“Son, [my dad said] if you would only recognize that life is hard, things would be so much easier for you.”
And Jesus told the disciples to expect things to go wrong! “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. [but] in the world you will have tribulation….” (John16:33),
Yet it still seems to come as a surprise when trials come! How could God let it happen?
But what do you do next? What do you do when life is the pits?
Psalm 40 is especially for you!
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire
Does “pit” mean David’s enemies, or physical illness or some deep emotional distress? Perhaps( as with Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”) we’ree not told so that we can relate all of our trials to David’s situation. Your pit could be poor health, the loss of your job, former friends that turned against you, an unfaithful partner, rebellious children, or any other overwhelming problem. You may be responsible for being in your own pit, or you may be the innocent victim of the sins of others.
The point is: what do you do next?
It’s tempting to grab at any possible solution. One version gives an interesting take on this: “How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” (Ps 40:4). My knee-jerk reaction is to fix the problem, whatever it takes. The “proud” are those that boast in their own abilities. They don’t recognize or admit any personal weakness. Rather, by their own ingenuity and effort, they will get out of their crisis on their own. Or, if you’re in a jam and it looks like a little “white” lie will get you out of the jam, you can be tempted to use it. You justify it by thinking, “Well, it’s just this once and I do need to get out of this pit.” But you’re trusting in your lie, not in the Lord.
So what do I do? I wait. Maybe that’s the very hardest thing to do.
But waiting is intently active, not passive. The Hebrew of verse 1 is an intensified form of the verb, literally, “Waiting, I waited.” It’s not a passive, ho-hum kind of waiting, like you do at the doctor’s office when you thumb through a bunch of magazines to pass the time. Rather, it is an intently active time when your situation in the pit tunes your heart to the Lord in ways that you would not normally experience. It means to wait expectantly as you hope for God’s promises to be fulfilled on your behalf. Wait for it!
And that idea of “tuning your heart” is important. It means sensing God’s timing. God’s timing often does not coincide with our timing. We want it done instantly, but God has other purposes.
But of course, when you’re in the pit, there’s an adrenaline rush of urgency. In verse 1, David mentions his cry, which may have been as simple as, “Help, Lord!” In verse 13, he directly cries out, “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; make haste, O Lord, to help me.” In verse 17, he repeats, “Since I am afflicted and needy, let the Lord be mindful of me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” The waiting time helps me to understand the nature of my “cry” more fully: I begin to think first of my self and my problem, and then (eventually) I think of the Lord and my solution.
Waiting on the Lord means learning to trust HIM alone.
“You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.” Waiting on the Lord means, “Lord, You’re It. You’re all I hope for. And you’re all I need.”
So waiting on the Lord is not just a passive biding your time. It is an active crying out to the Lord, trusting Him to answer because of who he is.
Waiting on the Lord gives you time to think. But you’ve got to direct your mind to think about the right things. If you think, “Oh no, God has abandoned me! I’m doomed!” you will either panic or turn to the world for help.
But if you think about God, and who he is, and what he’s done, and how he has worked in the past to deliver you, then the waiting time becomes an expectant trust to see just how he will do it again!
There’s much more in this Psalm, but this morning Lord, I remember that you have never let me down, and so I trust you now. And Jesus answers, ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33)