We live in a world where faster is usually perceived to be better. We like speed, and we are willing to pay for whatever gadget, gizmo, vehicle, computer or phone that will help us get where we need to go or get done what we need to do. We frequent places that offer fast food, quick results, and speedy service. We choose a checkout line based on what the people have in their shopping carts, or how capable the cashier looks. We find ourselves fuming if we select one line on the entrance ramp and then suddenly realize that we’ve chosen incorrectly. Slow drivers make us crazy. Lines make our blood boil. Having to wait has become increasingly difficult in a world that thrives on speed.
Sometimes waiting takes on a more serious tone—like waiting to hear the test results, or waiting for the phone to ring after an argument with your friend, or waiting to see if you got the job, passed the test, or made the team. One thing is for sure, none of us like to wait.
What we also know is that waiting, especially prolonged periods of waiting, seems to bring out the worst in us. Frustration builds, impatience takes over and we start to make decisions that might make things happen faster, but may not end up serving us well in the long run—decisions that do not tend to bring God’s best for us.
In Genesis 12, we meet Sarah, wife of Abraham. Like many of us, Sarah did not like to wait. God had promised Abraham that He would make him into a great nation (Genesis 12: 2). But there was a problem. Both Abraham and Sarah were well past child-bearing age, and Sarah was barren. Learning that she would have a child actually made Sarah laugh (Genesis18:12). But still, she waited, trusting that God would reveal His plan. But years passed, and when the emotional toll of waiting left her feeling frustrated and discouraged, she began to feel like maybe God had forgotten His promise to Abraham. Maybe God had forgotten about her. So, in her desperation, she took matters into her own hands.
We read in Genesis 16 that Sarah, fed up with waiting for God to give her a child, acted in her own power and asked her husband, Abraham, to sleep with Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar. Abraham obliged and Hagar conceived a child. Now if that’s not messy enough for you, listen to the drama that followed.
When she [Hagar] knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarah said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me.” “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarah mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
Genesis 16: 4-6
Hagar returns, her son Ismael is born, and they live in Sarah and Abraham’s household. Time drags on as Sarah is forced to live with her not-so-clever solution. Nearly 14 years later, Sarah miraculously conceives. But that is after 14 years of turmoil and jealousy and marital tension. That is 14 years of Sarah questioning her husband, despising her maidservant, being jealous of Ishmael, and questioning God as to why he had not given her a child.
Understandably, she thought that God had overlooked her.
Sarah had 14 years to realize that the waiting wasn’t actually the hardest part. While waiting is certainly frustrating, difficult, and brutal sometimes, the hardest part for Sarah was living with the mess she made. She decided to take action rather than wait for God to reveal His plan for her.
In the major motion picture, Rudy, want-to-be-football player Rudy Ruettiger, laid out his heart to his Priest, asking why God wouldn’t answer his prayer to be a Notre Dame football player. The Priest said, “Praying is something we do in our time. Answering prayers is what God does in His time.”
When we hear Sarah’s story, we empathize with her frustration in the waiting. Who hasn’t been there? Who, in our frustration and emotional weariness, hasn’t tried to grasp with our own hands something that was never ours to take, only to find that not only did we not get what we wanted, but we got a whole lot more...more frustration and emotional weariness...than we bargained for?
What if there is another explanation for our waiting or for Sarah’s? What if God had not forgotten Sarah after all? What if He was using this season of waiting as a way to make her ready, to prepare her for what was coming next?
God kept his promise; Abraham and Sarah became the father and mother of a nation; Isaac became the son of promise through whom the tribes of Israel would arise. Hagar’s son, Ishmael, became a leader as well, just as God promised Hagar he would. God’s will was accomplished, even though misguided human effort tried to mess it up.
The truth about God is that He is preparing you for the next chapter which will lead to the next chapter which will write the story of your life that will ultimately bring glory to Him. The choice is yours. When you’re stuck waiting, will you decide that God has forgotten you? Or will you decide that God is making you ready for what’s coming next? I don’t know about you, but if God is preparing me for something, then it must be something worth waiting for. And I’m going to try very hard not to mess it up.
Lord, we know that you want what is best for us. And sometimes, that involves waiting for something we do not yet know and cannot yet see. When we get impatient, feel weak, or feel like you have forgotten us, help us recall the words spoken by your prophet Isaiah so very long ago. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). In your precious name, Amen.