Each Christmas one of my sisters prepares an Advent calendar for my kids. The calendar is a grouping of 25 separate compartments – one for each day of Advent – and each compartment contains a small treat like a piece of candy or a sticker or something similar. My kids love following the calendar during the Christmas season, mostly because they know they get a small treat each day. But mixed in with their love for doing the calendar is a small twinge of disappointment, because as they mark off each day they’re reminded about how many days are left before Christmas comes. In other words, each day they mark off, they’re reminded about how long they have to wait for Christmas!
Waiting is hard to do, and not just for kids – adults have a hard time waiting as well. And waiting becomes even more difficult when the stakes are high or when our waiting involves pain. Have you ever had a toothache and made an appointment with the dentist to have it resolved, only to find out that his earliest opening is next Thursday? The days leading up to the appointment are excruciating. Or, maybe you’ve had to wait for test results to come back, maybe you’ve had to wait for a debilitating illness to run its course, or maybe you’ve had to wait for a loved one to return home for a relationship to be restored. Whatever the case may be, waiting is no fun, and it’s especially not fun when the stakes are high, or when waiting involves pain.
David talks about the waiting in Psalm 27. In it, he’s waiting for God to answer his prayer. David was in some pretty rough circumstances, and he dutifully brought them before the Lord in prayer. But, as David finds out, God’s response is not always immediate. So then what are we to do in the mean time? Wait. Psalm 27 gives us five things we can and should do while we are waiting on the Lord to answer our requests.
1. Remember that God is mighty to save. In the opening verses of Psalm 27 David reminds himself that God is bigger and stronger than anything that might be threatening him or causing him pain. No matter what he’s facing, David gains confidence during his time of waiting by remembering that God can deliver him no matter the circumstances (verse 3). When we find ourselves waiting for God to respond to our pain, we should also be quick to remember that God can is powerful enough to deliver us from whatever we’re facing.
2. Remember why God saves. The reason David asks God to deliver his is for God’s glory. In verses 4-6 David reveals that the reason he wants God to rescue him is so that he will be able to live to praise God some more. He wants to go to God’s sanctuary and worship him; he wants all people to know that God is mighty to save, and he will use his testimony of deliverance for pointing other people to God. When we have to wait for God to respond to our prayers, it is helpful to go back and refocus ourselves on the glory of God – if and when God delivers, it will be so that we can worship him and point others to his deliverance.
3. Seek his face. God tells David to “Seek my face” while he’s waiting for God to answer his prayers (verse 8). In other words, God is telling David to seek out his presence. This would require David to go through ritual cleansing, offer sacrifices, and give offerings in order to be able to approach God. The point that God is making to David is that there is value in being intentional about worship and devotion while we wait for God to act. For you and me, this might mean being intentional about prayer while we wait – either personal prayer or with others. It might mean spending some time fasting, or intentionally reading and memorizing scripture. There is value to disciplining ourselves to seeking God’s face while we wait.
4. Learn his ways. We are at our most spiritually vulnerable when we are suffering and going through hard times. The same was true for David, so he asks God to “Teach me your way, O Lord” during his time of waiting (verse 11). David says that he is tempted to leave the “level path” of the ways of God because of his enemies. In other words, David is tempted to sin and respond badly to his enemies – he’s tempted to leave God’s way and go his own way. Therefore, David desires to learn God’s ways while he is in his time of suffering and waiting. Like David, we are most likely to leave God’s ways when life gets hard. So when life does get hard, we need to be intentional about learning God’s ways.
5. Wait some more, and trust. In verse 13 David says, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” For whatever reason, David was confident that what he was going through would not lead to his death. He was certain that God would deliver him and preserve his life. The tricky thing is, he didn’t know when that would happen. Until it did, it was incumbent upon him to wait, and to continue to trust that “The Lord is my light and my salvation…The Lord is the stronghold of my life.” It could have been that God wouldn’t rescue David from his circumstances for days, months, or even years. So what should David do in the meantime? Wait, and trust. The same is true for us: we may see God’s deliverance “in the land of the living,” or we may see it in the next life. Either way, our job is to wait…and trust.