The glare of the sun bore down on the crew while the wind remained noticeably absent. Stagnant air hovered oppressively over the dispirited men.
The waiting was pure agony.
The object of their mission had eluded them for weeks. Now, in this pond of an ocean, it was nowhere to be seen, assuredly sailing farther and farther beyond reach. They could do nothing to move their massive vessel. It sat motionless in the calm water as though permanently affixed to the sea bed.
The sails of the ship sagged from the rigging while sailors paced aimlessly about ship or sulked in whatever shade could be had.
They had not been idle; they’d scrubbed the decks, caulked the cracks, cleaned the cannons, mended sails, run drills, polished every surface and tended every duty. There was little more to be done. At any moment they could set sail, if only the wind would appear!
The steward had informed the captain only that morning of the dwindling rations. Only 3 days of food and 4 days of water. The nearest landmass was a 2 days journey. If they didn’t move soon… the captain quickly banished the unpleasant thought from his mind.
He absorbed his surroundings with mounting frustration.
The waiting would surely kill them.
When the doldrums had descended, he had done everything to keep the men distracted. There was always work to be done aboard ship. But now, ideas were becoming as scarce as tasks. He and his crew had been on half rations for several days. If they did not sail soon, those rations would be but a mere memory. Disease, death and mutiny would surely ensue.
This interminable, infernal wait!
He exhaled sharply.
The captain closed his eyes, breathed deeply, and prayed for the third time that day, lifting up the deep distress of his soul to the One who had never abandoned him.
At that very moment, he felt the gentlest caress of a breeze.
A mere breath of wind.
His eyes flew open and instinctively shot upward. The ivory sails undulated and slowly began to stiffen as the strength of the wind intensified. The men, stirred by the soft breeze rose hopefully and a cheer swelled from among them. The water wrinkled with ripples as the bulk of the ship slowly broke against it.
It was as though a skilled hand had brushed the strings of a harp. Hope revived. The captain nodded at his lieutenant and the young man began barking orders at the crew. The westerly wind gently pushed the ship forward as all hands eagerly made preparations to be underway once more.
The wait was over at last.
Now they had only to replenish their supplies and begin pursuit of the goal once more.
Have you ever felt like the captain of that ship?
Have you ever found yourself stuck, dead in the water, waiting for what seemed like an eternity?
There are storms and then there are doldrums.
Have you ever found yourself waiting in the middle of the storm? The wait can be terrifying as every power on earth seems poised to crush you. In those times, you have to focus on the One who is in the boat with you. You have to persist in your request for Him to “wake” and calm the storm, trusting in His power to save.
Then, there are the times of menacing stillness. These may be spans of time in which you can do nothing but mark time, and take care of the few things within your power.
Are you, even now, sitting on a boat that is fixed in place?
Are you caring for special needs children? Waiting for a response to a job application? Watching a loved one on hospice care grow closer to death?
Are you waiting?
What are you doing while you wait?
There is cooking and cleaning, kids to care for, job applications to be completed, paperwork to be filled out. Are you moving smartly about ship, trying to keep the oppressive stillness at bay?
Many years ago, author and former missionary Elisabeth Elliot hosted a radio show called “Gateway to Joy.” She had a saying, “Do the next thing.” When your despair threatens to consume you, don’t just walk around wringing your hands—do something. Mop the floor, wipe those runny little noses, change the bed linens, read a story to your child, read the Word to your loved one as they approach death, organize a cabinet, prepare food for the next few days, and pray.
In the past week, I have been meditating on and praying aloud Psalm 25. I have a copy of the Psalm hanging on the refrigerator door at my eye level. Every time I open it, I see part of the Psalm. Here is a portion of it:
Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
O my God, I trust in Thee:
let me not be ashamed,
let not mine enemies triumph over me.
Yea, let none that wait on Thee be ashamed:
let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Shew me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths.
Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me:
for thou art the God of my salvation;
on Thee do I wait all the day.
Remember, O Lord, Thy tender mercies and Thy loving kindnesses;
for they have been ever of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions:
according to Thy mercy remember Thou me for Thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.
Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will He teach sinners in the way.
The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach his way.
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth
unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
I used the King James Version primarily for the poetic factor. (Read the full text of the Psalm here at Bible Gateway. The link should take you to a side-by-side comparison of the King James Version and the English Standard Version.)
I learned a song of the same title a long time ago, and it was the remembrance of that song that lead me to the reading of the Psalm.
In my physical Bible (as opposed to my digital one) there was a footnote for verse 3 that says “wait for You in faith.” Perhaps one of my readers who have access to Bible reference materials can tell me what the original says; I have not been able to find anything else that indicates the presence of that phrase in the original. However, I do think the meaning is applicable: We have to wait on the Lord in faith, otherwise we will lose heart.
Notice verses 3 and 4: In verse 3 (using the ESV) it reads: “Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed.” In the next verse (verse 4), the writer asks for the Lord to reveal His ways. While we wait, are we only looking for the solution here on earth or do we ask the Lord to lead us in His ways? Are we seeking His purpose or are we solely focused on what is immediately in front of us? It’s natural during a period of great anxiety or grief to look inward. Take some time to look upward.
Lift up your soul to God. Lift up your requests, your burdens, your anxieties, your frustrations—lift them UP.
I would like you to notice something else about this Psalm. In the ESV version, the phrase “steadfast love” is used three times. I have always believed that if God repeats Himself, He is emphasizing something important. Steadfast love is a strong, steady and reliable love. Anyone who has lived long on the earth is well-acquainted with the failings of human love. Even the truest of loves will let you down at times, but God’s love never weakens.
Lift up your heart to the one who loves you with an unfailing (steadfast) love. He cares. He has orchestrated the perfect moment to supply the breath of wind to move you forward.
If you are slacking off and neglecting your ship, you won’t be ready to set sail when that wind comes. Prepare yourself for God’s purpose, even though you may not have an inkling of where it will take you. Take this time of stillness to make yourself ready.
Another well-loved passage about waiting is found in Isaiah 40:
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40.28-31, NKJV (Read full chapter here).
Are you waiting?
Wait on the Lord, my very dear friends. He will not allow you to be put to shame as you wait on Him in faith. Do not grow weary while waiting. Meditate on these scriptures while you wait. Commit them to your heart. Pray them to the Lord, reminding Him that you are waiting for His excellent timing.