“My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?”
Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees. How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors? The arrogant dig pitfalls for me, contrary to your law. All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for men persecute me without cause. They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts. Preserve my life according to your love, and I will obey the statutes of your mouth” (Psalm 119:81-88).
I was a senior in college and eager for a relaxing spring break at home. The 18-hour drive from central Indiana to western South Dakota was a long one and I was thrilled when a couple of my classes were cancelled and I could leave ahead of schedule. I decided to surprise my parents by showing up for supper a day early. Unfortunately, two things were against me: 1.) the weather across the Midwest is unpredictable in March and 2.) this was before the days of cell phones.
I was less than three hours from home when the blizzard hit. The next town was miles away and the interstate was empty of all other vehicles. It was dark and the heavy snow lashing across my windshield was blinding. After creeping along the interstate for an hour, struggling to follow the few tire tracks I could see, I gave up and pulled to the side of the road, turning on my hazard lights.
I looked around and tried not to panic. No one knew where I was and I had no way of contacting anyone or calling for help. I’d heard stories of drivers who got caught in a blizzard and died of hypothermia before help arrived.
“This is hopeless, Lord!” I cried.
All of us, at some point, find ourselves in that place of complete desperation with no place to turn and no backup plan to make things right. Even the writer of Psalm 119 found himself at the end of his rope. Reading the passage for today, we see a picture of a man who is stressed, exhausted, and doesn’t know how much more persecution he can take. Figuratively speaking, he’s sitting on the side of the road in a blizzard, waiting for God to do something. “My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, ‘When will you comfort me?’” (v. 82).
Sitting on that dark interstate, afraid and in tears, I began to pray. All of a sudden, I felt a warmth close around me like a blanket and I heard the Holy Spirit speak as only He can. “I have kept you safe this far, I will be faithful to carry you through.”
Verses I learned long ago came to mind: “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37) and “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Jeremiah 3:22–23). The words of the hymn flooded my heart: “Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father. There is no shadow of turning in me. Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” It was as though a plug inside me had been let loose and verses and songs of God’s relentless love, His passionate faithfulness came pouring into my heart. Suddenly I knew, without a doubt, that God would take care of me—I didn’t know how and I didn’t know when, but I knew He hadn’t forgotten me there in the snow.
The writer of this passage says, “Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees.” Wineskins are made of leather. Do you know what happens to leather when it is smoked? It dries up; it becomes brittle and cracks easily. Despite the fact that the psalmist feels like he is cracking up, he says he will not forget the Word of the Lord. Why? The Word of God is a steady force, His promises are a constant. While difficult circumstances will come into our lives, we can relax. God is in control of all things, and He will not forget you and me when we feel like we’ve reached our limit. This isn’t easy to do—believe me, I know! But knowing His Word, hiding it in our hearts, lays a foundation of hope. When we are at that breaking point, His Words of peace come to mind, His promises remind us of the hope we have in Him.
Sitting on the interstate in the blizzard, I prayed and sang loudly as I waited. I refused to give in to the fear that was knocking on my window. God’s rescue came nearly an hour later in the form of a minivan, slowly making its way along the interstate. I laughed as I shouted a hallelujah and pulled out behind the van, following its tail lights—the only thing I could see in the dense white world. For the next 100 miles, the van and I were inseparable as we crept through the snow and wind. Just as the van reached its exit off the interstate, the blizzard calmed, the snow stopped, and I was able to see the road clearly. It was long after midnight when I arrived home, exhausted. My parents were in shock.
Waiting for God’s salvation in our need is never easy—whether it is an immediate crisis (like being stranded in a blizzard) or relentless persecution like the psalmist faced. If you’ve spent any time in church, you may have heard stories of how God intervened in the lives of men and women in miraculous ways. After hearing such stories, we come to expect that God always gives immediate answers to immediate crises. And when we don’t sense an immediate answer, we wonder what went wrong. While God has promised His help for those who believe in Him, we often forget that God works on His own time table—not ours. We also forget that His view of our crises is broader. We have tunnel vision, but He sees the whole picture without bias, and His goal is for our good not our comfort.
Consider the nation of Israel. Psalm 105 gives a big picture view of the history of Israel and God’s patient love for His people. “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done” (Ps. 105:1). In 42 verses, the psalm highlights all of the many ways in which God fulfilled His promise to Abraham to bless his descendents and make them into a nation. The fulfillment of this promise took hundreds of years during which Israel faced wars, famine, slavery and a very long detour through a desert. Through it all, God was faithful. While Israel faltered along the way, their marching orders—like ours—were: Trust and Obey.
The end of the story is that God was faithful to Israel, He was faithful to the psalmist in his time of need, He was faithful to me in the blizzard and He will be faithful to you. “Preserve my life according to your plan and I will obey your precepts” (v. 88). God has our best in mind, He asks only that we trust in His plan and obey His Word.
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to wait for God’s help?
Read Romans 8:9–27. The book of Romans is written to believers, people who have fully entrusted their lives to Jesus Christ. When a person takes that step of faith, he or she is no longer controlled by their sinful nature, though it will be present with us until we meet Jesus face to face. Instead of being controlled by our natural sinful selves, what does Paul say in verses 10-11 we should be controlled by? What is the proof that we belong to Christ?
All people are born with this natural bent towards sin—it’s called our sinful nature and it’s a slave-master that will lead us to death. But what do verses 14 and 15 say about those who are lead by the Holy Spirit?
As children of God, are we promised an easy life of sunshine and roses? What does verse 17 say?
Verses 18—19 talk about how not only humans, but all of creation itself is subject to the curse of sin that began in Genesis 3. All of creation longs to be freed from the slavery of sin. We have been freed through the power of the Gospel of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. And the proof of that freedom is the Holy Spirit living and working in the hearts of believers. We are the firstfruits of the Spirit! Yet, we still must do daily battle against our sin-nature that longs to make us slaves again. So we wait. We wait through blizzards of life, we wait through persecution, we wait through illness, we wait through hardship. What are we waiting for, ultimately, according to verse 23?
We wait for our hope, our faith, to be made sight—for the coming of our Lord Jesus. But do we wait alone? What do verses 26 and 27 tell us?
Personal Consideration: We have not been left alone. As we wait for the coming of our Lord “patiently” (v. 25) (and sometimes not so patiently), the Holy Spirit is our counselor, our guide, our help in times of trouble, our heavenly intercessor, and He will be with us for eternity. That is good news my friend. That is VERY good news!