from it.
And may I seek my happiness in thy favour,
image, presence, service.

Thus far, this post has mostly been me amalgamating a bunch of things I’ve read, heard and thought about in recent weeks, hopefully tying them together in a new way such that I’m not really just quoting them. I don’t know if it’s of any use to anyone else reading. In any case, since the title indicates there is a psalm for the depressed here, let me finish off with a part from a more hopeful psalm for the depressed than that first one:

[13] I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
[14] Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

(Psalm 27:13-14 NASB)

The goodness of the Lord in the land of the living… that means while he’s still alive. Although I have said that our hope should not rest solely upon the goodness of the Lord’s provision in earthly things, I do think it is alright for that to be a part of our hope, because it’s not as if God keeps everything we desire from us either. Maybe just not in ways we expect.

Funny last thought, though not accurate: I always get mad at myself for speculating about how the Lord will provide, because I feel as if everything that I randomly or thoughtfully come up with will not come to pass because the provision can’t be anything I would think of… and sometimes I rather like my speculations.

Urgency and Patience

Here is a thought: not sure what the train was that inspired it, but it’s probably something to do with purpose/meaning, and I was also reading Exodus. Here goes.

Urgency and patience.

That is the difference between how you make choices and how you sit in expectation of results (perhaps from those choices).

Urgency to please God and ‘wait on him’ in obedience.

Patience in waiting for God’s plan to unravel and play out.

Waiting – a metaphor

Waiting on the Lord is: like crossing the road – with your father.

Stop, look, listen, and wait,
but when the way is clear and when your father moves,
walk in step, holding on to his hand.

Metaphors!
The world is like a box of hints God gave us to learn about his nature.

Verses on waiting in the Bible:

Psalm 27:14

 14 Wait for the LORD; 

       be strong and take heart 

       and wait for the LORD.

Psalm 38:15 

 15 I wait for you, O LORD; 

       you will answer, O Lord my God.

Psalm 119:166

 166 I wait for your salvation, O LORD, 

       and I follow your commands.

Psalm 130:5-6

 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, 

       and in his word I put my hope.

6 My soul waits for the Lord 

       more than watchmen wait for the morning, 

       more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Micah 7:7

 7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, 

       I wait for God my Savior; 

       my God will hear me.

1 Corinthians 1:7

7Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.

James 5:7

7Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.

Jude 1:21

21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

The waiting is active.

>> Wait: being strong, taking heart, listening for God’s answer, following his commands, putting hope in his word, watching more watchfully than watchmen for the morning, waiting eagerly, ready to act and harvest, keeping in God’s love.

(“And this is love:  that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 2 John 1:6)

Then I suppose you’d have to figure out what obedience to God’s commands means.