1 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.
It may seem rather curious for a book devoted to comfort to contain a chapter about patience. What could one possibly have to do with the other? The answer is simple. Have you ever been impatient? If so, then you know the DIScomfort of stress. Impatience feeds anxiety while patience fosters trust which, in turn, brings comfort.
Nothing tests our patience more than life’s challenges. We don’t want to hurt. We want relief and we want it now. The trouble is that too often we expect life to be like a television show. A typical thirty or sixty minute program begins with a problem, proceeds to show that problem being addressed and then closes with it being solved, all within that time frame. Life should be so easy. The fact is though that relief from the difficulties we are facing frequently takes time to develop, thus demanding patience with God, with others and with ourselves.
This Psalm begins with the writer in those familiar depths which have been mentioned in other Psalms and which we ourselves have experienced. How many times have we felt that our hearts had reached the lowest regions of despair? The positive side of finding ourselves in such a state is that if we have hit the bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up! This is the Psalmist’s attitude. From his depths he doesn’t look down to see how much further he might fall. Instead he looks above to the Lord whom he trusts to deliver him from his miry pit of sorrow. He pleads for the Lord’s attention. He counts on the Lord in His mercy to open His ears and answer his prayer. With that in mind, he expresses the patience that is the theme of the Psalm and the focus of this chapter. Because he is calling upon the merciful God, the Psalmist is willing to be patient for an answer. He will be like one who through the night anxiously looks forward to the sunrise, but he will be patient because of his trust in the Lord.
Other chapters in this book have referenced the goodness of God in caring for His people. We only make note of it here so as to show it as the foundation of the patience that leads to comfort. Without the loving and merciful God there would be no reason for patience because we could not expect anything good to happen to us. A cruel, vicious God would offer no hope or promise of relief from life’s difficulties and would leave us nothing good to anticipate. The God of creation, however, cares for His faithful ones. As a result, we know that He will give what is best and we patiently walk with Him in this confidence.
It’s strange to hear people talking about “getting over” a difficulty that they’ve faced. Do we ever really “get over” a tragedy or does the intensity of it just lessen as time moves us away from it? In the newness of the tragedy we are consumed by its pain and its almost surreal nature. In the days that follow we have flashbacks of scenes of the tragedy and the people involved. We go through many moments of questioning why it happened and wondering if we could have done something to stop it. If the tragedy is the death of a loved one, we may even wonder why it wasn’t us who died. Ensuing weeks run us through a wide range of emotions from anger to guilt to loneliness (especially in the loss of a loved one). It may be only days after the event in which we begin to wonder if we’ll ever feel happy again or if we’ll ever be able to get that tragedy out of our minds. Certainly as the weeks pass and we still find ourselves thinking about what happened, our desire to move on and not keep replaying the past in our minds grows stronger. Will we ever “get over” it? When the patriarch Jacob thought his beloved son, Joseph had been killed, he said, “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning.” (Genesis 37:35). He did not see himself ever being able to overcome his grief.
The pain can lessen, especially as we turn to God for the comfort that He provides. All of the Psalms that are the subject of the study of this book, along with countless other inspired scriptures, serve to bring us to that “peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7). But does the pain go away the moment we start reading God’s Word? Do the tears of sorrow dry up immediately upon going to God in prayer? Because we still hurt days, weeks, months or even years after a death or some other tragedy in our lives, does this mean that we are weak in faith? Does it mean that God’s Word is not as comforting as it is made out to be? Think about this: Every one of the Psalms being considered in this book is couched in the individual writer’s need for comfort. Each writer is hurting in some way. Many of these Psalms were written by one man, king David. His pain sometimes lingered. God’s deliverance was sometimes not immediate. Does that mean that David did not have faith or that God was not being good to him? No, what it means is that sometimes the relief that God provides takes time. In some of the Psalms, the writers wanted relief from the oppression of the enemy. In God’s master plan, this would take time. In our lives, there may be greater good that can arise from our suffering (see Job). Comfort comes and will continue to come, but the lessening of the pain may take time.
Have you ever broken a bone? If you have and you are like most people, you were in pain. How long did it take for the pain to go away? Was it immediate? Even after the medicine and the extra attention you got, you still knew you had a broken bone as that cast was a constant reminder. Even as that cast was working to mend your bone, did you not from time to time feel the discomfort of that cumbersome annoyance? As much as you wanted the bone to mend immediately, you knew it would take time. The same is true of a broken heart. It can take time to mend. How long does it take? The answers to that question are as many in number as the people of whom it is asked. One of my Gospel preacher friends who had lost his wife to cancer told me when my wife, Shannon died, “Don’t let anyone tell you how to grieve.” That was sage advice. While we in our sorrow are trying to practice patience in our recovery, we must not allow others to rush us through the process. We need time. We need to work through the challenges we face.
In waiting for the Lord, we are not sitting around expecting Him to miraculously stir us out of our sadness. Throughout the Psalm, action is combined with the waiting. While waiting, the Psalmist is praying and consulting God’s Word, the source of his hope (verse 5). James gives an interesting instruction regarding patience. “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:4). Let patience work. Let it develop. Why? The reason is because the more we patiently seek God, the stronger we become spiritually and emotionally. This is a wonderful combination. Sitting around and doing nothing, looking inward at our sorrow rather than upward for our relief, will certainly lead to depression. On the other hand, the more we turn to God the more patience we develop and the more faith we build. Job said, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10). Peter wrote, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 1:7). Let patience work. Allow your faith and trust in God to grow through the patience that you are developing and allow your patience to develop through your faith and trust in God.
While waiting for the Lord means that we trust Him to care for us in our sorrow, it also means that we don’t try to get ahead of Him. Some in their sadness turn away from God, blaming Him for what happened. Some become despondent and just give up. Some turn to drugs. Some even take their own lives. God’s “divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” (II Peter 1:3). We have all that we need from Him. The Word that God has given us will work to comfort us if we will continually go to it and patiently apply it.
There are two other verses in the Psalms that echo the sentiment of Psalm 130. The first is Psalm 27:14. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Have you as a parent ever told your child to do something and then repeated it for emphasis? “Son, do your homework. I said, do your homework.” It’s obvious that in this instruction to your child you were expressing how important it was that he do what you said. That’s the motivation behind Psalm 27:14. “Be patient. Don’t get ahead of God. Be strong in Him. He will be there for you. Be patient, I said.” That’s a great verse. Now read it again and compare it to the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 130, especially verses five and six. In Psalm 27 we find an exhortation to wait. In Psalm 130:5-6, we find the commitment to wait. Not just once or twice but three times this Psalmist says he will wait. As he waits, he hopes, knowing full well the goodness of God.
The other verse that expresses the thought of Psalm 130 is Psalm 46:10. “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” The scene that immediately comes to my mind when I read this verse is that of Moses and the Israelites as they stood on the banks of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit. Afraid that they were trapped and were about to be destroyed by the Egyptians, the masses cried out. In reply, “Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14). The idea of being still in both settings seems to be that of ceasing to be stressed. Be still. Calm down. Be patient. Trust God. As this applies to those in sorrow, the message is regarding the need to not fret. Even though your world seems to be crumbling, God is still there. His Word is still powerful. He will still hear the prayers of the faithful. In His providence He still is active in this world. Be patient. You will find the comfort you crave.
The effort that we put forth to develop patience in the face of life’s challenges is well worth the results. As is true in so many other Psalms, this one speaks of a reward for patience that is far above what any trust in earthly things could produce. To the original readers, the promise was that of not just redemption, but plenteous redemption. The abundance of God’s blessings cannot be measured. In our patience we will find plenteous comfort.
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