When Wait Means Wait

How many times does this happen in the life of a parent and child. The child decides that he or she has to have something (usually in the check-out line at the store). The child asks and the parent says know. So the child asks again with renewed vigor and emphasis, “Please, please, please.” What the parent wants at that moment is peace, so their answer becomes, “Maybe later. We’ll see.” What does the children HEAR 9-times-out-of-10? “Yes.” What does the parent mean 9-times-out-of-10 ? No. The parent’s “maybe” can feel like either “yes” or “no.”

That is the problem we have when dealing with faith and prayer. We ask God for something—over and over and over. The desired answer doesn’t come, and we assume that God has said “No.” Well, He may have said “Wait… until you’re ready” or even “Wait… I have something even better down the line.” The problem is that “Wait” feels exactly like “No.”

Consider the example of Zechariah and Elizabeth in today’s reading from Luke 1. Here are people who “served God blamelessly” (v. 6) That is pretty good! The problem was that Zechariah and Elizabeth had no children in a culture in which childlessness was seen as a “disgrace” (v. 25). They had been praying for children, but God had told them “No.” But wait, God hadn’t told them “No” at all—he had told them to wait. But to them, God’s “Wait” felt just like “No.” But God had plans for Zechariah and Elizabeth; their long wait was for a purpose, a purpose they didn’t know about or understand. Their prayers were answered at the proper time… after God’s “Wait.” Elizabeth would hold the baby John in her arms and pay her pediatrician with her social security check.

It’s hard for us to wait upon the Lord (Isa 40:31). We get weary of waiting; we start to think that God has forgotten. His silence FEELS to us like He has completely forgotten us. “Wait” feels like “No.” Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, we can’t see or understand the purposes of God or how He is working in our lives. We live life from in the middle of the middle, and we can’t see the ending. We can’t know all of God’s purposes for us and in us, and so we just have to wait on Him. Some things can’t be rushed—can’t crack egg to rush a baby chick or peel a cocoon to hurry up the butterfly. You have to wait. We have to wait on God.

Even youths get tired and weary; even strong young men clumsily stumble. But those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired. (Isaiah 40:30-31, NET)