by Rob Tims
“How long do you think we’ll have to wait on this guy?”
This was my question to my wife regarding an independent contractor who, out of the graciousness of his own heart and because of a mutual relationship with my wife’s employer, agreed to update our kitchen for the cost of materials alone. Some two weeks after demolition day, we were still waiting: no countertops or cabinets to speak of.
In hindsight, my attitude was foolish, selfish and immature. Knowing what I now know about the cost of kitchen renovation, those custom countertops and white foil cabinets installed for around $4000 was an amazing gift that I should have been willing to wait months more, much less days.
So when the carpenter came to install our custom-built counter tops and I rather passive-aggressively bemoaned how long it had taken to get to that point, the guy responded, “Sounds like one of those times when the Lord decided you needed more character.”
The truth often hurts when it heals.
Given the degree to which I loathe inconvenience, real suffering—a difficult illness, a wayward child, etc.—will be no easy task to endure. And when I do experience it, I will inevitably ask of God the same thing David did in Psalm 13, likely in response to his son Absalom’s revolt: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
That David feels the way he does in verse 1 either contributes to or is confirmed by his actions in verse 2—”How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” David turns inward to find consolation, which only breeds anxiety and sorrow within him, and along with that an elevated view of his enemies’ abilities and supposed successes. Have we not all experienced this? Things always seems to get worse, including the state of our soul, when we give up on God and look elsewhere for help.
The fact that David is praying, however, is testimony to the fact that he is still seeking God and waiting on Him to be very present. Verses 3 and 4 of the Psalm show that David has not yet given up in his frustration, but that he is still quite sick (if not literally sick) over the possibility that his enemies may have the temporary opportunity to gloat in victory. David’s faith is weak here. He is a broken man, and it seems that it’s impacting him physically.
But David makes the choice of faith, not because he feels like it, but because he ultimately trusts in the grace and faith and covenant of God. In other words, the quality of his faith does not determine his faith, but the object of his faith does. He ultimately concludes that God is as God has said he is, and sees that, regardless of his immediate circumstances, God has been abundantly gracious.
David’s experience and prayer in Psalm 13 is myrrh on the cut of my immature character. I can trust God to use suffering for my good and His glory, and I can choose to trust Him even when I don’t feel like it. The object of my faith is vastly more important than the quality of my faith. When I’m suffering at the hands of something far more piercing than a kitchen remodel, I can know just how strong God will be in my pain, and how greatly He will use me and my faith for others as a result.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.