Are You Bargaining with God in the Waiting Room? Psalm 26

Hospital waiting rooms are a great equalizer. All who enter join the fellowship of uncertainty. Plans and predictions, once held tightly, slowly tick away with the pace of watched clocks. I have logged many hours in these places over the years. Often arriving flustered and departing relieved, but now I am back again in crisis.

1 Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
2 Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.
(Psalm 26:1-3 ESV)


Once again, in Psalm 26, David cries out to God in desperation. He approaches the throne of God with evidence to prove his worthiness. He arrives ready to bargain. David offers a mix of his good works and his desire to be proven worthy. Nevertheless, he ends up falling back into God’s faithfulness.

Hospital waiting rooms and dire situations in life bring out the bargainer in all of us. We hope to win over the Lord to our case with evidence of our good works and excellent behavior. However, we always come up short as we are tested and evaluated. Like the psalmist, we end up circling back to our desperate need to walk in God’s faithfulness and acknowledge the fullness of His steadfast love.

God’s Steadfast Love

God’s steadfast love for me is: 

Not based on my abilities or gifts.

Not based on what I do or don’t do.

Not based on whether I deserve it.

What can I do in challenging seasons of waiting?

4 I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.
5 I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.
6 I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord,
7 proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.
8 O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells
(Psalm 26:4-8 ESV)

Whom I choose to wait with matters.

The company I keep influences me. Who can I gather around me in seasons of difficult waiting to hold me up in prayer? Am I willing to reach out vulnerably and ask for support?

Somehow, and it is certainly challenging, I must find ways to spend time with the Lord even when my routines are wholly disrupted and upended. Perhaps the psalmist’s reference to washing hands points to my need for soul hygiene.


Have I taken time to confess my sins and ask the Holy Spirit for an inspection?

Draw Near

Going around the altar likely points to my need to draw near God, even when I can’t go to a Sunday service because of a need to keep vigil at the hospital. How can I set aside time to sit in God’s presence and seek His guidance in places that don’t have altars?

I believe that when we seek Him, He will make new spaces available.

  • A beautiful view out the window reminds me of His creation.
  • The kindness of a nurse reveals His care for me and those I love.
  • Singing hymns and praise songs reminds me of His goodness.
  • God’s word is gloriously portable.

Proclaiming Gratitude

Verse 7 reminds me of the value of proclaiming gratitude.

What can I stop and give thanks for right now? Could I make a list? Who could I share my thanksgivings with?

9 Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men,
10 in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes
(Psalm 26:9-10 ESV)

Drawing near to the Lord requires me to separate myself from sinners, bloodthirsty men, evil devices, and hands filled with bribes. My first thought is to reassure myself that I have not been hanging out with the bloodthirsty recently. However, who is God calling me to separate myself from? In a difficult season, I might need to take a few steps back from those who don’t respect my boundaries or try to pile false guilt upon me.

Evil Devices

We cannot compartmentalize our spiritual life, keep company with God one day, and keep company with evil another. The term “evil devices” could remind me to consider what I spend my time focusing on. What will I fill my mind and heart with during a difficult season when I might be far from my faith community? It’s far too easy to allow electronic devices greater access to my mind and heart in hours spent waiting. While I don’t believe cell phones or tablets are evil devices, I know the Evil One would love to capture my attention and draw me away. How can I redeem the time I have? Could I read more scripture on my phone or use a texting app to share thanksgivings with a believing friend?

11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.
12 My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.
(Psalm 26:11-12 ESV)

Walk in Truth

The world pulls and tugs on me daily to move away from seeking the Lord. It can be gentle and almost imperceptible or an all-out tug of war.

Every single day, we can choose to walk in the truth of God’s active redemption. I stand on level ground because of the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Walking in redemption based on Christ alone removes the pressure I may feel to get it all right because I can’t.

Finally, verse 12 speaks to our need to declare the truth of the Gospel aloud in the assembly with other believers. We all must be reminded to surrender every day and sometimes every hour if I am candid.

Do you find yourself in a season of waiting rooms? Are you living in the tension of knowing God has something good to come forth from a difficult season but not seeing it just yet?

I believe that we may often find ourselves there on this side of Heaven. However, the Lord is always ready and willing to join us.

Prayer for the Waiting Room

Father, as I sit in the waiting room, help me to see that your steadfast love is before my eyes,

 and help me to wait for your faithfulness. Please guide me to stay close to you by confessing my sins and keeping short accounts with you. Help me to proclaim thanksgiving aloud and tell all about your wondrous deeds even in dire situations. Please guard my heart and mind against evil devices. Please help me to walk with integrity. Please continue to redeem me and the minutes spent waiting by the power of your graciousness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.   

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