15 Aug Hopeful Waiting
This summer I have been preaching through the Minor Prophets. There are twelve of these Old Testament books, and they are called “minor” not because of their relative importance, but because of their length. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and I’ve learned a lot. The messages of these ancient prophets are stunningly relevant to our contemporary lives and what is going on in our twenty-first century world.
One of the themes that crops up with regularity in the minor prophets is that of hopeful waiting. I don’t know anyone who loves to wait. Waiting is hard, and the more invested we are in the anticipated news or event, the harder it is. Some waiting is not so bad—we wait in line a lot, for example, and while it can be exasperating at times to be in the slowest checkout lane or to miss the green light because of the distracted driver in front of you or to wait for the doctor who is running behind with her appointments, these are minor occurrences. Inconvenient perhaps, but not life-altering and certainly not eternally significant (though I have sometimes witnessed people treating these routine annoyances as if they are life-altering and eternally significant.)
At other times, waiting feels excruciating: waiting for the lab report, waiting for a deployed military member to return from a war zone, waiting to hear back from a job interview, waiting for real life-altering events to occur, like the birth of a baby or the passing of a loved one.
Some of the most challenging waiting I do is waiting on God. I pray, I ask, I listen…and I wait. I wait for God to speak. I wait for God to act. I wait to discern God’s presence in a particular situation, so that I can respond appropriately. Part of what makes waiting on God challenging is that God and I operate under very different timelines and with very different perspectives. I have the human limitations of time and space while God sees the big picture along an eternal continuum.
That’s why the prophets are quick to say that for people of faith, our waiting is always a hopeful waiting. We realize that what we see is not all there is; that the suffering of this present moment is not the be all, end all. It is not defining. It is not forever. The prophets are not diminishing our pain, as if it is of little consequence. Instead, they are grounding us in a reality that is bigger than our suffering. They are reminding us that because God, not the trials and pain of this life, will have the final word over us, there is always reason for hope.
Is there an area in your life in which you are waiting on God? Remember the words of the minor prophet Habakkuk: “For there is still a vision for the appointed time…if it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” And in the meantime, while we are waiting for the vision, the word, the answer to arrive, Habakkuk reminds us that “the righteous live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:3, 4). In other words, keep trusting, keep praying, keep walking. Keep doing the next right thing, knowing with certainty that God is actively working out God’s good and redemptive purposes in your life.
Yours for the Kingdom,