If you are anything like me, a total type-A impatient personality, waiting on anything will just drive you up the wall! I definitely want instant gratification and instant results with any project I pour my talent and time into. But, more often than not, life is a waiting game. You’d think after 25 years of having to wait on the best things in life, that I would have finally accepted the fact that patience pays off. I still, however, absolutely hate having to wait. Whether it’s waiting on a friend to text me back, waiting on the traffic light to turn green or waiting for the weekend, I’m always pushing for time to hurry up.
I’ve mentioned before (and I’m sure you’ll hear it many times again) that I’m reading through the Bible this year. As one of my lovely readers, Katie, commented, “there are so many hidden gems in the Old Testament!” And I’m discovering that more and more each day! I’m constantly amazed at the way God can take a book written thousands of years ago, and make it apply to my present day life. He’s amazing.
So about being impatient…One story in the Old Testament has taught me a lot about this week waiting.
In Genesis 12, we meet a man named Abram. (God later changes his name to Abraham, so that’s what we will call him). God makes a promise to Abraham in chapter 12 verse 1, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Abraham trusts the Lord in faith, he packs his bags and he and his wife, Sarah, move to the land of Canaan. Here God tells them, “To your offspring I will give this land.” The only problem: Abraham and Sarah have no children. But, they are young and it’s not a big deal at this point. Life goes on.
Time passe; the family grows older. Abraham grows curious with this whole “promise to your offspring” deal God’s made him. In Genesis 15, Abraham starts to ask questions. “But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.'” You see Abraham and Sarah’s legacy and all of their estate will be given away at their passing, because they do not have a child to inherit it.
God speaks gentle words to Abraham and assures Abraham it’s all going to be okay. “The word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” This puts Abraham at ease for the time being. “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
Time passes (I’m not sure exactly how much), and in the next chapter, we find the couple growing anxious once again. “Now Sarah, Abraham’s wife, had borne him no children.” I don’t blame them for starting to get concerned.
So Sarah comes up with this brilliant idea to fulfill God’s promise that the family would have offspring. (It’s funny how we think that we are so much smarter than the God of the universe sometimes.) God wasn’t moving fast enough for the couple, so why not entertain other ideas. “Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant (Hagar); it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’” (That’s not exactly the type of other ideas I would entertain. But, I told you we were funny to think we are smarter than God.) And silly Abraham, “listened to the voice of Sarah.”
Abraham sleeps with Hagar, Hagar is pregnant and has a son (Ismael) and Sarah gets extremely jealous and angry. (Never saw that one coming…)
To give some context to timing of these events: “Abraham was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abraham.”
As crazy as Sarah’s idea was, when your husband is 86 years old and you haven’t had a baby together, chances are starting to look extremely thin. I’d say she had reason to fret. Yet, she had forgotten, and I too often forget that, “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
The next mention of Abraham is when he is 99 years old! That’s a 13 year jump. Ismael would be 13 years old. And Sarah still has not bore a child.
God reminds Abraham once again in Genesis 17, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations…I will bless [Sarah], and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Abraham is almost 100, and God continues to stand firm on his promise that Sarah and Abraham will have a baby. I don’t know about you, but I think my reaction would be much like Abraham’s. “Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’”
At their ages, God’s promise seemed physically impossible. Yet God hadn’t forgotten his promise. He told Abraham in Genesis 18, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” Sarah heard this remark and her reaction was similar to that of Abraham. “So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure.'” God then makes a very profound statement that reveals so much about his character, “For I have chosen [Abraham], that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
God was going to bring to Abraham what he had promised. And he did! In Genesis 21, “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.”
We know for certain that God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah was not fulfilled as they expected or when they expected. The couple grew so impatient with God that they devised their own plan (allowing Hagar to birth Ismael), which made a mess of things. Thirteen years after Ismael’s birth, it seemed Abraham and Sarah had merely given up on the promise of God, believing God would never deliver a child to them. I can’t begin to imagine the pain and sorrow felt by Abraham and Sarah as they waited on the Lord. They had been promised a baby, yet they felt as if God had forgotten them. As years and years went by, I’m sure they doubted whether if they’d even heard from God in the first place. I’m sure they questioned their desires, their motives, God’s faithfulness, possibly even God’s existence.
I say these things, because this is how I react when I don’t feel that God has fulfilled that which he has promised me. I question my own actions. I doubt that I actually heard God speak to my heart. I wonder whether I’ve missed “God’s will.” I try to figure out what it is that I have done wrong to prevent God from coming through for me. My heart aches because I feel that God has forgotten me. Maybe I’m not the person he wanted me to be. Maybe he isn’t the God I thought he was. Maybe he isn’t in control of my life after all. Maybe he doesn’t have plans for me. Maybe…he isn’t really God.
Yes, I’ve been in that place before. Questioning and doubting. Feeling hopeless and empty. But, it’s stories like this, of Abraham and Sarah, that remind me that God doesn’t work on my schedule. God doesn’t do things the way I do them. God isn’t limited by the physical and emotional and mental boundaries I face.
Who am I to question the Lord of all creation and doubt that he will fulfill his promises!? Because he always does and he always will. Just as he did for Abraham and Sarah.