Counting on people and things is a reality of life. We find so many occasions when needing to rely on someone or something. Perhaps it’s counting on a plumber to fix that leaking cistern, or relying on the car to start in order to get the children to school each morning. It is comforting to know there are those we can count on, especially in times of crisis. Alternatively, as I’ve found from experience, owning an unreliable vehicle can be most stressful indeed.

Sadly we’ve all been let down by someone or something when we were desperately counting on their dependability. We could perhaps tell our horror stories, especially in the sphere of relationships, in which our trust was badly shaken, and necessitated a long, painful process to bring about recovery. It is regrettable, alas, that some never do reach that place, and instead descend into depths of self-pity, resentment and depression.

Psalm 130:6 states: “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning

I’ve been reading through the Psalms in a French Translation, and love this rendition of that verse: “Mon âme compte sur le Seigneur, plus que les gardes ne comptent sur le matin, que les gardes ne comptent sur le matin“. Using the verb “compter”, literally meaning “to count”, it conveys the Psalmist’s strong sense of trust, and of expectation. He’s indicating how he is counting on the Lord to show up, in the same way that watchmen (or security guards) count on the morning to make its appearance. However dark the night, a new day will dawn – they simply need to keep watching and waiting.

This thought-provoking poem by Ann Lewin brings home to me something of the Psalmist’s heart:

Disclosure

Prayer is like watching for the Kingfisher.
All you can do is be where he is likely to appear, and … wait.
Often, nothing much happens;
There is space, silence and expectancy.
No visible sign, only the knowledge that he’s been there and may come again.
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But sometimes, when you’ve almost stopped expecting it,
A flash of brightness gives encouragement

Of course, the Lord is never dictated to by human constraints. His followers really have to come to terms with the truth that He dwells in eternal ‘now’, as another psalm puts it, “A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”

This idea is taken up by Saint Peter in relation to the second coming of Christ when he writes: “… you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

He continues: “… do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Here’s the rub – although standing outside time, God does interact with us within time, and does indeed have His own time-frame. So we read, for example, concerning the incarnation of Jesus: “… when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son …”

When we fail to recognize divine time-scale we’re liable to fall victim of impatience, frustration and disillusionment – not exactly evidences of ‘counting on the Lord’ but rather of peevish immaturity, and which, unless dealt with, can bring about a grumpy disconnect from God.

I recall such moments in my own journey. In South Yorkshire we sometimes hear the phrase “he/she’s got a monk on” describing someone in a bad mood. I must confess to occasions when I certainly “had a monk on” with God, and gave him the silent treatment ! Words from a song by Keith Green strongly come to mind: “It’s so hard to see, when my eyes are on me”. Thankfully, I was not smitten down, and live to tell the tale – hopefully a wiser and more patient person as a consequence !

I think Psalm 130 encourages an attitude both of trust and expectancy. Instead of getting into sulk mode when we don’t understand, or when things don’t go our way, we are to “count on the Lord” – the One who is utterly trustworthy, who keeps His promises. May we discover that the Lord of time, ultimately controls our times, as surely as day follows night and so, as Eugene Peterson points out, “Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.”

 

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