Perseverance in Waiting

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.

  • Gary Lee Fennimore ,

    Is Being Certain of Uncertainty Actually a Blessing From GOD?

    Consider these living examples: Job, Joseph, Noah, Elijah, Abraham, etc. The Hebrews 11 list. All of them had no certainty at all in their specific circumstances. Even JESUS was born into the “uncertainty” of unhealthy conditions, no home to be born into, His nation’s ruler Herod seeking to kill him when only a child of 2, out of wedlock conception scandal, sinfulness perpetually surrounding Him always, His eventual fatherlessness, His death at the hands of world leaders and His own countrymen. Then consider Israel, GOD’S chosen nation. Talk about a nation that had it all and yet today Israel cannot be certain of even it’s own existence!

    Mature Christianity (the gold) is when a person can see or at least truly believe (Job 2) that God is working in some incomprehensible way in those hardships and yet trusting in HIM, while not being sinfully overcome by those same difficult hardships. When the truths of God’s Word overcome whatever mood or feeling you are experiencing today, you are in the process of being transformed into gold as the sin-dross is skimmed away from your heart surfaces.
    2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “So we do not lose heart as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – Hebrews 11:27 (Moses) “endured as seeing him who is invisible.”

    Seeing, knowing, and cherishing your great “invisible God” is at the heart of experiencing His presence when you are lonely. It is further exemplified by genuine worship to God, in spite of these hardships (Job 1:20-22, 2:9-10) for the high privilege to walk in the steps of His dear Son. JESUS endured the most infinite difficult hardships that no human could endure and yet HE was Human though He never sinned.

    For to this, you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. – 1 Peter 1:2

    If you go to a counselor, you will receive human answers. If you go to the Lord, you may not receive comprehendible answers. Job may have been better off if he had not listened to the counsel of his friends, choosing rather, to seek and trust in the Lord in HIS Perfect timing, this will probably be beyond our comprehension or comfort.

    The element of mystery; Circumstances
    Everything does not have to have an immediate answer. When God does not act like you think He should, it simply means He is working in ways that you do not yet understand or are not yet prepared to comprehend its significance in your life or even perhaps in others lives. Job was blessed by GOD to not have any understanding of the Heavenly or earthly circumstances that perpetually confounded him. The knowledge of any of those circumstances, either heavenly or earthly, that GOD dealt with personally would have scared Job to death or would have made him so proud of himself that he would have just become a child of Satan’s. Do you or I constantly question our circumstances or question GOD’s reasons for any earthly suffering? The Scriptures state clearly “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood (those earthly circumstances and people), but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” i.e. Satan and his demonic hordes Ephesians 6:12. Perhaps we should consider Job and allow our LORD to use us for HIS Glory that is beyond any human or angelic understanding. Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 “Consider the work of God, For who is able to straighten what He has bent? In the day of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider—God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.”
    Did GOD ever include a commandment that says “Thou shalt understand your circumstances?’ It seems that each of us perpetually attempt to keep this “secret commandment” with no hesitations that was never given to us. That was Job’s perpetual enigma, “Why GOD? What did I do to initiate or to deserve these health and grievous circumstances? We each have pre-ordained circumstances that each of us assumes is our free-will, but GOD knows our free-will, even as HE knew Satan’s, Adam’s and Eve’s and those that eventually crucified HIS SON. There is no other way otherwise GOD could not have planned to send us HIS Redemptive SON. Perhaps that is why James states that the poor are rich in faith? They just live in it with trust for there is no other way.

    HEBREWS 11 Your faith is supposed to be in the Lord, not in being omniscient–knowing all the answers. The former will strengthen you in the Lord while the latter will weaken you through self-reliant contrivances. This means your starting point about God must have goodness and absolute trust built into it. If you do not believe the Lord is good and is seeking your good, you will try to take control of your situation by turning your life circumstance into your version of good. This will end with personal disappointment and probably relational dysfunction. What master are you going to serve (Matthew 6:22, 24) ? Are you more controlled by your circumstances or by the Lord? Satan desires you to be fearful and/or angry at your circumstances, that was his intent in hurting Job in whatever way GOD allowed him to do so. Satan wants you to complain and blame GOD; Job 2 i.e. “curse GOD to his face.” Satan desires that you believe or at least ascent to that you are in control as if you are god. That was his original deception spoken to Eve Genesis 3 “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, KNOWING good and evil.”

    As each of us ages we realize the loss of the control that we sought foolishly to acquire during our vibrant younger years that were self-deceitful. Is this not the perpetual conundrum of pre-destination versus free will, that perpetual perplexity of how salvation is established? If you are seeking to rewrite the script of your life by seizing control of your life, you have made yourself into your own god, which places you in greater conflict with the Lord than with your problems (James 4:6). Also, it places you into a gullible position for Satan to easily deceive you since you casually believe “you are the captain of your soul, the master of my fate.”

    MY THOUGHT WHILE WATCHING THE MOVIE “RISEN” in the scene with JESUS and Clavius talking by the Gallilean seashore. Can you imagine what JESUS goes through as HE questions Clavius about what was troubling him. Clavius shares his concerns and yet JESUS quotes from a private meeting that Clavius had with Pontius Pilate much earlier in the movie in which no one was present. JESUS asks Clavius “What is it you seek, Clavius?” Clavius responds with peace and certainty yet CHRIST continued by stating Clavius’s earlier quote with Pilate perfectly “A Day Without Death?” Clavius is immediately stunned to his heart. And yet JESUS CHRIST knows of and witnesses every human death every time someone dies in HIS Creation. They are either bound for Heaven or without CHRIST to an eternal Hell. Just consider what GOD, the TRINITY, faces and feels every moment of each death that each of us rarely witnesses yet, but only our own demise. Can you imagine what the GODHEAD goes through and HIS feelings for all those that HE Created and hoped to become just like His SON, but most choose not too? The GODHEAD never sees “A day without death” in our times! Yet in fact HE witnessed and allowed His only SON to endure a horrendous death for each of us that actively willed it into existence!!!

    How do I rightly serve the LORD when my circumstances are not conducive to serving, such as being unemployed, but rather to being served? Or how do I commit to serving in some capacity when my circumstances are noncommittal? How and in what does one commit to serving within noncommittal circumstances? I cautiously agree (my fears at work) with your perception of what truly is the source of my gratitude. Typically my memories are somewhat marked off by the tragedies or hardships in my life. However, joyful times do interpose those trying times. GOD writes or authors in Romans 1:21 “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” I do the same things when GOD gives me good things and memories. I either expect good things or presume the good things are my just rewards for being so good! Solomon did the same in his “life is simply futile” summaries in Ecclesiastes. I perpetually “speculate” about the why and my part in them rather than “consider” that GOD is always at work and in control, most especially in the bad times (defined by me). GOD’s functional grace is at times those very things that I complain about and I choose to “darken my foolish heart” concerning the actual source of them. James 1:2-3 “Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials KNOWING that the testing of your faith produces endurance and LET Endurance have its perfect result….” Therefore, since KNOWING IT,……then LET IT. That “LET IT” consists of my “PATIENCE” that my LORD has empowered me to endure, though I nearly always do not understand it. The only part that I can “KNOW” is always in accordance with my SAVIOR’s WORDS and not necessarily my own comprehension of it.

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      Charity Singleton Craig ,

      Thank you for this response, Gary. It was hard to convey in any one post all I thought and understood about waiting and patience and perseverance and trust. In fact, in next week’s post, I write about some of the same Hebrews 11 heroes you mention, and address some of these concerns. I think these themes are at the very heart of what it means to know and trust God. Thanks for thinking them through with me this Advent season.