The Process Before the Promise

Lysa TerKeurst

Day: 35 | Plan: When Words Fail

Today's Reading: Psalm 40

Psalm 40:1 (ESV) "I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry."

Are there any deep disappointments in your life that seem to be lingering on and on? Do you feel like you've been praying the same prayers over and over with little to no change?

I understand how hard that is. Over the last few years, I've walked through some of the most heartbreaking seasons in my family, marriage and health.

And although the circumstances of your life may be different, you probably have middle-of-the-night moments of wrestling through your own tears.

You, too, have memories that still hurt. Realities that make you swallow back tears. Sufferings that seem forever long. And you're disappointed that today, you aren't living the promises of God you've begged to come to pass.

In your most private moments, you want to scream words you don't use around your Bible friends at the unfairness of it all. But then there are more hopeful moments … where you want to turn up the praise music, lift up honest prayers and declare that God is good even when the situation doesn't seem good.

That's what it is like to be so very human — hurting but still hoping.

And that is where we find David in Psalm 40. In Psalm 40:1-10, David praises God for delivering him, but then in verses 11-17 he cries out for God to deliver him again. David is hurting but still hoping. And he knows where his hope is found.

Hoping doesn't mean we ignore reality. No, hoping means we acknowledge reality in the very same breath that we acknowledge God's sovereignty.

Our hope can't be tied to whether or not a circumstance or another person changes. Our hope must be tied to the unchanging promise of God. We hope for the good we know God will ultimately bring from our situation, whether the good turns out to match our desires or not. And sometimes that takes a while. The process will most likely require us to be persevering. Patient. Maybe even longsuffering.

Honestly, I know that can feel a little overwhelming.

I want the promised blessing of Psalm 40:4: "Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust." I forget this kind of trusting in God is often forged in the crucible of longsuffering. God isn't picking on me. God is picking me to personally live out one of His promises.

It's a high honor. But it doesn't always feel that way. I've got to walk through the low places of the process before I'm perfectly equipped to live the promise.

We read about some of the low places of the process in Psalm 40:1-3:

"I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD."

The idea of waiting patiently in verse 1 is incredibly important in this psalm. The Hebrew word indicates the waiting is ongoing and holds a sense of eager expectancy and hope.

So while I want the solid rock on which to stand, first I have to wait patiently for the Lord to lift me out of the slime and mud and set my feet. That word set in the original Hebrew is qum, which means to arise or take a stand. God has to take me through the process of getting unstuck from what's been holding me captive before I can take a stand.

I also want that new song promised here. Did you notice, though, what comes before the psalm's promise of a new song? It's the many cries to the Lord for help. The most powerful praise songs don't start out as beautiful melodies; rather, they start as guttural cries of pain. But soon the process of pain turns into the promise of a praise like no other.

I know this is hard. But let me be the one to lean in and whisper to you: "God is working things out. He's not far away. He is right here with us. We need to cling to this hope. Believe this hope. Live out this hope. Right here and right now. Even if our prayers aren't answered in the way and the timing we want. Even when this process feels messy. We will trust that God is good."

Keep crying out to Him, friend. Keep hoping in Him. And know that God will take every cry you've uttered and arrange those sounds into a glorious song.

Prayer: Lord God, we know You often work in ways we don't understand. Help us feel close to You in the middle of the process You're taking us through. Help us trust You are at work even when You seem silent and far off. Help us believe You are good in every way — every day. Thank You for Your loving and watchful care of us, Your children. We're thankful today and always. In Jesus' precious name we pray, amen.

Have you been enjoying the When Words Fail First 5 study? It isn't too late to buy an Experience Guide! With unique themes, poetic structures and charts, you'll learn even more about the book of Psalms!

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