Scriptures: Psalm 130; Romans 8:18-25
Let's Get It Over With
Have you ever been in a situation where it seemed like it was hopeless? There was once a Dartmouth football team, for instance, that I believe had lost 252 games in a row. I imagine that, as much as they would have liked to be positive about things, in their hearts, a number of them were just saying, at the next game, “Let's get it over with.”
Sometimes life feels like that. Not that you are thinking about ending it or anything like that, but just that you're too tired. You have invested too much energy, and you don't have any energy left. This thing is just too much for you, in many ways, but it has to be done. So let's get it over with.
You just wish it was finished, so you can move on past it. Maybe it's unpleasant. I have to admit, I sometimes wonder – Romans talks about the pregnancy thing, with groaning, at the birth pains – and I'm not a woman, so I don't know, but I wonder how many times you women, if you've given birth, have at some point just felt like, “Let's just get it over with, please!”
Waiting can be hard at any time. Waiting for relief can be even harder. And yet so often, we don't want to ask for help. Many times, we're asked how we're doing, and our answer is, “I'm fine,” when in reality, we're not.
I had a teacher, when I was in college, who once said that “fine” stands for frustrated, insecure, neurotic, and emotional. So now, whenever anybody asks me how I'm doing, I say, “I'm OK.”
The author of Psalm 30 was willing to admit that things were not fine. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. O Lord, hear my voice.” He was calling out to God, and by saying “out of the depths,” he was saying, “I'm about as low as I can go.”
Now as the liturgist noted, he might have been there before. Not in that same exact spot, but certainly that low before. We've all had points in our life when we're that low, and we feel like the pit is too large, the wall is too high, and out of the depths we cry to God.
The instinct of most Christians, I think, is to pray when life gets hard. Actually, what's tougher sometimes is praying when things are going well. When things are going smoothly, you don't think about it. You don't think about your need for God. And yet, we need God at all times – good times, bad times, in-between times.
Sometimes we have to wait for God and His answer. That waiting can be hard, because we don't know either what the reply is going to be or what's going to happen afterward.
I remember in the recent past – I couldn't tell you the exact dates – they were talking about wildfires going on in California, and the people had to leave their homes. They were forced to evacuate, and it was two or three weeks before they could come back. Until that time, they didn't even know if they had a home to come back to, and if they did, what kind of state it would be in.
Anyone who's had similar circumstances about not knowing what is to come, but feeling overwhelmed by the moment, can relate well with this psalm and its writer. In the midst of trouble, whether self-imposed or inflicted by others, the faithful will wait.
If there is something that this psalm tells us, it's really about our relationship with God, in many ways. The first thing that the psalmist tells us is that we need God. He needs God. He cries out of the depths. He understands his sin, in verse 3, and how that should take God away from him, because God can't stand sin.
“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” Nobody could stand on their own merits before God. We need God. We need His forgiveness. Without that, the relationship can't exist. So we need to recognize our need for God. We need to ask for forgiveness from Him.
Then we need to understand that God is faithful. That's the second thing this psalmist tells us. God is faithful. “But with you there is forgiveness. Therefore you are to be feared.” Or in some translations, it says “worshiped.”
God will forgive, because God is a loving God and a gracious God, someone who poured out His love upon us while we were yet sinners. He reached out to us.
In our Wednesday Bible study, we've been talking a lot about Reformed faith and Covenant theology and things like that. It's wonderful for me, and I really appreciate those that come and are willing to listen, and the fact that they were interested and they asked to learn about this
Part of what we realize, as Reformed believers, is that no one, of their own free will, without prompting, would choose God. We care about ourselves too much. We are too self-centered. But when the Holy Spirit convicts us and moves us, then our eyes are opened and we have ears to hear, and we recognize our need for God, and we ask for forgiveness, and He is faithful, when we do so, to forgive.
