When I was deep in the muck and mire of waiting I would often turn to the psalms for comfort and encouragement. So many of them were written from a heart in anguish. When I didn’t have the words to pray, I knew I could pray one of the psalms and it would reveal my heart. Psalm 13 is one of those as it was written during a time of despair, abandonment and loneliness in the life of David. Verses 1-4 say:
How long o lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken
While we don’t know the exact circumstance that David wrote this Psalm, I imagine it could have been during the many years that he was on the run, hiding in caves and foreign cities, from Saul who was trying to kill him. Samuel had anointed David king, but it would be several years before he would realize it. How long could very well have been a constant prayer of his. This theme appears throughout the psalms.
David doesn’t wallow in his anguish, however. He turns to what he knows about God. He reads the scriptures. He remembers how God has protected him in the past. In verse 5 his tone changes. Note that his circumstances have not changed, simply his perspective.
But I have trusted in your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Just like David, we need to turn to what we know of God. Turn to the scriptures, remind yourselves of the truth of God’s nature. He is never changing. He is the same yesterday today and forever. He was faithful and He will continue to be faithful.
Throughout this series I will be including several of my favorite “go-to” psalms for when I need encouragement.
What are your go to psalms?
Yesterday we saw that we should not be a complaining people. (You can read that here) But God also tells us to bring our petitions before Him. So what’s the difference? How do we come before Him without complaining? Maybe we can draw more from the Numbers 11 passage.
Moses listened to them complain. All the people throughout all the clans stood at the door of their tent and wept. They wept for everything they did not have. They lamented to Moses and to God. God heard them and His anger burned among them and destroyed some of the outer parts of the camp. This caused them to cry out even more! Have you ever listened to people who you are responsible for complain? It’s exhausting! Now imagine you are Moses and you are hearing six hundred thousand people complain! They want meat and they want you to provide it! How is he going to provide that?!?
Moses brings his petition before the Lord
“Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers’? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.” Numbers 11:11-15
At first glance, it seems like he is complaining to God about the people he is supposed to lead. But God listened to him (rather than destroy him) and gave him men to help him govern the people. So what’s the difference? Why did God listen to Moses to help him rather than let His anger burn like it did with the people?
Is it that Moses complaint was warranted while the Israelite’s was not? Did they come in a different manner — respectful vs. disrespectful? It could be these, but I think a clue comes from verse 4: the rabble who were among them had greedy desires… Some select people were greedy and they spread their malcontent to the rest of the people. They had God’s provision, but that wasn’t enough for them — they selfishly wanted more. On the other hand, Moses was doing all he could to care for the people. It was overwhelming and burdensome — too much for one person alone. He cried out to the Lord out of sincere frustration.
So we must watch our heart and make sure we come to God rightly.
In the next couple days we will look at the Psalmists for further examples of how to come to God rightly. For further study read James 4:1-10 …you ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions…
Way back when we only had three children who were all very young, Chris and I had the desire to stop renting and buy a house. But our income was meager meaning that what we could afford was also meager. We ended up in a double-wide mobile home situated on an acre of land in the country. Our plan was to be there only a couple years, then we would be able to buy something bigger and nicer. We were proud of our home, and very happy … at first.
Soon enough, however, we were there for five years and no closer to being able to move out than when we started. My household also grew. We now had six children whom we also homeschooled. Our tiny cardboard house with pitiful closets and no garage was brimming with 8 people and all the stuff we needed to live and do school. I trusted in the Lord and lived in His strength — most days.
But then I had days when it was all too much for me. It wasn’t fair, other people could just move at a whim while I was stuck here. I was discontent and had regular pity parties that God had to pull me from. During those times I would complain, not aloud to other people (except to my poor husband), but I would complain to God. I would express my frustration that my youngest two had to sleep on cots on the floor because I didn’t have enough room for two more beds. I would go into my monologue about how difficult life was as I had to squeeze all our homeschooling supplies into every nook and cranny and there was barely room for everyone to do their schoolwork! Didn’t God care?
I still read my bible consistently as I sought God’s peace. He speaks to us through His word and often His correction would come crashing down on me as I sought His guidance. At times, these reprimands of my poor attitude came as I read about the Children of Israel. On this particular instance, they were in the second year of their desert wanderings.
Now the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes…Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt…the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, the garlic. But now…there is nothing but this manna to look at! Numbers 11:1-9
It’s amazing to me how fickle people can be. God was miraculously providing for the Israelites’ needs. Everyday when they went outside to gather the manna, they could physically see God’s presence and love and care. But they complained about their misfortunes! They complained that they had to eat the bread of heaven instead of meat, cucumbers, garlic and leeks!
Oh, but God was showing me that I was doing the same thing! Complaining of all the things that I didn’t have but thought I deserved, rather than focusing how He was providing for us. Because even in all the chaos, God was taking care of us. He had given us a house to live in. It kept us dry in stormy weather, warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. He had also given us a low mortgage relative to the small house. While housing costs continued to raise for those in town, our living expenses stayed low. God had blessed us with that. Who was I to complain?
Not to mention the free gift of salvation that God blessed me with. Even while I was dead in my sins and hated Him, Christ died for me giving me salvation rather than what my sins deserved. (Eph 2:1; Rom 5:8; 6:23) In addition to that, God has promised He is not done with me yet. Philippians 1:6 exclaims, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God was teaching me through this trial, removing the dross and sanctifying me causing my heart to be more like Christ (James1:2-4).
Just as the Children of Israel did not remain in the desert forever, but God brought them through it into the Promised Land, I knew He would provide a way for us as well. Reminders of His faithfulness are abundant throughout scripture, and I eagerly searched them out.
If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.
If I should say, “My foot has slipped,” Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your consolations delight my soul.
When life has become rocky and all you really want to do is complain, it is imperative to focus on God’s blessings instead (read this post). Remember what has He done for you and what is He doing for you. Seek out scripture and He will give you His peace. I have several Psalms that are my go-to scriptures when I am feeling this way including 34, 37, 55-57, 61-63, 66, 86, also Matthew 6:25-34 and Philippians 4:4-8 among others. What scriptures do you turn to when all you want to do is complain about life’s circumstances?
Do you feel as though you are in a “wilderness” of waiting right now? Are you struggling through a financial crisis, health issue, or maybe the death of a loved one? Maybe you are struggling through something else entirely and are wondering if it will ever end and if God even cares. It is in this that I want to give you hope. God is in the waiting times. I have spent a good deal of my life there. I struggled, I fought and, finally, I rested in the waiting.
Be still and know that I am God
Struggling to be still characterizes my whole life. Action is part of me. I always want to move. I usually feel bad for the people who sit behind or beside me in an audience because every three min or so I’m changing positions–I can’t sit still. Soon after I first met the man who would become my husband, he had me sit on the floor and just listen to this song that was 18 min long. Just listen and do nothing else. This was torture.
I am a doer–when there are problems I take action. I am constantly running thru the possible resolutions to any given problem that I am having. I find solutions and I act on them. Sitting idly by and waiting for an answer is not in my nature. And being patient in the waiting? HA! Oh no! That is not who I am. I am a natural leader; a project manger if you will. Because of that, submitting to God and to my husband, who is patient beyond all reason, has been a challenge to learn. But learn it I did, and I still am! It took financial difficulties, housing inadequacies, several children, and many other unpleasant circumstances for me to finally realize the ability to rest myself in God’s will and His perfect timing. God has shown me that He wants me to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). I am to wait for Him and to trust in Him to provide. During the following days of this series I want to share with you what I learned through it all. It is my earnest hope and prayer that you will be blessed by it.
Here is a list of all the posts in this series: