Wednesday, December 03, 2014


One of the most useful things, for me, in following the liturgical year, is that emotionally I'm not able to be everywhere at once.  The year helps me to order things, and brings an emotional focus to the different seasons.  So what am I meant to be feeling in Advent?

I've been thinking about waiting in the Psalms.  Waiting implies a situation which is not yet what you believe it ought to be.  For the Psalmists that is generally opposition to themselves and to God, but what has struck me as I have been reading over the Psalms which deal explicitly with waiting for God is that the feel of them can be very different.  Take Psalm 33, for example.  This is a Psalm of joyous worship - "shout for joy in YHWH you righteous!" - and absolute confidence - "he is our help and shield".  But there is still waiting.  "Our soul waits for YHWH".  Confidence here leads to waiting.  Because God is good, and sovereign, and cares for us, we will wait for him.  This is expectant, eager waiting.

Psalm 62 has a slightly different feel.  Without a doubt, the Psalmist is struggling in some way; it seems from opposition around him - "how long will all of you attack a man?"  But there is still a certain serenity about it.  "For God alone my soul waits in silence".  It seems to me that this is patient, enduring waiting.

Psalm 69 is different again.  Here the Psalmist's situation seems more desperate - "the waters have come up to my neck" - and his cry more anguished - "save me, O God!"  If he waits for God, it is not so much eagerly or patiently, but because he is forced to.  "My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God".  This looks like urgent, anxious waiting.

In Psalm 39, it feels as if the Psalmist has almost given up.  He waits for God only because nobody else can help him, since his problem is fundamentally his own sin and guilt.  "And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in you.  Deliver me from all my transgressions."  This feels to me like resigned, enforced waiting.

Then there are Psalms 74 and 79, with their impassioned "how long, O YHWH/God?"  The concern here is wider; it is not so much to do with the Psalmist's personal situation as it is with the state of the world, and particularly the way in which God is dishonoured - "is the enemy to revile your name forever?"  This is impatient, zealous waiting.

Waiting for God does not have one particular emotional or situational profile.  I am working on what that means for me personally, but I am encouraged that God meets us where we are - whether that is quietly confident in him, hugely saddened by the brokenness and rebellion of the world, or frustrated and impatient with his apparent inaction.

No comments:

Post a Comment