The Waiting Room
Between promise and fulfillment, between the call of God and the open door is a waiting room.
David writes from his waiting room in Psalm 138:
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me . . .
(the confidence of promise meets present circumstance)
Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever . . .
(the character of God meets personal need)
Do not forsake the work of Your hands.
(the crying heart meets the Lord in the waiting room)
From beginning to ending of this short song, David iterates and reiterates the certainty of God’s work. He puts God’s character on display and thanks Him with his whole heart (v. 1-2). He remembers that God has heard him in the past and strengthened his soul (v. 3). He anticipates the day when kings will join a mighty chorus glorifying the King of kings (v. 4-5). He even calls to mind God’s protection and care in the present, in “the waiting room” of life (v. 6-7).
So when we come to verse 8, we’re ready for the crescendo of confidence and praise that overflows from David’s heart: “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.”
David knows by experience that God does what is right, that trust placed in Him is never disappointed. The fulfillment of God’s purpose is as certain as the unchanging, immovable love of God which never ends.
As David replayed the story of his life to this moment, he could say only that God never failed. In every impossible situation, God brought deliverance. No plot of the enemy was so skillfully laid that God could not give a door of escape. No army was so strong that the power of God could not break through. The wilderness could not swallow him, caves could not confine him, kings could not kill him.
Thanksgiving burst from David’s lips as he remembered His God—God who heard him at his lowest ebb and loved him and carried him through.
Of particular interest to me is the last line of David’s song: “Do not forsake the work of Your hands.”
I’d like to say, “David, what are you talking about? You’ve recounted God’s loyalty; you’ve remembered His unfailing love; you’ve declared your certainty that the God who has brought you this far will not abandon you here. Do you still doubt?”
And then I step back to my own little waiting room.
I’m not pursued by enemies as David was, hunted like a bird, fleeing, hiding, and flying again. I’m not facing off against the gods of this world. I’m not vying for a promised kingdom over which I will reign one day.
I definitely face enemies of the soul, and wrestle with the false gods of my culture, and fight in the war for God's Kingdom, but David’s larger-than-life trials and triumphs are on another scale. Yet I find David’s closing cry expresses my heart in the waiting room, too.
Like David, I’ve known the goodness of God my whole life through. Of course, it’s by His mercy that I draw my next breath, and there are special times in which I’ve seen His hand and felt His embrace. I’ve experienced the unfailing love of God who knows me when I hardly know myself and who loves me anyway. I’ve known the strength of soul God gives when I’ve cried out to Him. I’m anticipating the day when even enemies sing praise to my Heavenly King.
But in the waiting room, between promise and fulfillment, I echo David’s words, “Do not forsake the work of Your hands.”
Can the God of eternal forsake? If God has purposed, will He not bring it to pass?
Yet in the dark, before the call finds its open door, I find myself pleading with God to fulfill His purpose, needing to know again that He will finish the good work He has begun.
Is that doubt? Sometimes—and then I cry, “I believe; help my unbelief!” God who heard a distraught father in Jesus’ day and healed his son, hears me and impart belief to my unbelieving heart.
Sometimes I’m worn, wearied by waiting. Hope droops, wilts like a plant in need of water, thirsting for a fresh word from the Almighty, for His personal reminder: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Think of it: God knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. He is not surprised by our weakness. He is not tired of our continual crying out to Him for help, for hope, for another drink to lift our sagging spirits. God is pleased when we call to Him.
Sometimes I need to reckon, to bridge the gap between what I can see and what I cannot see by setting my will with the character of God and His promises for my uncertain future. Will God fulfill His purpose—yes! But I must teach my soul to know it. Psalm 138 is David’s reckoning in the waiting room, believing that God will do what He has promised; it’s David’s clinging to God and begging Him to not forsake; it’s David’s soul catching up to the reality of God’s character, warming to the blaze of God’s love.
And all the time, the waiting room is my opportunity to enter into the purposes of God. It’s easy to miss this reason for earnest prayer, and give up inside. After all, “God has promised so why does it matter if I think about this any more?” It’s true that God’s promises are as certain as if they were already fulfilled. But God invites us to the fellowship of co-laborers together with Him.
Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.” Is it possible that the will of God would not be done, that the promised kingdom would not come, that the Father’s name would not be hallowed? Never. But God wants us to join in His purposes through earnest prayer. In the process of working together with God we know Him as never before.
For David and for us, a part of God’s purpose is to fulfill our purpose, the reason for which He made us. In prayer, in the midst of agony and conflict, we get a chance to recognize that the reason for which God made us is for the fulfillment of His purpose—and there we get to join our prayer with His promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you" united with "Do not forsake the work of Your hands.” It is a great circle: As we enter into God’s purpose for the world, God fulfills our purpose in the world—which fulfills His purpose for the world. “Your kingdom come, Your will be done . . .” Prayer turns into supreme confidence when we know that we’re praying in line with what God has purposed.
Winter weather has come to our Northwestern corner; cold air spilling out of Canada pours across our county and engulfs our little home. Last vestiges of summer growth wilt and blacken, dropping lifeless to the ground. Nights are long. This is the waiting room. Were I a tree who had seen forty-six winters, I’d remind myself that spring would come again, that sap would run, that fruit once more would grace my branches.
But I’m not a tree waiting for spring. I have something more sure than the changing of the seasons to give me hope.
Like David, I’m teaching my soul to know it—to know Him—and I'm joining my purpose to the everlasting purposes of God.
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me;
Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of Your hands.
© Robert G. Robbins, November 2013