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I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.Psalm 13:6

Years ago, managers at a Houston airport noticed their customers had lodged many complaints about long waits at baggage claim. Their first solution was to hire more baggage handlers in order to make the loading and unloading process as efficient as possible. And it worked. The average wait time at each baggage claim was only eight minutes. Very fast for the industry. Yet the complaints persisted. People were still angry about waiting so long to receive their bags.

The managers then commissioned a study and realized the wait times at their airport were within industry norms; their customers were waiting a normal amount of time. Still, the number of complaints alarmed them.

Looking into the issue more deeply, the airport managers realized it took most flyers only a single minute to walk from their gates to baggage claim. Once they arrived, they spent an average of seven minutes waiting for their bags. Those seven minutes seemed to be the root of the problem.

As an experiment, the managers arranged things so that passengers had to walk a longer distance between their gates and baggage claim. After the change, most people walked eight to ten minutes and found their bags waiting when they arrived.

The complaints stopped.

As one researcher noted: “Americans spend roughly thirty-seven billion hours each year waiting in line. The dominant cost of waiting is an emotional one: stress, boredom, that nagging sensation that one’s life is slipping away. The last thing we want to do with our dwindling leisure time is squander it in stasis.”1

Or, as the old song says,

“The waiting is the hardest part.”2

David knew much about the pain of waiting. He lived for almost ten years in the terrible tension between God’s promise to make him king and Saul’s desire to make him dead. David had killed a giant and become a hero — but he had to live the life of a fugitive. He was an anointed king — but he had to live like a beast of the fields. He was desperate.

Out of the pain in his heart, he cried out to the Lord. And out of that furnace of his desperation came the incredible words of Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest my enemy say,
“I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Our Struggle When God Delays

On those occasions when you struggle with God’s timing, it’s good to know these feelings didn’t originate with you. Not only did David express the feelings you’ve had, but he did so repeatedly. Read through the psalms, and you’ll find a number of them like the one we’re exploring in this chapter. So many of them begin with a sigh and end with a song.

But in life, you can’t take in the song without letting out the sigh.

Just as a song has a refrain, this psalm’s sigh has one — a recurring phrase that always comes back around. This time the chorus or refrain is repeated four times: “How long?”

That’s right, David was singing the blues. He was overwhelmed with a sense of the permanence of trouble. Trouble springs up when we want it least, seems to have no solution, seems to mock our most diligent efforts to lead a happy and peaceful life, and finally consumes our last ounce of patience. And David, much like you, finally lifts his eyes to heaven in exasperation and says, “How much longer, O God? How much longer?”

Aren’t you grateful for the psalms that are such remarkable illustrations of honest prayer? I don’t always pray with total honesty, and allow me to venture a guess that you don’t either. Your friend at work brushes by you at the copy machine. “How’s it going?” he asks with a smile. And you say, “I’m doing fine,” or you might even say, “Couldn’t be better.”

But wait a minute! Didn’t you have an argument with your spouse this morning? Didn’t you just now catch a lecture from your boss? So you just told your friend a whopper, and you don’t even think about it. How many times have you and I both done that?

Well, doing that causes damage to relationships with your friends because they have no idea what is really going on in your life. But we have much less success posturing before God. He is with you during the argument with your spouse. He is saddened by the confrontation with your boss. And when you force a smile into your prayers and say, “I couldn’t be better, Lord!” He is again saddened. He knows what you’re going through, and He has been looking forward to talking it over with you. He’d be much happier with an exasperated “How long, Lord?” than with your forced smile.

Our Supplication When God Delays

When God delays, we feel forgotten. We feel forsaken. We even feel frustrated with the Creator of the universe.

And that’s okay.

Despite the desolation of his emotional state, at least David prayed. And what kind of prayer did he offer?

There is no textbook for genuine prayer. There is no professor who can teach it, no pastor who can make it happen for you.

  • True prayer is a spontaneous outpouring of honesty and need from the soul’s foundation.

In calm times, we say a prayer. In desperate times, we truly pray.

“Lord,” you cry, “I’m lost and helpless. I have nowhere else to turn.” So having come to the end of your own limited resources, you are desperate enough to try your last resort: You go to the Creator of the universe, who loves you and made you and holds all the answers in His hands. That’s when you pray.

David repeats one little word three times in his prayer of desperation: the word lest. This is the kind of small, inconspicuous word on which the entire meaning of a Scripture passage can hinge. Lest is a conditional word. First, David says, “Lest I sleep the sleep of death” (v. 3). David was so worn out physically and emotionally that he fully expected to die. He seemed to have come to the last page, and since the book of his life story was about to close, it seemed like an appropriate time to pray.

Not only did he fear his own death, but he also feared his own defeat. He said, “Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him’” (v. 4). David was certain that Saul would come out the winner. David was preparing to surrender as a prisoner, and it seemed like an appropriate time to pray.

