Waiting can be agonizing.
It’s hardest to wait when I am uncertain about the outcome. When I’m trusting God for the best, while at the same time preparing for the worst. It would be much easier if I had a guaranteed good outcome. Or at least a promise from God to hold on to. Or some reassurance to anchor my prayers.
But God often seems silent when I’m waiting. I have no idea whether He’ll ever answer my prayer, so it feels 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,” waiting would be easier. But when the wait 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.”
Several years ago, I went through a period of torturous 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, this passage often frustrated me. Of course Abraham never wavered. He had a direct word from God. 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. 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.
I put it out of my mind after a while. It was senseless to keep dwelling on it. But whenever I read that passage in Romans, it stung. I spent so many years waiting. Why didn’t God tell me His answer from the beginning?
Somehow, I start reading Romans again in my quiet time. I hesitate as I begin Romans 4; 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 long. But Abraham knew what he was waiting for.
As I’m once again feeling disconnected from Abraham, I decide to look at his life in Genesis. I see Abraham’s humanity as he sometimes doubted God’s protection. He even tried to fulfill God’s promise on his own through Hagar. Perhaps he thought God needed his help and ingenuity.
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 study 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. He wouldn’t have relinquished what God had promised him years earlier. He would have clung tightly to Isaac, feeling entitled to this son.
For Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s long-awaited promise to Abraham.
Abraham wasn't clinging to his own understanding of the fulfillment of God's promise. God could fulfill His promise any way He chose, including raising Isaac from the dead if He needed to (Hebrews 11:19). So ultimately Abraham's faith lay in the trustworthiness of God.
Abraham’s faith wasn’t in the promise alone. His faith was rooted in the Promisor.
Because his faith was not in what God would do for him, but rather in God Himself, Abraham could risk it all. He could do whatever God asked. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t holding on to a particular outcome. He was holding on to God. It was up to God to fulfill His promises.
Abraham’s waiting had strengthened his faith. Taught him God’s ways. Showed him God’s faithfulness.
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.
God has delivered one hundred-fold on that promise. He waits with me. He tenderly cares for me. He pours Himself out for me. He sings songs over me. He gives me everything I need.
As I let that 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 deepen our relationship. To solidify our trust. To prepare us for ministry. To transform us into His likeness.
In retrospect, when I see all that God does as we wait, “wait” is the most precious answer He gives. Waiting draws us to God in ways that having answers cannot. It makes us rely on the Giver and not His gifts.
God knows what I need. I do not. He sees the future. I cannot. He will give me only what is best for me. When it is best for me.