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Saturday, January 18, 2014

A waiting game indeed.

We have had this discussion before, but I know it is one of the hardest things to do - waiting on something or someone when you just want whatever it is to be "right now".  I don't think God "wired" us to wait with patience - it must be a "learned" thing because it doesn't exactly seem to come naturally!  If I actually ran into someone who really loved to wait, I think I'd either say they were not totally firing on all cylinders or they are deeply more spiritual than I am!  Since the latter may very well be true, I shall not pass judgment, but stand in awe of the one who can actually wait in patient serenity.  So, for the rest of us who don't really enjoy this process of waiting, let me take a few moments to remind US of something we sometimes forget - we WILL wait if we want God's best for our lives.  If we don't, we might just find ourselves bringing a little misery into them unnecessarily - and we all know how much it takes to "clean up" after we've made a mess!  So, in order to avoid the "clean up", I think we have to realize God's motivation in the waiting - it might just be to help us determine how intent we are on having his best!

God, the one and only—I’ll wait as long as he says.  Everything I need comes from him, so why not?  He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle:  I’m set for life.   (Psalm 62:1-2 MSG)

If you were to examine the entire psalm, you'd find these exact words repeated twice in the course of twelve verses - meaning we should pay attention to them!  Right in the middle of the psalm comes the reminder:  My help and glory are in God — granite-strength and safe-harbor-God — so trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him.  God is a safe place to be.  (vs.7-8 MSG)  The psalm begins with waiting as long as God says, reminds us of the importance of trusting God absolutely with all we've got, and then points out that strength comes from God himself.  So, if we were wondering where this "ability" or "strength" to wait comes, it comes from God directly, not from something we muster up inside of us.  Maybe this is where we get this "waiting" thing kind of mixed up in our minds - thinking God must want us to do something since it is taking longer than we thought to realize what it is he has promised in our lives.  In contrast, he may just be waiting for us to stop doing something and allow him to produce his best in us!

In the midst of waiting there is no safer place to be than secure in the arms of Jesus.  Whether we are waiting on the job to come through we so earnestly desire, or the healing for something which has been plaguing our health for sometime, we need to be in this "safe place" while we wait.  We come INTO God's best for our lives when we wait IN his arms for his best.  In scripture, we have illustrations of those who do things well, and of those who just took things into their own hands.  One such illustration can be found in the life of Abraham and Sarah, so desirous of having a child so they could see the fulfillment of something God had spoken into Abraham's life much earlier.  You see, God had promised Abraham he would become a "great nation" - in other words, to be the father of many descendants.  Low and behold, no child was forthcoming from his marriage to Sarah - she was barren.  Now, how could he ever become a father of many descendants if his wife couldn't help him bring forth children to carry on his name?  This is often the "set-up" for failure in our lives - whenever we begin to process in our brains what God intends for our hearts to lay hold of!  

So, since nothing was working in his attempts to have a child with Sarah, he takes on a bondwoman (a fancy term for a slave who would become his baby momma).  After all, Abraham was getting on in age (although they lived way longer in those days than we do now), so he couldn't delay "the plan", could he?  This is our second failing when it comes to waiting - we step outside of God's timing for whatever it is he intends for us.  From this union with Hagar, the bondwoman (or baby momma), comes Ishmael.  Now, Abraham had a son - someone to carry on his name and help him become the father of many nations.  After all, isn't that what God had promised?  So what if it was by his own doing and not God's? This might just be our third failure in the waiting process - thinking we know better than God, or that maybe he got distracted and lost track of time!

Ishmael comes along "just in the nick of time" according to Abraham's game plan, but his arrival did little to improve things for Abraham.  In fact, just about one year later, miracle of miracles, Sarah bears him a son!  Isaac is born.  To make matters more complicated, we find Ishmael not getting along well with Isaac - perhaps a little sibling rivalry in the works.  It is a feast day celebrating the weaning of Isaac, and Abraham hears clearly from God that Ishmael wasn't God's plan - he was Abraham's.  So, the birthright normally belonging to the "first-born" would not be going to Ishmael, but to Isaac. Talk about complications!  This may be the fourth thing we can glean from trying to step outside of God's timing - we usually make a mess of things and they get way more complicated than they need to be!  

Now Abraham has to deal with the "clean up" of what it was he had made a mess of - Hagar and Ishmael would have to be told of this "recent development" now very apparent to Abraham.  Weaning took place around the age of 2-4 years of age, or perhaps a little later.  From what Jewish tradition teaches, this "break up" with Hagar didn't happen until the time Ishmael was about 14 years old - a significant delay in "dealing with" the issue at hand, indeed.  This may bring about our fifth failure when it comes to waiting - sometimes we wait too long to let go of the things God says don't "belong" in his plan for our lives.  When we do, we deal with repeated grief and prolonged disappointment as the thing we are to let go of continues to taunt us and bring us heartache.

If we can see anything from the examples we have been given in scripture, it should be this:  Waiting ON God's best requires us to wait IN his presence. We don't "figure out" God's plan - he births it within us.  When we are waiting for the "birth" of his plan, we often get weary in the waiting, but the weariness of waiting is nothing compared to the drama and chaos of dealing with the stuff we take on when we aren't willing to wait.  Just sayin!