We are a culture, a generation that cannot wait. Everything has to be instant. “Haste” is the watchword of our time, and our constant rush actually robs us of time because we are sacrificing the present, are scarcely aware of it in its fullness, and hardly remember it. There is a panic to perform and produce that reduces our pleasure in the moment and which cannot revel and reflect in time that seems to go slow. Someone has opined that they who hurry already have a foot in the grave. What is the basis of this unfortunate obsession with rapid momentum? In the world - greed and profit: in ourselves - gratification and the justification of our existence. All this impatience is not rewarding. It is oppressive and fatiguing, depriving us of health and happiness and firm relationships. Everything is fleeting and we are restless and dissatisfied. The symptoms of our folly abound. They amount to misery and self-torture and the devastation is all around us to see. We have made gods of our gadgets and our technology is our version of the Tower of Babel. Our self-wrought salvation is leading to chaos and confusion. We are shallow, superficial and substitute sentimentality for substance.
Of course, some people profit greatly from cracking the whip in commerce and industry but as a result individuals, family, and community are cracking up. It’s a terrible disease that will, and does, prove fatal. We all have callings and consequent chores but it is the divine purpose that we should also be personally creative in accord with given talents and interests. Education, sadly, is principally the means for creating a work force but not for cultivating influences that civilize and foster our humanity. Satan and sin have ejected us from Paradise where work, wonder, worship, and wellbeing in fellowship with God, were to characterize our lives and enhance our experience of being. Now our basic drives are deviant, aberrant, and they are ultimately destructive. We were expelled from the Garden because in our fallenness we were about to sow weeds nurtured in our evil hearts.
Waiting can be good for us. It can promote patience and profundity of thought and character. It is time to take stock, review desires and purposes, deepen yearnings, and appreciate where we are in our comprehension and evaluation of things. It is pause for thinking, looking around, and gazing on things that matter. It is opportunity for soul searching. More than that, it is time for seeking God in the midst of life’s pressing affairs. Too much speed is Satan’s exaggeration of our forging into the future without estimating the preciousness of the present. We are diverted from the inner life by external concerns and goals that in the light of eternity may not be all that worthwhile.
Scripture speaks much of meditation and memory, and these are aspects of the mental and spiritual life that require “waste of time”. Friendship likewise. Communion with God also. Hurry hampers internal growth and maturation as human beings created for lingering fellowship with God and his people. Busyness is far too often Satan’s distraction from the important things of life. How often do we regret that we have not sheltered under the wings of the Lord more frequently and lastingly? We suffer leanness of soul while accolades, acquisitions, and debts accumulate. How often do wish that we knew our family and friends more intimately and had lavished more of our time and affection upon them? We race through life’s course when it might be wiser to canter, and we count on time ahead that we cannot be sure of. The grave opens up for us before our spirits learn how to flourish and tragically enough sometimes before we have taken account of eternity which makes life not even of a second’s duration on the divine scale of immortality. How many of our fellow human beings can look forward to their obituary with Gospel optimism – the record of a life in line with divine purpose?
Lamentations may be a brooding expression of mourning but its sadness is not permanent. Affliction is keenly felt but divine mercy is confidently awaited. Job-like desolation entertains eventual deliverance. Great misery in man does not cancel great love in God. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, but his compassions never fail” even when we are nigh wasted away and our best hopes are failing. “They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” for days are freshly made when they come and refreshment of the soul may come also at any time of God’s choosing. The writer’s hope is still alive, not merely a dead notion, for he addresses God personally with an expectation that cannot finally be extinguished.
“I say to myself, the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him”, for his gift of himself can never be annulled, and his pledge of life never rescinded. Promises require patience from those who believe them – even against insuperable odds. The afflicted child of God first speaks to God from his anguish and then preaches to himself in his anguish. “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” Our cry is never in vain even when it echoes back to us. Hoping and seeking are exercises in persevering solely based on God’s reliability and not the signs we long for. The soul may be severely stretched but not ultimately disappointed. “It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” in an attitude of retreat into the only safe refuge of the human heart. Closeness without comfort is no denial of blessing. Grace will germinate in good time however long its period of dormancy. “It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.” Spiritual toughness is better sooner than later. Endurance is not easy for the young. We are to become accustomed to spiritual hardship as a way of life through God’s equipping. Trouble comes as a double blow to the unwary.
It is incredibly hard to deal with adversity and the sense of divine desertion when they occur, especially when our early and “youthful” enjoyment of God has been sweet and our souls habitually buoyant. We cannot credit that God lays these difficulties upon us and it is natural to complain. Ever we must remind ourselves that God is consistent though incomprehensible. If our sureness is shaken we must keep repeating to ourselves, “there may yet be hope”. It does not indicate that trust is tentative but recognizes that we have no claim to God’s goodness and that it comes as a consequence of God’s sovereign bestowal. It is an expression of humility, and acknowledgement that we are pleading for that which we do not deserve (cf. Jonah 3: 9).
The resounding message of Scripture to those who seek God and wait long for him is plain to read and valid for all time and circumstances. “For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” There is no malice in God. He is not a monster that takes pleasure either in the crushing of his Son (Isaiah 53:10), or the bruising of his people. Our recalcitrant nature, like clay, requires softening and shaping. Beyond the necessary buffeting there is beauty of form as the new creation of God from raw and rough material.