Every fall, when the painted turtle senses winter coming, she dives to the bottom of her pond, burying herself in the muck and mud. She pulls into her shell and goes still: her heart rate slows, almost stopping. Her body temperature drops, staying just above freezing. She stops breathing, and she waits. For six months, she stays buried, and her body releases calcium from her bones into her bloodstream, so that she slowly begins even to lose her shape.
But when the pond thaws, she will float up and breathe again. Her bones will reform, and she will feel the warmth of the sun on her shell.
I think of the painted turtle when I read the psalmist’s description of waiting for God. The psalmist is in a “slimy pit” of “mud and mire,” but God hears him (Psalm 40:2). God lifts him out, and gives him a firm place to stand. God is “my help and my deliverer,” he sings (v. 17).
Perhaps it feels like you’ve been waiting forever for something to change—for a new direction in your career, for a relationship to be restored, for the willpower to break a bad habit, or for deliverance from a difficult situation. The painted turtle and the psalmist are here to remind us to trust in God: He hears, and He will deliver.
Psalm 40 both praises God for His help in the past (vv. 1–10) and pleads for His help once more in a new crisis (vv. 11–17). The “pit” and “mud and mire” of verse 2 were images associated with death; for the psalmist, God’s deliverance in the past was experienced as dramatically as being given a new life after death. Although the writer’s sufferings are too many to name (v. 12), so are God’s many wonders (v. 5). God’s long history of faithfulness gives His people a solid foundation for trust and confidence (v. 2)