I have never been a very patient person. In fact, it is a constant struggle for me. I suppose I could attribute it to the fact that I am a planner and with my planning comes a regular anticipation of what is to come. My lack of patience can be in something as simple as childlike hope in a future family vacation to sinful frustration when things don't happen in the time frame I have planned.
As I've gotten older, I have grown to realize that my impatience is actually something far more serious. In my impatience I often am proclaiming (with my attitude and my thoughts) that if things could simply go my way, I would be much happier. In its most basic form, I'm saying that God can't be trusted.
I can recall a number of times where I have gotten to the end of a particular situation only to realize that the joy in the outcome is diminished by the tantrum I had in the waiting. Sure, God acted on my behalf, but my distrust for him left a bitter taste in my mouth when I should have experienced the sweetness of his grace. But I can recall times where I've seen God act and felt great joy and trust in his good plan for my life. No bitterness over my sinful attitude. No sorrow over my attempts to control. Just pure, sweet fellowship with the One who always has my best interest at heart. I want more of the second outcome. Not the first.
David knew well what it meant to wait for the Lord to act. He faced crisis after crisis with little insight into the end result. Yet, he trusted in the God who promises good things to his people. Psalm 40 is a beautiful testimony of a man who "waited patiently for the LORD" (verse 1). David had seen God act on his behalf repeatedly and this reinforces the truth in his weary mind that God will do it again. When he is faced with enemies on every side he remembers that God has delivered him in the past. When he feels that his life is in danger, as it most certainly was on a regular basis, he recalls the God who holds his life in his hands. When he feels forgotten and alone, he remembers the God who promised to never leave him or forsake him. For David, external circumstances were not the final say in his life. God and his all powerful purposes were. David trusted in the God he could not see, not the circumstances that were so clearly in his full view.
But there is something more important about waiting on God in the midst of a trial (or even a slow moving situation). It's not just about us. In Psalm 40:3, David says that "many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD." Every response we have to any given situation is telling a story to a watching world. Every attempt to take matters into our own hands, instead of waiting on God to fulfill his purposes for us is saying that God can't be trusted as much as we can. In contrast, every time we trust God when everything else around us is crashing down, we tell a very different story about our God. Trusting God, and waiting on him when it looks bleak or pointless to wait, tells the watching world that God's ways really are better than our own. It puts him on display, not us. It makes him look great, not our own ability to manipulate an outcome.
Manipulating is easy. We all know that. It's the quiet trust when you can't see through the dark and foggy window of life that can take your breath away. And that is why we remember. David knew that left to himself he would never be able to endure the myriad of flaming darts that life would throw his way. So he remembered God's past faithfulness and hoped that it would come again. The same is true for us today. Not only do we have the anchor of our own history with God to steady us when the waves come crashing, but we have something even more powerful. The history of God's people through the ages as told in his word. David's testimony and the testimonies of countless others remind us that God can be trusted. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than at the cross. God promised thousands of years before Christ that he would make a way for his people to be right with him again.
And then he did it with his own Son, Jesus.
We can rest patiently on the Lord because every promise he makes to us comes true. We can rest patiently on the Lord because Christ came, died, and rose again and is now seated at the right hand of the Father pleading for our very patience right now. We can rest patiently on the Lord because every word of God proves true, even the one that says he will keep us until the end.