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
Waiting. . . .
How much of our lives is spent waiting?
Waiting for people and things, for conflicts/wars to end, endemics to pass, and things to return to “normal”.
When we were young, we waited to fall in love, for SAT scores and college acceptance letters to be delivered. We waited for the magical day when we turned 21, for the day of our engagement, for our wedding day, for the impending birth of children.
As adults, if we tend to arrive early to appointments, we waited for friends to arrive, clients to arrive. We have waited in traffic, and for doctors to see us. We have waited for our children to return home from a date or from college. We have waited for them to become engaged and then married and to give us grandchildren.
As we age, we wait again for test results from MRIs and biopsies, and whether a treatment will work.
These times of waiting can produce anxiety that cripples us, taking away our creativity, vibrancy, and joy.
Or they can be occasions to encounter “the peace of God which passes all understanding.” It is a matter of focus really. In times of high angst, the Apostle Paul invites us “to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication to make your requests known to God,” which then sets us free to experience this peace that passes understanding so that our hearts and minds are guarded and transformed. If we focus on fear of what might be, or long for resolution to come immediately, our times of waiting will fill us with stomach-tightening anxiety. What times of anxiety most assuredly make clear if we are paying attention, is that we do not really have control over our lives or the lives of those around us.
Indeed, our times are in God’s hands.
When the disciples had witnessed the Ascension of Jesus, the Scripture says, they returned to Jerusalem singing hymns of praise. For ten more days they waited without Jesus present, and they praised God. This is an interesting strategy to use when waiting. Having heard Jesus’ command and call, they trust him this time and their waiting becomes hope filled.
In order to be hopeful we have to know a few things:
God’s promises are trustworthy, worth re-ordering our lives to embrace and follow.
It is God who oversees human history; past, present, and future and yet he is concerned about small details about us as well (like how many hairs we have on our heads at any given moment).
God loves us so much that he has given himself for us, why then would God place us in a circumstance that he and we cannot bear together?
God has surrounded us with a faith community (made up of those from every language, nation, family, and people) in which we bear one another’s anxiety and fear through our prayers of healing and our witness to each other of God’s faithfulness to each of us in such times.
Individually and corporately, we have a history with God. If we have kept prayer journals we have evidence that God answers our prayers. Those of us who are older, know that God guides the faithful in major decisions of life and helps us choose what is best for us.
Our anxiety cannot change the thing we fear, but peaceful, God-centered waiting can transform us and those we touch as we wait in prayerfulness. Waiting filled with praise and prayer and remembrance of “God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come” can bring us to peace-filled times, even in the midst of chaos in the world around us, that leave us free to heal those around us. And on those occasions when we are truly overwhelmed, we have a community of faith to surround us and mediate Christ and peace to us.