What do you do when faced with a frustrating situation? Have you ever tried to make your point and people just won’t listen? Have you ever expected something to happen, only to be disappointed once again? Been relentlessly targeted as a scapegoat or overlooked for someone else?
For better or for worse, I usually go silent amidst a time of frustration. Usually this works to my benefit, stepping away from the situation, gathering my thoughts, and only responding if necessary and hopefully in an appropriate way.
However, there is one relationship where silence does not solve anything. That is in our relationship with the Lord.
If the Lord convicts me of an area of sin in my life or if I am not understanding what He is doing in a situation, or if I grow weary in the waiting, frustration wells up within me. “Fine. I’ll just step away,” my heart says, cowering from the uncomfortable nudging of the Lord through His Holy Spirit.
Yet, away is the exact opposite direction I need to be going. When the Lord nudges me or stretches me or upsets my comfortable sin, I must realize His workings and then run fully toward Him. This is where we find David in Psalm 143, which begins with three requests he made to the Lord.
The first request David makes is, “Lord, hear my prayer.”
If David teaches us anything through his life and through his writings, it is to call out to the Lord. Make your requests, no matter how big or small the topic, trivial or life-changing.
Sometimes I find myself worrying sick over something before I realize I haven’t even talked to the Lord about it. Yes, He knows my heart, but how much more does He want to hear from me? There is no time day or night, mid-day or midnight that is off-limits to talk with God. He promises throughout scripture that He will hear us. Take Him at His word. Be like David and make your requests known to Him who controls and creates everything.
Secondly, David asks, “in your faithfulness, listen to my plea.”
He directly relates God listening with God’s faithfulness. The Lord hears and, in turn, listens to us not because of who we are or what we say, but because of Who He is. He is faithful to His people. When we talk with the Lord, He reminds us of that faithfulness and usually that reminding encourages us to trust Him more.
The process goes like this: the more we stir up our own thoughts and allow our words to fester in our mind, the more we rely on our own understanding of the situations around us. However, when we make our prayers known to the Lord and seek His face, we acknowledge our need for Him. And when we call to Him, we experience His faithfulness in listening to us. When we understand that faithfulness, it spurs us on to trust Him more.
Lastly, David says, “in your righteousness, answer me.”
This is the third request made by David as he begins this psalm. When we cry out to God, we can be sure that He not only will hear and listen, but He will answer. However, sometimes our problem lies in how He answers. We want God to answer immediately or along the lines of our understanding. We cannot see in the moment how limited that expectation is.
Just like God listens out of His faithfulness, He answers out of His righteousness. Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” As we wait for his answers, we humble ourselves, lay down our desire for control, and trust His righteousness.
David continues in the rest of the psalm to describe his struggles and the hard situations that encompass him. He lays it all out before God. He ends the psalm with the declaration of “I am your servant.”
At the end of the day, every believer lands at that same admission. We are His servant. He listens, loves and cares for us in His gracious mercy because of who He is, and we should trust and rely on Him because of who we are.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Melanie Lenow and her husband Evan, an ethics professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, are parents to four children. This column first appeared at the seminary's BiblicalWoman.org website.)