It all started at Christmas.
My husband and I were in church and the pastor shared how King Ahaz was told, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
You might recognize that passage because a lot of churches use it and then quickly read the passages about how the virgin did conceive and did give birth to a Son and he was called Immanuel. All neat and tidy. Thanks for keeping your promise, God.
Except . . . from the moment God gave Ahaz a sign to the time when Jesus was actually born was a little over seven hundred years. Whoa.
My husband leaned over and said, “I don’t want to wait that long.”
I laughed. You see, we had been praying about something for quite a while, and neither one of us were in the mood to wait seven hundred years for God to act.
Since then, though, as I read my Bible, I see all the ways that those people (real, actual people) had to wait too. While I can read a section of the Bible in minutes, it actually sums up days, months, years, decades, or centuries.
In the book of Ruth, Naomi and her husband needed work and food, so they left home and while living someplace else, her husband died. Their sons got married, and then both those men died. One daughter-in-law, Ruth, decided to leave everything to move back “home” with Naomi. They faced a dangerous trek and had no idea how they would get enough food to eat. (Are you surprised that Naomi called herself “bitter”?) By the end of the book though, (years later) Ruth met a man named Boaz who provided for them; she proposed to him; they got married and had a son—who was one of Jesus’ ancestors. Their story spanned years. My coffee didn’t even get cold while I read all of that.
Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and was in there for three days. He had NO idea he’d get spit out, so those were three long days of thinking this was a horrible way to die.
A man named Zechariah doubted when an angel told him he and his wife would have a baby. (They were old.) The angel told him he wouldn’t be able to speak until the baby was born. By the time Zechariah got back home, made love to his wife, and she got pregnant and gave birth, it was probably close to ten months. Ten months of not being able to speak. (I don’t think I’d make it!)
Just as those people didn’t really know how their lives would turn out, we don’t either. I have no idea what God has prepared for me in this world, and neither do you. That’s why we need the reminder that we aren’t alone while we wait. God is with us. (That’s what the name Immanuel means.)
Still, waiting for God to act doesn’t mean sitting around and doing nothing, it means we serve, we exercise our faith, and we watch our words while we wait. It means we let people know that waiting is hard but that our God is faithful. It means telling people that we don’t simply trust our God in good times and when things work out the way we want them to but that we trust God’s plan even when it’s hard.
Oh, and the beauty of God’s plan is that while we might not know how the next few years will turn out, because Jesus is Immanuel who lived for us and paid for our sins, we know God’s eternal plan includes taking us home to heaven, where there will be no more waiting.
P.S. This is my last resolution-related blog this month. I would love to hear what your resolutions were this month and how you’re doing.
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who is learning to see how God is working while she waits.