I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O LORD my God, Your wondrous deeds and Your thoughts toward us; none can compare with You! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.
As for You, O LORD, You will not restrain Your mercy from me; Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness will ever preserve me! For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.
But may all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; may those who love Your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!” As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my Help and my Deliverer; do not delay, O my God!
Psalm 40:1-5, 11-12, 16-17
Has the world ever been so stuck? Millions of people are stuck at home, wondering when they’ll be able to leave the house and return to normal life. Some of us are stuck alone, longing for fellowship with others. Some of us are stuck with spouses and children, wondering if spring break will ever end—and why teachers don’t make a lot more money. Churches are stuck, longing to gather the Lord’s people, grappling with the strange reality that, in this moment, loving our neighbors seems to mean staying at least six feet away from them. Government officials are stuck, trying to stop the spread of a virus they can’t see, wanting to lift restrictions that have brought the economy to its knees. Doctors and nurses are stuck in hospitals, trying to help patients, but lacking the necessary supplies to care for them and protect themselves. And of course, hundreds of thousands of people are stuck with COVID-19, wondering if and when they will feel better.
So how do we get unstuck? There’s a famous statement that many Christians believe: “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” Many of us have been successful getting ourselves out of tough spots. But this feels like a new kind of stuck, where we don’t have what it takes to make it out on our own. Interestingly, Charles Spurgeon turned the famous quotation on its head: “God helps those who cannot help themselves.” This perspective doesn’t fit our radical individualism, but it does fit the narrative of Scripture. The truth is, when we believe that we can help ourselves, we don’t look for the Lord’s help. We still think we can pull ourselves out of “the pit of destruction” and “the miry bog” (Psalm 40:2). But when we come to the end of ourselves and realize that there’s no way to get ourselves unstuck, we finally own our desperation and cry out for rescue. We see this in Psalm 40 when we compare what David does and what the Lord does. All David does is wait patiently for the Lord (Psalm 40:1). The Lord inclines to him, hears his cry, draws him up, sets his feet upon a rock, and puts a new song in his mouth (Psalm 40:1-3). Like all of us, David was a sinner who needed a Savior, and the Lord brought him to a place where he could say: “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my Help and my Deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” (Psalm 40:17). The Lord is the Savior of the stuck.
As we enter another week of isolation, what does it look like to wait patiently for the Lord? It means to acknowledge that we are stuck and there’s nothing we can do to get unstuck. It means to cry out to the Lord because He alone is our Deliverer, and our life in Him is a story of deliverance past, present, and future. It means to turn our eyes from our present circumstances to His present help. It means to remember that nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus was stuck on a cross and in a tomb…and to worship Him because these very moments which seemed like death and defeat were the dawn of life and victory. It means to anticipate something beautiful because the Lord has a perfect track record of bringing glory out of destruction. It means to sing a new song, because the world is listening, and people need to hear “a song of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3). If the world has never been so stuck, perhaps we have never had such an opportunity. Are we praying that “many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3)?