It Doesn't Matter How Things Seem

Untitled design-5.png

A few days ago, Jason and I were tracking a storm via two different weather apps on our phones.  Our goal was to find a window of opportunity to take Barnabas out for a short hike without getting caught in a storm.  Both apps were giving us the same information:  a storm was brewing and would be passing through within a half hour or so.  A single glance out the window caused me to believe the reports.  It was dark and ominous looking.  Yup, I had no trouble accepting a storm was on its way, and from the looks of things, the downpour would hit soon.

Then, the strangest thing happened.  Within five minutes or so, the clouds dispersed, and the sun shone brightly in the sky.  Well, so much for that.  We rechecked the weather apps, but their forecast remained the same.  I looked out the window again at the clearing sky and squinted against the bright sunlight, convinced the weather forecast was—once again—way off base.

Suddenly, I heard a noise and glanced out the window again.  It was pouring.  The sun was still shining, but rain fell in buckets.  I stood with mouth agape wondering if I was imagining the kooky weather, but I wasn’t.  First, it looked like it was going to rain but didn’t.  Then, it looked like it wasn’t going to rain, and it did.  Sounds a bit like life, doesn’t it?

Often, the things that look good aren’t, and vice versa.  The job that seemed like a dream turned out to be a nightmare.  That perfect someone wasn’t so perfect after all.  The vacation we looked forward to for months came and went, and we feel less relaxed than we did before we left.  The diet that promised amazing results made you crazy for weeks, and in the end, you felt worse and had gained weight.  What’s up with that?

The psalmist David could relate.  In Psalm 40, he pours his heart out to God about the troubles he’s facing.  He begins the psalm in enthusiastic praise to God, but as disappointment surges forth, his prayer takes a different turn, and we see how David thought things would be different for him.

I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation. Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.
— Psalm 40:8-11

David gives an account of all the things he’s done right.  “I’ve done your will.  Your law is in my heart.  I’ve preached to others about you.  I’ve not kept your works to myself, but I’ve declared your love and goodness to others.  I’ve done all these things for you, Lord, so why are you punishing me?  Why are you withholding your mercy from me?  Don’t I deserve better?  I don’t get it.”

Preach it, brother David!  I feel your pain.  When we’ve done the right things and expect the “right” results, and things fall through, it’s easy to get discouraged and confused.  Things seem like they should go a certain way, but seldom do they ever go the way we think they should.  And that gets frustrating!  To us, dark clouds mean rain and the presence of the sun signifies the absence of rain, but God sees things differently.  After all, He created the sun, the rain, and all of creation, so He controls them.  He can do whatever He wants, just as He can in our lives.

I’ll admit, sometimes it seems wrong—cruel even, but that’s when we have to remember that it doesn’t matter how things look or seem.  It’s the truth that matters, and unless we learn to cling to that truth in life, we’ll forever be disappointed.  This is a lesson I’m learning firsthand, and let me tell you, it isn’t easy.  But through it all, I believe God is increasing my faith and teaching me to believe beyond what these eyes can see and this mind can comprehend.  And that means I’m becoming more like Him.  For that, I’m incredibly grateful God doesn’t work things out the way that makes sense to me.

From Patient to Panicked

I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
— Psalm 40:1

Psalm 40 is a beautiful, heartfelt passage. It begins with praise and transitions into David pleading for God’s help for himself and judgment on his enemies. So sincere. So human. And, I admit, it’s the latter statement that literally makes me chuckle when I read through the chapter. Why? Because I see myself in David’s writing.

Notice in verse one, David says, “I waited patiently for the Lord.” He begins the chapter in peace, calming waiting on the Lord to work. From the rest of the chapter, we know things are a mess in David’s life, and he has every reason to be frantic and worried. Yet, verse one finds him worshiping God and quietly waiting for God to intercede on his behalf. But notice what happens.

In verse twelve, David turns his attention away from the goodness of the Lord and onto the enormity of the army of men who seek to destroy him. And watch how he moodswings right out of that patient attitude in verse 13: “make haste to help me.” One minute, he was waiting calmly, the next he’s crying out, “Lord, I can’t wait any longer. Help me now!”

I’ve never had to flee from an army seeking to kill me, but I can relate to David’s change in spiritual standing. In a matter of verses, he swings from confident in God’s plan to stressed and worried about the outcome of his current circumstance. He went from patient to panicked. And even when he tried to turn his attention back to God in the last couple of verses, we still sense a thread of anxiety in his heart as he writes, “Make no tarrying, O my God.”

I’m so glad God didn’t use perfect people to write the Bible. I’m so happy He allows us to see the faults and fears. For me, it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who often starts my day patiently waiting on the Lord, confident in His plan, only to find myself a few hours later crying out, “Okay, Lord, enough waiting. It’s time for action, right?” It’s cheering to know that the man God declared to be a man after his own heart had spiritual and emotional mood swings which transported him from the mountaintop to the valley in less time than it takes to say, “Chocolate cake, please.” And the reason I find comfort in this is because God was still able to use David to accomplish mighty things. Despite the psalmist’s setbacks and mood swings, God worked through him, and that gives me hope.

I was scrolling through Pinterest the other day, and I came upon a pin picturing a minion sitting in a cross-legged pose muttering, “Come on, inner peace, I don’t have all day.” I laughed. That’s so me! I have the desire for inner peace but seldom do I have the patience to sit still long enough to allow my mind to find that peace. Likewise, I want to wait on the Lord, to allow Him to have His perfect way in my life, but when problems arise, I want instant solutions.  

But here’s what I’ve learned from David’s life. Though his life was never easy, God always had his back. God protected, guided, and blessed the shepherd-boy-turned-king. David faced hard times (usually as consequences for his sin), but through it all, God was faithful and came through at the right time. I can trust God will do the same for me. . .and for you. No need to panic!