The Process Before the Promise

(Cover art courtesy of Thomas Nelson)

The Process Before the Promise

Excerpted from “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way” by Lysa TerKeurst  (Copyright 2018). Used with permission from Proverbs 31 Ministries and Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.

Are there any deep disappointments in your life that seem to be lingering on and on? Do you feel like you’ve prayed the same prayers over and over, with little to no change?

I understand how hard that is. Over the last few years, I’ve walked through some of the most heartbreaking seasons in my family, marriage and health.

And although the circumstances of your life may be different, you probably have middle-of-the-night moments wrestling through your own tears.

You, too, have memories that still hurt. Realities that make you swallow back tears. Sufferings that seem forever long. And you’re disappointed that today you aren’t living the promises of God you’ve begged to come to pass.

In your most private moments, you want to scream words you don’t use around your Bible friends at the unfairness of it all. But then there are more hopeful moments … when you want to turn up the praise music, lift up honest prayers, and declare God is good even when the situation doesn’t seem good.

That’s what it is like to be so very human — hurting but still hoping.

And that is where we find David in Psalm 40. In the first 10 verses, David praises God for delivering him, but then in verses 11-17, he’s crying out for God to deliver him again. David is hurting but still hoping.

Hoping doesn’t mean we ignore reality. No, hoping means we acknowledge reality in the very same breath that we acknowledge God’s sovereignty.

Our hope can’t be tied to whether or not a circumstance or another person changes. Our hope must be tied to the unchanging promises of God. We hope for the good we know God will ultimately bring from our situation, whether the good turns out to match our desires or not. And sometimes that takes a while. The process often requires us to be persevering. Patient. Maybe even longsuffering.

Honestly, I know that can feel a little overwhelming.

I want the promised blessing of Psalm 40:4: “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust” (ESV). I forget that this kind of trusting in God is often forged in the crucible of longsuffering. God isn’t picking on me. God is picking me to personally live out one of His promises.

It’s a high honor. But it doesn’t always feel that way. I’ve got to walk through the low places of the process before I’m perfectly equipped to live the promise.

We read about some of the low places of the process in verses 1-3 of Psalm 40:

“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.” (ESV)

The idea of waiting patiently in verse 1 is incredibly important in this psalm. The Hebrew word indicates the waiting is ongoing, and it holds a sense of eager expectancy and hope.

So while I want the solid rock on which to stand, first I have to wait patiently for the Lord to lift me out of the slime and mud and set my feet. That word set in the original Hebrew is qum, which means to “arise or take a stand.” God has to take me through the process of getting unstuck from what’s been holding me captive before I can take a stand.

I also want that new song promised here. Did you notice, though, what comes before the psalm’s promise of a new song? It’s the many cries to the Lord for help. The most powerful praise songs are often guttural cries of pain that got turned into beautiful melodies.

I know this is hard. But let me be the one to lean in and whisper, “God is working things out. He’s not far away. He is right here with us. We need to cling to this hope. Believe this hope. Live out this hope. Right here and right now. Even if our prayers aren’t answered in the way and the timing we want. Even when this process feels messy. We will trust that God is good.”

Keep crying out to Him, friend. Keep hoping in Him. And know that God will take every cry you’ve uttered and arrange those sounds into a glorious song.

Learn how to shift your suspicion that God is cruel or unfair to the biblical assurance that God is protecting and preparing you with Lysa TerKeurst’s new book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered. Find out more information here.

Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Connect with her on social media @LysaTerKeurst or her website