The Slowness of God
September 20, 2023 | Benji Baker
I’m sure you have heard the classic fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. The story revolves around a slow-moving but determined tortoise and a fast but arrogant hare. The tortoise challenges the hare to a race. The hare, overconfident in his speed and abilities, accepts the challenge but decides to take a nap during the race, underestimating the determination of the tortoise.
In the end, the hare awakens to find the tortoise near the finish line. Despite the hare’s desperate attempt to catch up, the tortoise crosses the finish line first, winning the race…slow and steady wins the race. In this story slowness is a good thing and ultimately wins. But in real life, slowness can be challenging, especially when you are in a season of suffering and waiting on God.
In a world that is moving so fast—a world that often demands instant gratification and quick solutions—waiting for God’s timing can test one’s patience and faith. The slowness of God can be maddening at times. Thankfully, scripture is filled with stories of people waiting on God. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Job, Hannah, and even Jesus are just a few examples of people who had to wait on God’s timing.
Have you ever felt the slowness of God? Are you in a season of waiting on his promises? As you have waited, have you been confused and asked:
- Do you hear me?
- Are you there?
- Why did you allow this?
- Why are you silent?
- When will this end?
- What did I do to deserve this?
- How long?
- How can this be good?
Since I lost my niece in March through the tragic Covenant shooting, I have voiced similar questions. I would love a quick fix and for the pain, sadness, confusion, and fear to just disappear. I have gone to God in tears and passion asking him for answers, yet there is silence as I wait on God. I have felt the excruciating slowness of God.
If you are in a similar season or know someone who is, I have good news for you! God has given us the gift of lament in the Psalms. I have a friend who has suffered greatly and shared with me a book that has helped me in this season of suffering. The book is titled Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop. I highly recommend this resource!
I love the way Mark describes lament:
“Lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust. Throughout the Scriptures, lament gives voice to the strong emotions that believers feel because of suffering. It wrestles with the struggles that surface. Lament typically asks at least two questions: (1) 'Where are you, God?' (2) 'If you love me, why is this happening?'
He also says, “Lament is a path to praise as we are led through our brokenness and disappointment. The space between brokenness and God’s mercy is where this song is sung. Think of lament as the transition between pain and promise. It is the path from heartbreak to hope.”
In the Psalms God has given us a model and pathway to healing and hope! There are four basic parts to the Lament Psalms: (1) Turn to God. (2) Bring you Complaints. (3) Ask Boldly. (4) Choose to Trust. Read Psalm 22 and observe how David lamented.
- Turn to God (vs 1-2)
- This psalm begins with a gut-wrenching cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" These words, uttered by King David, resonate with anyone who has felt abandoned or betrayed in their darkest moments. It reminds me that I can go to God with my hurt and questions because I am in a covenant relationship with him.
- Bring your Complaints (vs 1-2, 6-8, 12-18)
- One striking feature of Psalm 22 is the vivid and heart-wrenching description of suffering. The psalmist paints a grim picture of physical and emotional pain. These words capture the rawness of suffering and the profound impact it can have on our bodies and spirits. This lament psalm shows me that God welcomes these authentic complaints and it has given me the freedom to bring them to him.
- Ask Boldly and Choose to Trust (vs 3-5, 9-11, 19-21a)
- Amidst the anguish and pain, Psalm 22 takes a dramatic turn. The psalmist transitions from complaining to boldly asking God to do what only he can do! Listen to his words; “But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you, my help, come quickly to my aid” …. “Deliver my soul” … “Save me”. This shift in tone highlights a fundamental aspect of lament: it is an act of faith. Even in the depths of despair, the psalmist clings to the belief that God can and will provide comfort and deliverance. Lament has helped me move from looking only at my painful circumstance to focusing on the character of God and his promises.
I love how Psalm 22 concludes! In the midst of crying out, God invades David’s sadness, loneliness, pain, and honest questions with an answer. We are not given the answer but God’s presence is revealed and David erupts with “You have rescued me!” He then proclaims the goodness, grace, greatness, and glory of God. This is good news for David, but how do we know that in the midst of our pain and suffering that God will show up?
On the cross in anguish, blood, and tears Jesus cried out Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus reveals that Psalm 22 is pointing to Him, the Man of Sorrow, the Son of God who entered suffering so that we could be free of it. On the cross Jesus was forsaken, accepted the penalty of our sins, died the death we deserved so that our sins would be forgiven and our relationship with God restored.
We can lament knowing that God hears our cries, understands suffering, and draws near to the broken hearted. We can lament knowing that the slowness of God is not punishment but a part of God’s sovereign goodness and kindness towards us in growing our trust in Him alone. We lament knowing that Jesus is making all things new and has proven that he alone can wipe every tear and that death will be no more.
We lament in hope knowing that slowness wins because Jesus wins!