It’s been 22 days since I posted my last blog and although I only intended to write when I felt I actually had something to say, 22 days still feels like a long time! The reason for the delay has been the feeling that my head wasn’t in the right place to say anything to anyone about anything! For the past 22 days I have been really struggling with…waiting…
Now, the thing that I’m waiting and praying for has actually been on the cards for the past few years so this hasn’t exactly been a short term thing. Ironically, I am closer than I have ever been to having my prayers answered and yet as the day drawers nearer the frustration increases. So, I made the decision to wait and write something when all the loose ends were tied up and I could share with you how I had navigated the frustration of unanswered prayer through a demonstration of unswerving faith, sheer grit and determination!
Unfortunately, I am still waiting…
Last Christmas my son wanted the Death Star to add to his Lego Star Wars collection. He started asking for the Lego Death Star in August! He mentioned it constantly and showed me its availability in a wide range of stores. He gave me lots of possible options about how the item could be purchased, and regularly pointed out that it was popular and that shops would probably run out if I didn’t order it as soon as possible. Early November a large package arrived, was wrapped in Disney Frozen paper and put underneath my son’s bed. I managed, quite easily, to convince him that the large present sat under his bed belonged to his little sister! Throughout November and December he continually reminded me that the Death Star was the only thing that would make his life complete and continued to give me handy hints about alternative places I could look if I was struggling to get hold of one. I can still remember the look on his face on Christmas morning when the penny dropped that his treasured Death Star had been right under his nose (or his bed) all along. You see, deep down he knew that I would do everything I could to make his Christmas wish come true. He also knew that if I hadn’t have got the Death Star for him then there would have been a really good reason. He knows that I love him and I wouldn’t do anything to purposefully cause him any harm or upset. However, that didn't take away the feelings of frustration he had in the run up to Christmas.
At some point in our lives, we have all experienced waiting. Today’s blog is my attempt to write something honest about what waiting feels like. I don’t mean ‘when it’s all over, everything’s neat and tidy and the waiting is all done’. I’m talking about being right in the thick of it when the outcome is still uncertain.
Openly expressing a frustration as you wait for a prayer to be answered can often be interpreted as a lack of faith. I think, in our churches, we can sometimes be guilty of shutting people down when they express their frustrations about waiting. There are times when we don’t know why prayers aren’t being answered; God’s timing, however “perfect” it may be, just doesn’t always match with our own. In reality, as I wait for my spiritual equivalent of the Lego Death Star, I find myself in a similar position to my twelve-year-old son. No one needs to remind me that God is good, or that he has my best interests at heart, and I don’t believe that my frustration demonstrates a lack of belief that God is faithful. It’s just a sign that I’m a work in progress. My heavenly Father knows that I love and trust Him, but He also knows that I still have so much to learn.
When I’m struggling with something spiritually I tend to hunt for a Bible character that either demonstrates what to do (or what not to do) in the situation I’m facing. When it comes to waiting there are plenty to choose from. Abraham was 100 when Isaac finally came on the scene. Joseph spent years in prison after being mistreated by his family. Daniel, having lived for years in exile, finally had his prayers answered when Cyrus gave the Jews permission to return to Jerusalem (but didn’t get to go himself!) As my scripture search continued, and with the season of advent just beginning, Simeon came to mind. We don’t generally get to hear much about his story and its all done and dusted within 10 verses. However, Simeon has a lot to teach us about waiting. The story takes place just after Jesus was born.
Luke 2:25-35 (MSG)
In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:
God, you can now release your servant;
release me in peace as you promised.
With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;
it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:
A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
and of glory for your people Israel
Jesus’ father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words. Simeon went on to bless them, and said to Mary his mother,
This child marks both the failure and
the recovery of many in Israel,
A figure misunderstood and contradicted—
the pain of a sword-thrust through you—
But the rejection will force honesty,
as God reveals who they really are.
When Simeon took Jesus in his arms he praised God saying, “God, you can now release your servant.” In the New Living Translation is says, “let your servant die in peace.” Now, I’m not one for reading meanings into things that aren’t there, but asking to die in peace would suggest that there had at least been some moments where waiting to meet Jesus had caused Simeon some frustration and unrest. Where I differ from Simeon is that, rather than waiting with “prayerful expectancy”, I have spent much of the last 3 years waiting with indifference. At times I have even stopped praying about the thing I am waiting for as “what’s the point if God is just going to do it in His own time?” I know that I am not alone in this as I have had clandestine discussions with other waiting Christians who have confessed the same thing. In recent weeks my indifference has turned to frustration and that has been a lot more difficult to hide. I now find myself looking to Simeon for a better way.
Simeon was a “good man” and lived his life in a way that honoured God.
While we are waiting, in what ways are we continuing to seek, know and worship God?
Simeon was “living in prayerful expectancy”, not prayerful indifference.
While we are waiting, are we calling out to God with an expectation and hope that our prayers will be answered?
Simeon was “led by the Spirit”.
While we are waiting, are we trying to lead ourselves or are we seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
After all the waiting was over, Simeon’s prayers were answered in the ultimate Christmas Gift of Jesus.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
So, for those who are waiting just like me, then let us wait with hope and expectancy that the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace is listening to our prayers.