Advent is a time in which we look toward the advent of Jesus Christ. We look back toward His 1st advent with celebration and rejoicing, and we look toward His 2nd advent with anticipation. As we wait for His 2nd advent we want to wait well understanding that God has purpose in our waiting. Part of that purpose is to speak to us in ways that heal our sinful brokenness and renews our resolve for carrying out His purposes for us on this earth. Elijah’s experience with God at Mount Horeb provides us with a vivid account of God speaking in the midst of waiting.
As we wait for the 2nd advent of Christ God makes the most of our waiting. He desires that our love for Jesus would grow deeper and stronger as we wait on His return. The Psalmist offers a clinic of hopeful waiting that deepens our yearning for the presence of Christ in Psalm 27.
I once took a group of middle and high school students on an adventure hike through the woods. As part of this hike we were to cross a small stream bed that had not completely dried up yet. Upon approaching the stream bed I thought nothing of the crossing until I planted my foot on what I thought would be semi solid ground. My foot sunk in mud to my knee. Getting it out was like trying to remove my leg from quick drying cement. When I finally did get my leg out the mud had claimed its first victim, my shoe. This was only the first victim, as each student crossed the treacherous bog the mud got increasingly greedy. At one point we thought we were going to lose one of the students who stepped in and somehow ended up with both feet in the mire enveloped from the waist down. It took two of the strongest adult chaperones on the hike ten minutes to pull her from the clutches of the sludge.
On another occasion my family was on vacation at the beach. My father had taught me to body surf when I was younger and it was one of our favorite pass times when we would vacation at the beach. I had never body surfed on waves so big and powerful. They were pushing me farther and faster than I had ever experienced. I was having a great time until I caught one of the waves a little too low and it drove me to the sandy bottom. I hadn’t taken enough of a breath because I wasn’t expecting to be underwater so my air supply was quickly dwindling as I frantically searched for the surface. When I finally hit the surface another wave immediately slapped me in the face and drove me once again to the sandy bottom. This time I thought I stood a strong chance of not making it back to the surface. Fear and panic set in as I mustered every ounce of strength left in my body and with lungs screaming I fought my way to the surface. By the time I got back to the beach I was so weak and tired I just lay there breathing in deep gasps of air. I had never been so grateful for air in my life.
A poet once used these two metaphors to describe what it was like for him when he was in one of the lowest points in his life. He combined the thought of being stuck in a miry mud pit at the bottom of a well sinking deeper and deeper with each thrash with the idea that in this well was also tumultuous water. It was as though as he sank deeper and deeper into the miry mud there were Hurricane Katrina-ish waves blasting him from all sides. It’s all he could do to get a mouthful of air.
In the midst of this mayhem the poet cries out for help and waits for a response, which makes sense when one realizes that the situation requires more than a self-sufficient response. That was what the young girl did who found herself stuck in the mud to her waist. She not only cried out but cried a lot of tears as she waited for rescue too.
The coolest part of the poet’s verse is his proclamation after his deliverance. After being lifted out of the chaotic sludge he proclaims that God put a new song in his heart, God is the one he cried out to and also the one who lifted him out of the mucky mess by the way. I find it interesting that we equate joy and gratitude with singing or whistling. When someone has just received good news from a doctor or from the boss, or when a young married couple finds out they are going to be having a child, these things are often accompanied by melody of some sort. It’s been said, “Those who don’t sing, at least in their heart, are people who do not cherish anything very deeply, or feel intense gratitude for anything. They are the sort of people who take life for granted. They never soar with a sense of joy in their heart.”
There are times when it takes the absence of something for us to really appreciate and cherish it. For me, it was air that sunny afternoon on the beach. As my family and I walked off the beach that day I couldn’t help but sing a joyful song with each new breath of fresh air. God had put a new song in my heart. It may not have been worthy of American Idol or Casey’s Top Forty but it was a joyous song. He can do the same for you regardless of how chaotic your situation may appear. Just cry out to Him and wait for His response, and while you’re waiting you might want to read Psalm 40, that’s the poet’s proclamation of God’s deliverance and a record of the new song God put in his heart.