By J.R. Miller
"Rest in the LORD--and wait patiently for Him."
We are told of certain men that they walked with God. If we are walking with anyone, we keep close beside him. We do not fall behind him. We do not go faster than he goes. We keep step and walk by his side. We are to walk with God.
The word walk is suggestive. It does not indicate haste. Only once does the Bible show us God running. The father ran to meet the prodigal. He runs to save, to show mercy, to welcome the penitent. But in all His other movements, God walks. He is never in a hurry. He walks slowly, and we are told to wait for Him. Unless we want to go alone, we must wait for Him. He will never hurry to please us. We may be sure, too, that we are not going too slowly if He is with us. "Wait for the Lord."
In one marginal reading the words are, "Be silent to the Lord and wait patiently for him." In another it is, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him." His work is not yet finished; you see it now only in process.
An artist is painting a picture. You come into his studio one day and see him at work. You ask him what the picture is and he tells you. You say: "Well, I cannot see any resemblance. I do not think that the drapery is beautiful. That sky is not natural." So you go on chattering and criticizing. The artist says: "Wait until the picture is finished. You cannot see yet what it is to be. Just wait." That is the thought in this Psalm. The writer was in great perplexity. Things seemed to be going wrong. Evildoers appeared to be prospering. They brought their wicked devices to pass. They slandered the righteous. They crushed the innocent and the defenseless. The writer saw all this, and it fretted him. "Just be silent before God--and wait for Him," was the answer that came to him.
We should wait for God in His providences. It takes time to develop them. We are assured that all things work together for good to those who love God. But ofttimes we find ourselves in experiences which we think cannot possibly bring any good to us. They seem full of hurt. But the answer is, "Be silent before God--and wait for Him." This work which seems to our thought so unlike God--is not yet finished. When it is complete, then the beauty and the good will appear.
We are all quite sure of being in circumstances, sometime in our life, when things will seem to be against us. We may have wasting sickness, bringing suffering, loss of income, heavy expense. We may have adversity in our business affairs. Death may break in upon our happy circle of love. Our plans may be thwarted. Some day we may sit amid shattered hopes, the broken purposes, and faded flowers of our joys, and say, "There is nothing good in all this!" But then will come to us the divine word, "Be silent--and wait for God." This seeming confusion is not lawless tangle. The threads are in God's hands, every one of them. But His work is not yet finished.
We must wait for God also--in all our work. Sometimes we grow impatient at the slowness with which results come. Parents have their experience as they train their children, in watching for the outcome of their discipline. Teachers meet the same trial of faith in their work with their pupils. When a man works in wood or clay or stone or iron, he sees the result of every stroke. He sees the fragments of the marble fly--and the figure of his vision coming out a little more clearly as he hews away. He sees the rough timber grow into smoothness and beauty of form, beneath his saw and plane.
But work on minds and hearts is slow. We cannot take a crude life--and make it lovely in a day, as one can dress and carve a piece of wood. We cannot change a fiery, tumultuous, restless spirit--to peace, love, and gentleness in one hour, as the sculptor can hew a block of stone into grace. It takes years ofttimes, to teach one moral or spiritual lesson. Many times we do sad hurt to God's work in human lives--by our want of patience. A boy plants his grains of corn in the garden, and at once begins to look for them to grow. The second morning, seeing no points of green pushing up through the soil, he digs the clay away and lays bare the seeds to see what is wrong. In his impatient haste--he kills the germs and the seeds never grow at all. He ought to have waited for God.
A writer tells of his experience in hurrying God with the development of an insect. For nearly a year he kept the cocoon of an emperor moth. It was shaped like a flask, and in the neck end of it was a little opening. That was where the creature was to crawl out when nature's time--God's time--came. But this opening seemed so small, so much smaller than the insect imprisoned within, that one wonders how it is ever going to get out. Then when it begins to come out of its cocoon, it is with great labor and difficulty that it escapes.
This man at last saw the first efforts of the moth to break away from its prison. For a whole forenoon he watched it striving and struggling to get out. It did not appear able to advance beyond a certain point. The opening seemed too narrow. He pitied the poor creature, shut up and unable to escape--and thought he would help it. He supposed he was doing a kindness. He took his scissors and snipped the fine threads to make the opening a little wider. In a moment more, without any further struggle or difficulty--out crawled the moth. But it had a huge, swollen body--and little shriveled wings. It had not the graceful form it ought to have had. The gentleman watched to see the transformation take place, the dwarfed wings expand into their radiant beauty. But he looked in vain. The moth did not develop at all into loveliness. It never did. He had destroyed it--in trying to help it. His kindness--had proved the creature's ruin! It was never anything but a stunted abortion, crawling painfully through the brief life which it should have spent flying through the air on rainbow wings. This friend of the little insect, was guilty of cruelty instead of being kind.
God's slower way was the right way, and he would better have waited for God. If he had, it would have taken longer time and it would not have been so easy for the moth--it would have had to crawl out with great pain and difficulty--but the result would have been a beautiful butterfly, with brilliant wings, flying through the air--and not a poor, misshapen creature, crawling about on the ground.
This is a picture of what we do many a time--in trying to help God bring souls into the light, or to bring out some spiritual beauty in the life we want to help.
We are not too eager to do good--we never can be that; our whole soul should be full of the desire to bless others. But we are in too great haste. We have not patience enough to wait for God. We try to hurry the results we seek. We cannot wait for the seeds to grow. We do not give hearts time to develop their love, their confidence, their gentleness; we try to hasten these fruits of the Spirit. The result is, that the lives we thus help to premature development are never so beautiful as they would have been--if we had waited for God.