The relationship with God begins as we experience that grace and that hope, that hope that there is something beyond this current state of life. But in between that hope and now, there's waiting. The faithful life inevitably involves waiting upon the Lord and hoping in God's Word, because God's power is made perfect in weakness.
You may or may not remember, Paul at one time notes, in one of his epistles, that he had a “thorn in his flesh,” and a lot of scholars debate about what that was, and three times he asked God to take it away, and God refused. He came to the realization, the understanding, that God's power is made perfect in his weakness.
So the thorn was there to remind him that he existed by God's grace, to make him dependent on God's grace, and that it was actually – I don't know if I would call it a good thing, I'm just not that mature – but it was certainly something to no longer be so concerned with, except in how it affects your relationship with God.
But even when he prayed those three times, he had to wait. Between two of his missionary journeys, Paul had a ten-year wait, while he was in Tarsus.
We are currently caught between the now and the not yet. We need to be rooted in God's Word, so that confidence in His promises will sustain us for the pilgrimage of this life. The psalmist understands that. He says, “I wait for the Lord. My soul waits, and in His Word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord, more than the watchmen wait for the morning, more than the watchmen wait for the morning.” And he repeats that.
That, by the way, in Hebrew, is a way of emphasizing something. They didn't have “good, better, best.” It was “good” or “good good” or “good good good.” So he's telling you how important it is that, during this time of waiting, he stays alert. He keeps looking for what God has to tell him, where God is leading him.
When I was in college, I worked nights. It was OK. I am a night owl. But it got hard, because I did classes during the day, and I worked from 10 pm till 6 am, then I had my first class at 8 am. But I knew each night, as I went to work, that the daylight would surely come.
And frankly sometimes, the only thing that got me through the night is I just waited. I waited for the sunlight to start shining through the doorways and windows, as I went about my rounds, because I was a security guard.
The place where I sat, for incoming people, was situated so that I could see the first rays of sunlight. It was facing east, to break into the darkness, and it was then that I knew that I had made it through another night, with my Mountain Dew, and would soon be going home for a couple of hours of rest, before school began.
And the point is clear: just as I waited for the morning to dawn, just so the morning certainly comes. And it's exactly the same with waiting and trusting in God. God will appear, but we have to be looking for Him. So many times in the Scriptures, and Jesus himself refers to it as well – he says we need to watch, we need to be alert, we need to be waiting, for that moment where God breaks into our life.
But what do we do in the meantime? Do we sit, resigned, and say, “Let's just get it over with”? Or do we take an active part in the life that we lead until then? The Psalmist tells us, he tells the entire congregation, “O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love; with him is full redemption.”
He says to be active, to live out your faith, to disciple yourself. In the passage from Romans that we looked at, that the liturgist read, he says much the same thing about being a disciple. Life gives us trials. Life can give us trouble.
People all around us are hit by the storms of life. They're floundering emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Their lives may have been torn apart. Their relationships are in tatters. They look for help, they look for love, they look for hope. They're waiting.
And we are people who know where God is, know that God loves us, know that where God is, there is hope. So we have what they need. We not only have it in our own lives for ourselves, we have it for everyone else.
Through the depths of the storms and heartaches of life, we as the church must be about sharing what we know with the work of our loving hands, with words of encouragement, instead of just sitting passively and watching and waiting for someone else to do it, waiting for someone else to get involved or for the problem or people to go away for us, while we wait for the ultimate hope. The time of waiting needs to be over, as we serve now.
There's a song that I'm really hoping the band will play someday that you'll get to to hear. It's by Casting Crowns, and it's called “Nobody.” I'm just going to give you the first line, because it has been in my head for the last couple of weeks. “I'm just a nobody who's trying to tell everybody all about somebody who saved my soul.”
It's all about Jesus. God is faithful. Wait upon the Lord, and your hope will be fulfilled. We've seen it already on the cross, we celebrate it at Christmas with the Incarnation, and we will see it again.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.