Last week I mentioned how irritated I was about getting cold pizza delivered two hours late. But at least I knew the pizza was coming. Eventually. But the wait is harder when I don’t know the outcome. When God seems silent and I have no idea whether He’ll ever answer my prayer. When it seems like I’m waiting in the dark.
I have read and reread Psalm 13: “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?”
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?
O Lord, how long?
I have asked that question many times. Waiting patiently. Waiting impatiently. Waiting well. Waiting badly. Waiting.
If I knew God would eventually answer my prayer with “yes” it would be different. But when the waiting seems endless and I’m not sure if there’s any point to it anyway, it feels excruciating.
Even an answer of “no” would be easier than “wait.”
I went through a period of agonizing waiting.
At the beginning of my wait, I had searched the Bible to find a promise that related to my situation. A word that I could “claim.” An assurance of the victory I longed for.
As I was waiting, I read in Romans 4, “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.”
While I admire Abraham’s faith, to be honest, my reaction was, “Well if I had a direct promise from God, an assurance of my answer, then I’d be content to wait too. Abraham could wait because he knew he’d get what he wanted in the end.”
I wanted God to give me a promise like the one He had given Abraham, and so I kept begging God for a sign.
None came. No verse. No confirmation. Just silence on that issue. For years.
And in the end, God’s answer was “no.”
At first it felt unfair. And purposeless. I struggled to make sense of those seemingly wasted years. While I had grown closer to God, somehow I felt that I had received a lesser gift.
Though some time has passed since then, and I feel a bit raw about those years of waiting.
I start reading Romans again in my quiet time. I hesitate as I begin Romans 4, since it painfully reminds me of that time of asking and waiting. When I didn’t get what I had wanted. When I envied Abraham. True, his wait was horrendous. But Abraham knew what he was waiting for.
As I’m once again feeling disconnected from Abraham, I look at his life in Genesis. I see Abraham’s humanity as he sometimes doubted God’s protection, and even tried to fulfill the promise himself through Hagar. He figured maybe God could use his help.
That part I can identify with. Abraham’s struggle with impatience feels all too familiar. Too many times I’ve tried to help God fulfill His plans. That is, the plans I’d like Him to have. Plans that would give me what I want. What I think I deserve.
As I peruse Genesis, I see that while Abraham was waiting, God was working. Molding his character. Teaching him patience. Building their friendship. It was in that 25-year wait that Abraham got to know God intimately. It was in those seemingly wasted years that God transformed him.
And after decades of waiting, Abraham was ready for the supreme test of his faith, when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise. The son he had waited for.
Then I see it. Why had I not noticed this before? Abraham’s faith wasn’t rooted in the promise of descendants. If it was, he never would have taken Isaac to be sacrificed. Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promise to him.
Abraham’s faith wasn’t in the promises. His faith was rooted in the Promisor.
Because his faith was not in what God would do for him, but in God Himself, Abraham could risk it all. He could do whatever God asked. It didn’t matter. His waiting had strengthened his faith. Taught him God’s ways. Showed him God could be trusted.
Abraham knew that God would provide everything he needed.
I have the very same assurance that Abraham did. God will provide everything I need. Everything. He will take care of me. That is my promise.
I see that God delivered a thousand times over on that promise. He waited with me. He tenderly cared for me. He poured Himself out for me. He sang songs over me. He gave me everything I needed.
As I let my promise sink in, I see my waiting differently. Perhaps God is making me, and you, wait for the same reasons that He made Abraham wait. To forge our faith. To make us attentive to His voice. To prepare us for ministry. To transform us into His likeness.
In retrospect, when I see that all God does as we wait, “wait” is the most precious answer we can receive.
I am thankful God has not answered all my prayers with a “yes.” He knows what I need. I don’t. He will give me only what is best for me. When it is best for me.
As Paul Tripp says, “Waiting is not just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.”