Waiting Patiently upon the Lord – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistIn the scriptures, we are consistently called “children of God,” not “adults of God,” but “children of God.”  The psalm appointed for today, Psalm 40, is spoken to you, a child of God:

I waited patiently upon the Lord;
he stooped to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;
he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure. (Psalm 40:1-2)

The psalmist begins, “I waited patiently upon the Lord.”  You will know something about this, when you are having to wait in life.  This kind of waiting is not an eager waiting, where you are pirouetting around with great expectation about something wonderful you just can’t wait to happen.  It’s not a waiting where you are jumping up and down, because you can hardly wait. This kind of waiting implies suffering, when you are dreading something, or when you are stuck in a seemingly-intractable situation which is imprisoning.  You are waiting patiently because you are powerless in-and-of yourself to rise above your insufferable circumstances.  The English word “patience” comes from Latin patientia which means, literally, a “quality of suffering.”  And suffering you are as you wait patiently, hopefully, desperately.

And then, there is this rescue.  The psalmist says, “[the Lord] stooped to me and heard my cry.”  These comforting words are addressed to you, God’s child.  From your own life, you can imagine a child in distress, and some caring, loving adult will bend down on one knee to meet the crying child face-to-face.  And this adult will gently pick up the child into their arms. You will know about this.  You can draw from your memory being this child lifted up into the arms of love and comfort; you have also been the adult who has rescued a sobbing child.  It’s very tender.  You might find it meaningful to ponder this image from your own life’s experience: times in your own childhood when you were similarly rescued; times in your adulthood when you have been the rescuer.  I don’t have to think on this image very long, and tears come to my eyes.  A very tender image.

The psalmist first gives us this image of our being gently rescued, of being lifted out of  the mire and clay” of life, where we have felt absolutely stuck and greatly distressed, and where we must “wait patiently,” hopefully, because we are powerless to change our circumstances.  And then, we are lifted into the arms of love.

Then, what happens?  It could actually seem quite precarious, because the psalmist says our feet are set “upon a high cliff.”  Oh dear.  Whether or not you have a fear of heights, this could seem rather threatening: first you’re stuck, and now you’re tottering, fearing you might lose your balance and fall.  But no, the psalmist adds, “he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.”  So it’s not a risky scene, where we may topple over. We’re being lifted up and held secure.  I have these memories from my own early childhood, my father often wanting me to be able to see something which was blocked from my eyes because I was small.  I remember so many times my father’s lifting me up onto his shoulders or setting me on the fender of our car, and then holding me secure so that I was was safe and sound. And the point of “being lifted high” is so that we can see.  Elsewhere, the psalmist says, “Lift me to a rock that is higher than I.”[i] When you are stuck, you are inevitably myopic.  When we’re lifted high – when we can see “above the tree line,” as we say – our perspective changes.  We get a very different sense of proportions, we can much better understand our circumstances, we can see much more clearly from where we’ve come and to where we’re headed when we are lifted high, safe and sound.

You might find great comfort in going back to this psalm – Psalm 40:1-2 – and let these words be like an verbal icon through which you pray for yourself or for someone else in need whom you carry in your heart.  You are a child of God, very vulnerable and full of need, and God adores you.

I waited patiently upon the Lord;
he stooped to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;
he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.

[i] Psalm 61:2.

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