Waiting On God’s Favor

Most of the time we think we are in control of our lives, perhaps especially when we are younger. When people or circumstances seem to threaten our control, we are ready to fight back. We’re strong, we tell ourselves. We do things so people will not see our weaknesses or know that we are afraid. We’ve got it under control—that’s the look we want convey. That’s the way we want to see ourselves.

But, really, too often we know this is a pretense. We may be sailing along blissfully when suddenly we’re tacking into fierce headwinds, bouncing along in newly discovered choppy waters. Suddenly our lives seem out of control, tossed about, under the thumb of circumstances, under the shadow of others who seem clearly to have it under control. Our defenses kick in. We put up all the pretenses: I’m pretty powerful, actually, aren’t I?

I was struck deeply the other morning reading Psalm 123:

. . . our eyes are turned to the Lord our God,

awaiting his favour.

This passage usually uses the language of mercy; my British translation prefers favor. Maybe it was that word favor that jogged me into new thinking. I thought, wait a minute, do I really need God’s favor? And isn’t this a little presumptuous that God would favor me? I’ve got things together, anyway. I don’t really need God’s favor, do I?

But then this language began to sink in more deeply. Are my eyes really turned toward God? Well, actually, they are not, especially if I think I am in control. The posture here is turning our eyes toward God while “awaiting” his favor. This is delicate, nuanced. It is this waiting posture that struck me so deeply. I’m not usually one who waits. I’m impatient. And yet, I am in need, painfully at times, right now in fact. Here I wait for God to notice. Will he show his favor? I turn my eyes awaiting.

The Psalmist continues:

Show us your favour, Lord, show us favour,

for we have suffered insult enough.

Too long we have had to suffer

the insults of the arrogant,

the contempt of the proud.

At first this part didn’t seem to square with my experience. Do I really go around thinking about those who have insulted me? But wait, maybe insults here stand in for betrayal, that queen of all sins. We all know something about rejection. Or maybe insults really suggest unfair events, an attack of illness, the loss of a loved one, getting older. On second thought I do know something about insults. The more I contemplated this rich passage, the more it began to ring true.

And so finally we cry out: “Show us your favour, Lord, show us favour.” This is what we really wait for, to be favored by the Lord of the universe, to be made whole in his favor, to receive his overwhelming gift of mere attention. We’ve suffered enough of life’s insults. We’re brought down to a place of nowhere else to turn. Yes, in this place of sheer, not-sought-for humility, we cry out “show us your favour, Lord.”

That’s been my prayer for days now, since reading this Psalm the other morning. That prayer changes things. It is a deep admission that I am not in control, that insults are very real. It is the discovery of my brokenness, that I desperately need a break. Importantly too, it is a deep recognition that God will show his favor, somehow, someday. It is the deep hunch that God’s favor will bring peace, tranquility, fullness. “Brokenness can make abundance,” as Ann Voskamp likes to point out. There is nothing presumptuous here, no presuming that God will come through. Rather it is that waiting, pleading yes, but with confidence that abundance is on the way.

Actually, this is the only way to live. It’s the only answer to the inevitable crash out ahead when we think we’ve got it all put together. Yes, the insults of life are real, so

. . . our eyes are turned to the Lord our God,

awaiting his favour.