I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.Psalm 130
Most of us don’t like waiting. Whether it is waiting in line, or waiting for someone to answer a text, or waiting for this pandemic to end. Waiting is not something that most of us are very good at, myself included. And now, it seems, we are waiting more than ever before. Waiting for an end to this strange, uncertain time. Waiting to go back to church, school, or work. Waiting to make our summer plans. Waiting for life to just get back to normal. Waiting is hard, and we are definitely in a season of waiting.
Psalm 130 is about someone waiting, waiting anxiously for the Lord. “My soul waits for the Lord,” we hear, “more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.”
When I hear these words, I can’t help but think of all those movies where there is a threat to a group, and it’s nighttime, and someone volunteers, or is volunteered, to take the night watch. Waiting is hard enough in the daytime, but worse at night. Because you can’t see the danger that might be lurking nearby. Our imaginations tend to go wild in the dark of the night. And movies love to portray that.
But here’s the thing about waiting at night, and watching for the morning: We do it knowing that morning is coming. Isn’t that the point? Isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what this psalm reminds us? My soul waits for the Lord, more than those who watch for the morning. Morning is coming. We know it, and look forward to it.
We are in a season of waiting and watching, to be sure. But we wait in this darkness knowing that morning is coming. Knowing that this, too, shall pass. There will be a day when this will be over.
Droughts and Pandemics
I recently re-read a short story by one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry. It is called “Drouth.” It is about a drought that took place in 1944, from the perspective of a child, Andy. And Andy learned from stories told by an elder named Charlie, who had gone through a more severe drought back in 1908.
Let me share with you a few words from this story:
The drouth, the withering foliage, the heat, and the diminished flow of the spring filled Charlie with misery, and his misery was made worse by his longing for rain. Until it finally rained again, something fundamental seemed to have gone wrong with the world. In the secrecy of his thoughts, after the way of boys, he mourned and he was afraid. Noticing his misery, his father gave him an instruction that Charlie always remembered when he needed to. “You think it’s awful. And it is. But I’ll tell you something. You can’t believe it now, but times will come when this won’t be on your mind. You won’t think of it.” And that, Charlie said, was true. There had been times when he had not thought of it.Wendell Berry, “Drouth”
Until this pandemic passes, something fundamental seems to have gone wrong with the world. It is scary. And just like a severe drought, it affects us all and we don’t know when it will end. But it will end. And, as Charlie’s father noted, there will come a time when this won’t be on our mind. We won’t think of it.
That drought and this pandemic aren’t so different. We can learn from those who have gone before us, and who have had to endure their own difficult seasons of waiting and watching.
Living in an Atomic Age
Another that I have learned is the great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, who once was asked, back in the cold war days, how to live in an atomic age. He had this to say:
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’ In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation …C.S. Lewis, “Living in an Atomic Age”
And so, he goes on to say:
The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.C.S. Lewis, “Living in an Atomic Age”
There is wisdom here, too. We can learn from those who have gone before us and who have had to endure their own anxious, restless nights, their own seasons of waiting.
Morning comes. Droughts end. This pandemic will, too. So, we are invited to wait. And not just wait. But hope. As people of faith, we wait with hope. And that is a very different kind of waiting. Because of our faith, we can wait with hope.
“O Israel,” our psalm concludes: “hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.”
Steadfast love, great power to redeem, and a promise to be with us always. Yes, we have every reason to hope, even as wait. Thanks be to God. Amen