Fear and impatience, which we’ve discussed over the past two weeks, represent two negative responses to waiting. They’re not unusual responses, unfortunately, and they take us down the wrong path when God calls us to wait.
There’s another way to wait, though. A way that leans into the promises of God and invites us to grow in the waiting, not just through it. In these last two weeks of Advent, we’ll talk about two positive responses to waiting: perseverance and hope.
A few weeks ago during my Friday morning women’s Bible study, I volunteered to be one of the readers of that day’s passage. We are slowing working our way through Genesis, and that day we were reading Genesis 7. It had been a difficult week. I’d arrived at Bible study a couple of minutes late. And when I began reading, I could already feel my voice beginning to shake. This is the passage about Noah loading up the ark, God closing up the door, and the rains being unleashed over the earth. When I got to verse 21, I started crying and was still wiping tears through the end of the chapter.
Boy was I embarrassed. I’ve cried reading the Psalms and the Gospels before. I’ve cried in Job and Paul’s Epistles. But Genesis? The flood? That’s like Sunday School 101. Nobody cries reading about the flood. Or at least I didn’t think they did.
But through the course of our discussion, I began to realize why I was crying. In some ways, my life feels flooded with disappointments and regrets. I’ve had to let so many things die over the past few months. And like Noah, riding out that storm, I know God’s promises. I know his good intentions for me. But also like Noah, I don’t know when it will end. From our modern vantage point, we read Genesis 7 knowing the waters covered the earth only 150 days. We know that eventually the dove comes back with the olive branch. We know that humanity recovered and that God promised never to flood the earth again. But in the moment, in an ark full of stinky animals and amid storms that just won’t quit, Noah didn’t. Still, he persevered.
For that matter, Noah’s perseverance began during those decades when he was gathering materials and building an ark for a weather phenomenon he couldn’t even fathom. He stayed the course. He did what God told him to. He didn’t let the fear or uncertainty keep him from doing the next right thing. He didn’t look for a plan B when the rains didn’t come as quickly as he thought or when the plans for the ark seemed unnecessarily complicated.
There’s another story about perseverance I love to read this time of year. In Luke 2, we read about an elderly man name Simeon, whom God told that he wouldn’t die until he saw Messiah. It didn’t matter to Simeon that Israel had been waiting centuries for their Savior. He’d had a word from God and he believed it.
It’s easy to imagine Simeon marking the days off his calendar toward some predetermined event, like he was waiting for a Garth Brooks concert or a much-anticipated trip to Europe. Those would be the kinds of waiting rituals I would embrace joyfully. But this was a million times more important and as many times more uncertain. There was no day to circle on the calendar, no end game to anticipate. Simeon had no idea how long he’d live, and if it were me, as the gray hair came and the wrinkles started to etch their lines more deeply, I would’ve begun to doubt that I’d really heard from God. Did the Spirit really say that I wouldn’t see death before I’d seen the Lord’s Christ?
But Simeon persevered. He showed up day after day with anticipation. Not knowing the details only fueled his expectation.
If you’re like me, you’re probably always waiting for something: something to end, something to start, something to change, something to produce fruit, something to pay off. Often, I’m waiting for someone to do the right thing, grow up, get it to together. I think I’m waiting on circumstances or events or people, but really, I’m waiting on God. Waiting on his will, waiting for his plan to unfold before me. And like all people everywhere, I don’t know what’s coming or when. I can plan, I can predict, I can even prepare. But mostly, I’m just going through life blindly. Just like you.
But instead of the fear and impatience I normally respond with, I want to be more like Noah, who just kept doing what God said, and more like Simeon, who kept showing up day after day, letting the promises of his God fuel his passion for life.
This Advent and always, I want to persevere in the waiting.
PRAYER: Lord, I want to be like Simeon this Advent season. I want to let what remains uncertain in life to fuel my expectation. I don’t want my lack of vision to keep me from showing up each day for what you’ve prepared for me. I also don’t want to sugar-coat the difficulty of waiting. I don’t want to always look for the easy way out or to persist in disobedience because I’ve falsely assumed it should be easier. Whatever it is I’m waiting for, help me understand that I’m really waiting on you, the author and perfecter of my life. And you, gracious Father, are always worth waiting for. (LISTEN BELOW)
Subscribe now for access to printable versions of these weekly waiting prayers.
How long, oh Lord? How long will this season of waiting go on? Over and over again in the Bible we find people waiting for God to lead them, heal them, rescue them, or answer them. How these same people respond to the waiting often signals what they believe about who God is and how he’s at work in their lives. Throughout December, in the month of Advent when we reenact the Messianic waiting that defined so much of Israel’s history, we’re going to talk about what we can learn about Hope in Waiting in our own lives.