For the past two weeks I’ve begged God for certain things. Things I need. Things I want. Things other people desperately require to keep afloat. The trouble is…I’m not getting my answers fast enough. They linger—marinating in a mush of faith bullied by worry.
We’re told to ask and seek and knock; and assured that when we do we’ll find answers. The trouble isn’t in the asking—it’s in the waiting. Waiting is the criteria God uses to mature us and to flesh out selfish agendas.
I’ve fought God on this like a child who fights a sensible bed time. Why do I have to wait Father? If all things are possible, why aren’t they possible now? Even my heart-felt questions have demanded a wait-time—a time to reflect and dig into the power of delay. For good reason, God seems particularly fond of the pauses that stand between our heart cries and His eminent answers.
For the past two weeks I’ve met with a couple of young women I adore. We’ve decided to study the Christmas story in the weeks leading to December 25 at Panera (a church-like place that serves the best bread of life, and outstanding iced tea…Amen!)
As we study the story in the Gospel of Luke, we keep bumping into the word wait as it laces through the text, stringing one life to another. Elizabeth and Zacharias wait in the ache of infertility while Mary and Joseph wait in the pain of out-of-control circumstances. As I see it, there’s three types of waiting we all experience. In time, we move out of these periods to times of clarity and understanding—but often we sit in waiting rooms, hoping for answers.
- Disappointed Waiting—This type of waiting has been praying hard for answers and nothing seems to change. Days, months, even years may pass, and the request remains the same. Circumstances don’t seem to change, as a matter of fact, they may worsen; leaving you wondering if your prayers make a difference at all. This is where Elizabeth and Zacharias found themselves after decades of praying for a child. No answer. No miracle…which often leads to a silent resignation and wondering “Does God really care?” I’ve been in the waiting room of disappointment so many times in my love affair with God. Bobby and I prayed for 16 years before seeing his first promotion in Major-League baseball coaching. I prayed for 8 years for my oldest daughter’s life-healing. I prayed for 20 years before seeing my dreams of publishing come true. These waiting periods are laced with fear and doubt as the “what-if’s” push God’s promises to the back of the line. The day Zacharias heard from God was a typical day. He was busy with religious routine and activity, when suddenly…God speaks! You’d think he’d spout shouts of elated praise when told he would father a son but instead he mutters disbelief. “How can this be?” God had to silence his negative voice for 9 months (a full-term pregnancy) for his faith to line up with his disappointed waiting. After the birth of his son John he exclaimed, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways…” (Luke 1: 76) Clarity and understanding had finally come—as it will eventually for all of us who faithfully wait.
- Waiting in Unexpected Circumstances—Unlike waiting during seasons of disappointment, sometimes life ambushes us with circumstances we didn’t expect or pray for. Suddenly we’re riding a wave of chaos that’s out of our control. This is what happened to Mary and Joseph. They were planning a wedding, living a calm life; when God flipped their future on its side. Everything they knew about themselves and one another was challenged. Nothing made sense or was what they’d planned. Here’s their new life agenda: You’re going to have an unexpected, illegitimate pregnancy. You’re going to postpone your wedding till after the baby is born. You’re going to endure gossip, mocking and judgement by your community. You’re going to be displaced and even homeless when it’s time to deliver this child. You’re going to give birth to the Savior of the world…no pressure though…just go with it! For the love of sanity…this is intense. Sometimes our circumstances change, and we’re forced to wait on a new outcome—different than what we planned or prepared for. A financial or relational upheaval; a change in health; a promotion or demotion; an unexpected shift in opinions or demands. I’m sure there were moments when Joseph and Mary whispered “What the blaze is happening? Surely this isn’t God’s best.” In their limited understanding of the providence of God, they had no choice but to wait it out. Unexpected circumstances force us to choose how we’ll wait. We can either complain and whine as we wait—making sure everyone knows how hard it is and how unfair it is that we’ve been chosen to endure such hardship. Or…we can wait with wonder. We can wait with the assurance that God is working something grand. We can wait in the awe of welcome obedience.
- Waiting in Anticipation—Sometimes we feel we’re on hold. Not necessarily disappointed; just stuck waiting for either something that was promised, or something we hope for. Luke describes two people who waited in anticipation for a stunning promise. Simeon was a devout and righteous man who asked God to keep him alive until he could see the Lord’s Christ. When he laid eyes on young Mary and Joseph as they brought Jesus to the temple, he ran straight towards them and began to speak about their Son’s future and the hope of the world. Then Anna joined him; a widow who’d spent the better part of 84 years fasting and praying in the temple—waiting for this moment—the moment she’d touch the face of God. Together their anticipation gave way to pronouncement. They boldly shared that the light of the world has come, and they patiently waited to see it! Sometimes we’re so close to our breakthroughs they’re breathing in hushed rhythm right behind us. Keep waiting…keep hoping. The smile of God is upon you. Don’t quit.
Though waiting may not be our favorite stance it’s essential. I’ve never known one mature person who got there without waiting. Even God—in all His holiness and power waits. Ironically, He waits for something totally unexpected. He waits and longs for us…
“The Lord longs to be gracious to you; He waits on high to have compassion on you. (Isaiah 30)
Merry Christmas sweet friends! May you wait with anticipation and hope…Gari