Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Good News for Those Who Wait
It’s Monday. I’m up before dark to start my work week. But it’s not just dark outside. My first thoughts are fearful, pessimistic.
At least I slept, but did my daughter get any sleep? My youngest child, now an adult, has been going through a severe and sustained trial of insomnia. The agony of waiting for God to answer prayer is bad enough when it’s for you, but far worse when it’s for your child.
How long, O Lord? I know I’m not the only parent voicing that cry today. There’s the infant who nearly died in a tragic accidental strangulation, whose mom and dad are pleading for his brain to be healed. There’s the daughter whose platelet count dropped dangerously low without warning, whose parents are praying and seeking solutions through every avenue available to them.
The reason I opened my Bible this morning was to hear some good news before the sun comes up. Before I have to face another day of waiting.
I didn’t have to search far. As I opened to the first page of my new Bible study, Promises Kept, these verses leaped off the page. Paul is speaking:
And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus… Acts 13:32-33
What God promised…he has fulfilled. What God promised…he has fulfilled. What God promised…he has fulfilled in Christ. Those words bear repeating because they will help us hang onto hope as we wait for him to answer our prayers. Here are three ways the good news can be stated:
1. With God there are no empty promises.
God takes his words very seriously. After all, he created simply by speaking a word. His words are powerful, enacting his will. So when he speaks a word of promise, it’s as good as done. The only element left is timing.
Take Abraham for instance. The promise Paul is referring to was given to Abraham when he was 75. God promised to bless Abraham personally and then the whole world through him. The first step in that promise was for Abraham to bear a child. Ten years passed. No child. God didn’t need to repeat his promise because he meant it the first time. But he did reassure Abraham that he meant exactly what he said. Fourteen more years passed before the child was born.
There are two ways to look at the lag time. One is that it’s discouraging for us. The other is that God really means what he says.
2. With God there are no unheard prayers.
God takes the prayers of his people very seriously. One reason Paul’s announcement was such good news to the Jews of that city is that it was the answer to centuries of prayer. They knew exactly what Paul was referring to because they had prayed those promises and watched for their fulfillment.
I’m often amazed that God takes my prayers more seriously than I do. There have been times I prayed earnestly for a need, and then for whatever reason, I got distracted and forgot that I had prayed it. When the answer came, I was surprised. Then he reminded me, well, you did pray for this didn’t you? Amazing.
The God who treasures the prayers of his people answers them, whether the timing is weeks or years or centuries.
3. With God the answer is greater than we expected.
Abraham was looking for an heir to be born to him and Sarah in the usual way. He didn’t expect a supernatural conception between two who were way past child-bearing age. That’s because they didn’t know how much bigger God’s plan was than theirs.
The Jews of Paul’s day were looking for a warrior Messiah who would deliver them from the Romans. They didn’t expect a weeping Messiah who would be tortured and executed as a criminal. That’s because they didn’t realize how much they needed to be saved from themselves, not just from the Romans.
When I prayed for my son to get into medical school, I was simply looking for an open door so he could get on with his career plans. I didn’t expect the agony of four years of “no” before a last minute yes. That’s because I didn’t realize God was more interested in transforming him into the kind of doctor he would become, than just making him an MD.
So I continue to pray and wait. Christ has risen, surely the answer to my prayers is coming. In the meantime,
There is a mystery of care parallel to the mystery of suffering.
God’s timing is mysterious, but his faithfulness–even while we wait– is real.