Please join us as we continue our weekly Community Chapel “Summer Series” podcasts with a reflection on Psalm 40 by Misa Mochinaga, Manager of the Campus Store at Tyndale. Her message is entitled “Waiting for God”.
Misa was born to Japanese immigrants to Argentina where, after a few years back in Japan, she and her family returned. While she didn’t enjoy learning Japanese in her younger years, her eventual fluency opened doors to do some interesting jobs including teaching at a bilingual school and working as a Japanese-Spanish-English interpreter. Misa arrived in Canada in January of 2000 and she began as a Seminary student at Tyndale a few years later. She reflects, “I will be forever thankful to God for this community for providing a family and a space for growth and development.” Along with her work at Tyndale, Misa is a spiritual director and part-time pastor at a Japanese church in Scarborough. She loves nature, photography, entertaining, good conversations, and reading.
Good morning, Tyndale community. I am humbled and thankful for the opportunity to share some thoughts and reflections on the first four verses of Psalm 40. The first time I really paid attention to this Psalm, to the words of this Psalm, was when I heard a good friend of mine sing it at a retreat. Music somehow helped this Psalm penetrate my soul, and it has been a Psalm dear to my heart ever since, and has brought comfort through my own pit experiences.
Allow me to share this Psalm with you. And I will be reading from the NIV. I waited patiently for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him. Bless it is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
In this section, David recounts his experience of being trapped in a pit, and how God came to his rescue. Most of us can relate to David's experience of falling, either by our own doing, or other people's, into a deep dark pit. Our feet are sucked into the mud and mire, while we desperately wave our hands looking for something to hold on to. Hopefully, we can also relate to the incredible feeling of freedom and gratitude, as we are lifted out of the darkness, and our feet feel secure again on solid rock. Yet how many of us can repeat David's words? I waited patiently for the Lord. Obviously, I can only speak for myself, but I am certain that I have never waited for anything patiently, whether good or bad. In fact, I'm sure I have always been quite impatient, frustrated, and anxious in the waiting. Do any of these questions sound familiar to you? Oh Lord how much longer do I have to wait? You know Lord, I haven't heard back from you about any of my prayers. Would you like me to repeat them again? Lord, have you forgotten about me? Do you think I can expect an answer anytime soon? You know time is pressing, and I'd really like to know. Or perhaps a question that many of us have asked during the pandemic. Lord, will there be an end to COVID? When will that be? Drivers are always watching their phone apps for road congestions during rush hour, because nobody likes to be stuck in traffic. We turn around if there is a line up at Tim Hortons because we don't have time to wait. We ask the receptionist how long the wait is when we arrive at the doctor's office, because we're busy, and our time is valuable.
We are not good at waiting, in general, because waiting is difficult. In fact, life itself actually is difficult. And Jesus warned us about this. How should waiting be any different, if life itself is difficult? He told the disciples to expect trials in John 16. "I have told you these things so that, in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world." Yet somehow, we easily forget about it. The words of American Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis to his frustrated, impatient daughter capture this well. "My dear, if you would only recognize that life is hard, things would be so much easier for you." This is from an unknown source. And so despite Jesus's warnings, many Christians struggle with trials, and when trials come their way. In order to stay firm in the Lord, we must always remember that in this life we will face difficult times, we will fall in a pit. But what is important to remember, as well, is that there is a way out, and we must know what to do when we find ourselves at the bottom of the pit. Now, David didn't specifi, specify what kind of pits he has experienced. It's clear throughout the Psalms that he experienced many of them. But anything really can be our pit. An illness, COVID and isolation, the loss of a job, a conflict with family and friends, an unfaithful spouse, the loss of a loved one, the difficult or stressful situation, an embarrassment, or any other overwhelming problem.
What did David do when he was in the pit? How did David deal with the situation? He chose to trust in the Lord. He cried out to the Lord in prayer and waited patiently for the Lord. He chose to trust in the Lord, cried out to the Lord in prayer, and waited patiently for the Lord. Are you in a place of waiting? Perhaps you're waiting for test results, for healing, for restoration of a relationship, for life to go back to normal, or guidance and direction in your life. Waiting is a place we've been many times, and we know that the soul and the mind can grow weary of waiting. Our hearts can become overwhelmed with doubt and fear that God has forgotten about us. David too, was familiar with waiting. There are many references of this in the Psalms. In Psalm 13, verse one, he cries out, "How long will you hide your face from me, Lord?" But when David cried out to God, his past experiences of being in a pit reminded, reminded him that God would be with him. And so he trusted that God would listen to his cries. He believed that the God who had formed him in his mother's womb, knew the thoughts in his heart, even before he knew them. He had experienced God's faithfulness, enough through past trials, that he had learned that God would always save him. Many years ago, I was myself in the pit of depression, although I didn't know it at the time. The months I spent in the pit are blurry now. I couldn't pray or read my Bible. But God gave me a verse that sustained me through that time. Proverbs 3, five and six. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight." At times, I had to tell my heart to trust several times a day, remind myself to trust in the Lord, and eventually God lifted me up from that pit of depression.
In verses one to three, David tells us what happened after he turned to God and waited for him. God rewarded David's patient waiting and lifted him out of the slimy mud, and he set his feet on a firm rock, putting a new song in his mouth. But the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the greatest reward that David received was the gift of God's presence, and attention to his cries, and the conviction that God loved him and that he mattered to God. The NIV says, "The Lord turned to David." But the ESV says, "The Lord inclined to me." Inclined has the sense of God not just turning his head to look at David or to listen to him, but actually bending down to David in his suffering. It evokes a parent, bending down to comfort a crying child. In verse four, David writes, "How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust." The Hebrew word used here doesn't mean happy, the way we understand it, as other translations have translated it. You know, feeling good, and enjoying things, and having a good time. The Hebrew word here refers to a state of the soul, a deep seated and steady contentment or emotion that is not affected by circumstances.
Trusting in the Lord doesn't mean that our lives will be comfortable, and that we will not face difficulties ever again. Quite the contrary. What it means is that even when we find ourselves in a pit of desperation and agony, we will experience God's peace within and find the courage to serve him in the world.
I'd like to end with a beautiful prayer by Christina Fox, but I've taken the liberty to shorten and edit.
Father, thank you that you know us, and you know the circumstances each of us is going through. Thank you for your invitation to pour our hearts to you in prayer. Let our cries be known to you. Forgive us for doubting you at times, even when we know that you're always with us, and have promised you will never abandon or forsake us. Forgive us for our impatience and questioning your perfect plans for us. Forgive us for not seeing your face and allowing the struggles before us to seem greater and stronger than your grace and mercy for us. Cleanse our heart of all that keeps us from you. Help us to see the ways we try to be our own Saviour. Help us to remember that it is good to wait for you, and that we are safe in the shelter of your wings, no matter how difficult our circumstances might be. Encourage those who are struggling today, those who are overwhelmed by life difficulties, and those will find themselves in a pit of depression, confusion and fear. Help them recognize your presence with them, and take hold of the power of your Holy Spirit within them. May the words of the psalmist be true of us today. I wait for the Lord. My soul waits and in His Word, I hope. Strengthen us in our waiting, and use this for Your glory. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
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