We need to learn the lesson also in the living of our own life. We are apt to grow impatient with our own progress. Many a young person, in his eagerness to get on in his course and enter active life--mars his work and lessens his own efficiency. It is better to wait for God. Jesus was in no hurry to begin His work. He spent thirty quiet years in preparation, in study, in thought, in simple common duty, waiting patiently for God's time for Him to go forth to His public ministry. Thirty years of preparation--and then only three years of work. But we know what kind of work He did in those brief years! Every word He spoke--was a word of power. Everything He did--left an impression on the ages. Those three years of ministry have been more to the world--than a thousand years of the immature, imperfect, fragmentary work many of us do. If with His sinless humanity and His perfect powers--He waited thirty years, in preparing for three years of ministry; we need far more than He, to be patient and wait for God before we go out to speak and work for Him. If we put more time into preparation, the fewer years left us for work, would count for far more in the end--than do now our many years filled with immaturity, with work that counts for little, with words without wisdom and without weight. Let us wait for the Lord that our work, when the time comes for work, may have power and good in it.
We need to wait for God, also, in finding our way in this world. Duty is not always plain for us at once. We come continually to points where we cannot tell which way we ought to go. If we are God's children and are faithfully following Christ, we shall never have to take one step in the dark. Jesus said, "He who follows me--shall not walk in darkness." This means that duty will always be made clear. We shall never have to stumble along in uncertainty. We shall be able to make the right decisions and the right choices. But we must always wait for God. If we insist on running on before Him, of course we shall be in the dark. It is just as dark in advance of God's glorious leading--as it is a way behind Him. If we would know the way and see what our duty is--we must wait for the Lord.
For example, if you come to a wise friend with a question about what you should do next year, or next autumn, or even next week, it is probable that all the friend can say will be, "Wait." You are not sure of having any next year, or next autumn, or next week. The question of duty--may be the one that must wait until the time comes. You are sorely perplexed about what you ought to do in some matter that touches your life in a very close and sacred way. Yet the answering of it is beset with difficulties. You cannot tell what you ought to do or say. On neither hand is the way open and plain. The Word of God to you is, "Wait for the Lord."
But it seems to you, that the answer must be given now, at once. The question stands clamoring at your door and needs immediate decision. But no clamoring of any question, no pressure of friends for your decision, no impatience of your own heart for action--should he allowed to compel you to decide upon your course in the dark, or until the way is clear and the duty plain. God never requires us to walk in darkness, even for one single step. Therefore, inexorably refuse to answer any question or decide any matter--until you know what you are doing. Guess work and stumbling are never necessary. Wait for God. You are trying to go faster than He is moving. Wait until He comes up, and then the way will no longer lie in darkness.
There is a bit of Scripture which says, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." Psalm 37:23. Mark, it is our steps that He orders. He does not give us a map of the world with all our paths traced out upon it, so that we can see our whole course for years. He orders our steps. And that means that He will always show us one step--but it is the next step that He shows, not one a mile ahead. And this next step will always lie in the light, although the second step may yet be hidden in the darkness, and must be waited for. But the one step is the only one you need to take this moment.
You may think that you must answer some question or decide some matter immediately, even though it is all dark to you, and your answer or decision must be only a guess. Nay, wait for God. When He comes--you will be able to answer or decide clearly. If you compel yourself to make a decision in the dark, in uncertainty, it is not God's leading. You have decided too soon. Tomorrow or a few days or weeks hence--it may appear to you to have been a wrong decision--but then it will be too late to change it. Wait for the Lord.
Another application of this lesson is with, reference to suffering wrongs at the hands of others. Naturally we all like to take care of our own rights. We start up quickly in self-defense when we are assailed, when anyone speaks against us or harms us in any way. But this is not the Christian way. The gospel of Christ leaves very small room for self-defense. "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also." "Do not take revenge, my friends." So runs the law of Christian life.
What shall we do, then, when others defame us, or say false things of us, or seek to harm us? Two things: our simple duty, and then, wait for the Lord. Vindication is better left with Him. That is what this same Psalm teaches in verses 5 and 6: "Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday." We may safely leave our name, our reputation, our character, in God's hands--when we are innocent of the things men charge against us. If we quietly go on with our work and our duty--God will take care that in the end vindication shall come.
It is better usually that we should not meddle with the matter at all. Our impatience, our hurry to help God vindicate us, ofttimes only does harm. Be silent and wait for the Lord. We cannot go on without God; to do so is to walk in darkness. But if we would have God with us, we must wait for Him. We must wait for Him to work out His providences, until His purpose has been accomplished; meanwhile trusting Him and resting in His love. We must wait for Him to come to our relief, when we are in circumstances of trial and perplexity. We must wait for Him to answer our prayers, not losing heart because He sometimes delays. We must wait for Him in our work for others, in trying to help them, lest in our eagerness we hasten the processes of His will--and stunt or mar or destroy that which with patience would have been beautiful. We must wait for God in every step of our life.
Peace comes in waiting for God. It is our restlessness that makes life so painful for many of us. "Does your limb hurt you severely?" asked one of a friend who lay with a broken leg. "Not when I keep still," was the answer. If we would keep still when trial is upon us, and be silent to God--we would have power.
It is a lesson of hope, too, as well as of faith. The things that perplex and try us, are God's unfinished works. When they are finished, there will be no confusion, no evil, no hurt in them. Bear the pain now--for pain is God's way to health. Accept the cross now--for the cross is God's way to the crown. Endure the plowshare that drives now through your field--for it is God's way to a golden harvest. Be patient with the slowness of Providence, for God works for eternal years. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. The finished work by and by, will explain all that is now dark and hard and slow.