Perhaps worst of all, David feared his own disgrace: “Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved” (v. 4). Everyone in Israel knew David was being pursued by Saul. When the enemy caught him, David would be humiliated, a subject of mockery. And the terrible thought of that for one who had been promised a kingdom made it seem like an appropriate time to pray.

Three great fears moved David to his knees. Quite frankly, he was not motivated to pray because he was a godly man, although we know that he was a man after God’s own heart. David prayed in Psalm 13 because he was desperate.

Through the years, I’ve often observed how God steers us into that emotional cul-de-sac. He likes to corral us into a corner where the only way out is up. We have nowhere else to turn, and that’s when we get serious about praying.

That’s why you don’t have to beat yourself up when you feel discouraged. The same was true of David! Yet as we’ll see below, David chose not to remain in that place of discouragement. He moved out of it, and so can you.

Our Song When God Delays

You’ve probably already noticed the remarkable switch that takes place in verses 5–6 of David’s psalm. The first two-thirds of that song are sorrowful, soul-crushing expressions of misery. Then, all of a sudden, a different tune bursts forth:

But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

The psalm turns from a lament to an expression of triumph. Why?

The short answer is that David received a renewed vision from God. He recalled, as the spirit of prayer took hold of him and God counseled his hurting soul, that nothing had changed about God. Our Lord is changeless. He had been mighty in the past, and that had not changed. He had been loving and full of blessing, and that had not changed. He had a plan for David, and that had not changed either. David remembered these things, and he sang with joy.

Had David been delivered from his plight? No, but in his heart and mind he saw that blessed deliverance, and he claimed the promise of God. David, the future king, had such faith in the future that he spoke of it in the past tense.

Notice also that word bountifully. Isn’t that a wonderful word? A terrific term?

If you want to stay healthy as a Christian, you need to go back and remember what God has done for you in the past. You need to polish the monuments to the great victories in your life. That’s among the wonderful reasons for keeping a journal. David consulted the journal in his mind of his dealings with his Lord, and he realized, “[God] has dealt bountifully with me.”

How often David must have, in his quieter moments, thought back to that tumultuous day in the field, that day when he tried on the king’s armor and couldn’t fit into it. He must have recalled the intimidating size and fearsome demeanor of that giant whom he faced with only a sling and five smooth stones. God had dealt bountifully with him then, and that was an understatement. David must have reviewed it often.

David took out that nine-foot-six-inch giant with a single shot and, in doing so, preserved Israel. There was no way to experience such a thing and not realize it was God’s work.

David must have thought back even further to a time when God gave him incredible, superhuman strength and adrenaline to challenge wild animals that were threatening his flock of sheep. Why, a boy of his age couldn’t have prevailed against a bear and a lion without God’s presence. God clearly had a special purpose for him. A bountiful purpose.

And it was undeniable that there had been times when Saul had been closing in for the kill. The game seemed to be up. David was right in the very grasp of Saul and his sword, yet a miracle had always arrived.

We know from the psalms that David called upon his memory often to nurture and refresh his faith. When anxiety for the future built up — as it did time and again — David faced it with the testimony of the past. His life might not have been what he would have chosen, but it was a life that could never have lasted that long without God’s intervention.

What a terrible danger it is for us to become trapped in the claustrophobia of the present during a crisis. That’s our first impulse. The clear and present danger is so huge, so imposing, that it blocks our view behind us and ahead of us. We desperately need perspective. We can’t change the future until it arrives, but we can gain wisdom from the past. It should hold for us an absolute conviction on the question of who God is and what He’s done for us previously.

  • Make your list and check it twice. Just what has God done for you?

You lost your job, and you thought the world would end. What did God do? Your marriage was in terrible trouble, or perhaps you even faced the devastation of a divorce. What did God do? How about when one of your children broke your heart? Do you remember God’s love for you then? Make a detailed inventory of His faithfulness in your life, and you’ll be surprised at the length of it.

Not just surprised either — you’ll be deeply and lastingly encouraged.

Psalm 28:7 says it this way: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.”

Does it seem strange to you that Psalm 13, so filled with misery, builds to a final note of triumph, trust, and praise to the Almighty One? There’s nothing strange about it. That’s the way faith should work. We come to God honestly, pour our hearts out to Him, and experience renewed faith as He prods our memories and reaffirms His love.

Right now, today, you can smile even when surrounded by discouraging people in a discouraging world. Because God has dealt bountifully with you.

  1. Alex Stone, “Why Waiting Is Torture,” New York Times, August 18, 2012,
  2. Tom Petty, “The Waiting,” Produced by Tom Petty and Jimmy Iovine, recorded by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, released on Hard Promises, Backstreet Records, (c)1981.

Excerpted with permission from Encouraging Words for a Discouraging Word by Dr. David Jeremiah, copyright David P. Jeremiah.

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Your Turn

Has God delayed in answering your prayer? Call upon your memory to nurture and refresh your faith as David did! What did God do for you in your past when you called out to Him? He has dealt bountifully with us! ~ Devotionals Daily