Desert Series Reflections: The Waiting

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD, be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” -Psalm 27:13

It’s been a while since I posted a completed piece, so here is the third painting in my Desert Series. I’m currently on the seventh painting, so I am a bit behind on posting these.

This piece, “The Waiting,” is inspired by the last verse of Psalm 27. The Psalm comes from a period of King David’s life when his enemies were conspiring to attack him and take his life. The exact content isn’t known, but the psalm itself speaks to David’s faith in God as his salvation and stronghold amidst fear, warfare, persecution, false accusations, rejection and even a sense of God’s displeasure. In his petition, David cries, “Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior” (Psalm 27:9). This suggests David may have felt as if God had turned away from him in the moment with all he was suffering, even though he knew by faith this wasn’t the case.

Herein lies the context of verse 13, which includes the Hebrew word, qavah, meaning “to wait for, or to look expectantly.” This is the Hebrew word depicted in this painting, which may also derive from a primitive root meaning, “to bind together, perhaps by twisting, like a rope.” The connotation is not merely passive, but implies tension, push and pull, stretching and twisting.

In the desert times of life, when the soul is dry and weary, the barren landscape seemingly endless before us, waiting is difficult. What we know to be true may be in conflict with our current experience. There is an ongoing tension between what we see and feel currently in our suffering, and what God promises in His Word.

For this painting, I sought to convey my own reflections on that tension. The seated figure is peering over at a dominating sand dune covered in ominous shadow. A gold splatter intersects the figure, embodying the ebb and flow of tension in the waiting. I used a scene from the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado and a memory from that place. On my honeymoon, when I traversed up the steep and lofty dunes, I could see nothing but higher ones all around me. With the sun beating heavily, I had to stop and catch my breath a few times. What I didn’t know was that a couple dunes beyond me, a spectacular vista awaited. My husband found it first, and if he hadn’t informed me of it, I would’ve never kept going and persevered to the top. This reflects the reality of my experience in the waiting–when it feels dark and bleak with no end in sight. When the sand seems to go on forever, and the dunes still tower, what I can’t see is the beautiful view on the other side. Yet in those times, it is Another who keeps me going, the One who promises to be with me wherever I go, even if it feels like He isn’t there.

Like David, there are times when I can’t see anything but the darkness around me, where it feels like I cry out to God, but He does not answer or He has turned away from me. It’s those times when it’s hardest to wait. But like David, by God’s grace, He is still the hope that anchors me amidst trials and struggles in the desert. David knew with certainty that he would “see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living,” because He knew the God who is supremely good and whose Word never fails, even when his circumstances were very bad. He believed that though he didn’t see it now, he would see that goodness again.

God and His Word are the foundation of our waiting, not the strength of our own faith itself. I recently heard a song that drove this point home even further called “Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor.”

Christ the sure and steady Anchor
In the fury of the storm
When the winds of doubt blow through me
And my sails have all been torn
In the suffering, in the sorrow
When my sinking hopes are few
I will hold fast to the Anchor
It shall never be removed

Though we may hold fast, it is the Anchor itself that secures us through the fury of the storm, not our own hold. We may falter and waver in our faith, but Jesus Himself is that firm foundation that strengthens us through the waiting and calls us to persevere. He is the man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, who walked through our desert. And He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep and who calls us, like the psalmist, to “take heart” for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). May the perseverance of Christ encourage your heart today.

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