It's better than waiting...
If I could identify one metaphor of the times it would be a waiting room. Most of us have been there and done that, and have observed the anxious metrics of impatient people. Whether in the car or the doctors office or the airline terminal or the elevator or the water fountain or the computer, we don't like to wait. There are already ten emoticons for waiting and there will be more when a creative techie can depict punching computer keys or elevator buttons, nervous twitching and body language, someone scrolling through a magazine, or stomping out of a restaurant. People on the clock don't like to wait.
Then there are the misconceptions about waiting on God. The Scriptures are a tutorial in the timing of God and human resistance to his schedule. Usually we bring a calendar and stop-watch to our expectation of his delivery system regardless of the venue. Some things in life have a unpredictable play time. Even being aware of it we're usually on the fast-forward icon ready to move things along. Along the road of Christian maturity we'll eventually learn that patience is a fruit of the spirit that should grow in us. Later, we learn the hard knocks of endurance, usually in one of those dark nights of the soul we hear about so often.
The night we learned about Brian's murder, July 18, 2011, began a correspondence course in God's timing. Two Bible verses came to Harriet and me that have been our guides through the maze of personal grief. Yes, we had studied the predictable grief process and had guided many people through it. We had even experienced it in the deaths of Harriet's mother and father, and my mother. But, here, in the death of our child, we were in pioneer territory. The lessons here were profound. They were engrained in the two verses given that night---
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in
1 Peter 5:6, NIV
But he gives us more grace.
Cut to the chase. What in the world does the term "due time" mean? Other translations read "right time", "proper time", "good time", "appointed time", and the "time of his visitation". It became a critical piece of our grief course, the timing of the whole thing. When would God lift us out of this dreaded cycle of grief?
Our learning about this has been liberating. The truth is, we don't know the time. It isn't how we define it anyway because it's his time. He will define it. We must humble ourselves under his mighty hand till then. As mentioned earlier this week, that means coming to him empty handed, in this context, without a calendar or stop watch.
But, the most valued lesson is about waiting till then. So, I studied the primary word translated "wait" in the New Testament. It's a big one---apekdechomai (Strong's g0553). The HCHB translators rendered it to "eagerly wait". This great word didn't depict a waiting room of fretting people. Check it out---
But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. Romans 8:25, HCSB
...so that you do not lack any spiritual gifts as you eagerly wait for the revelation
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:7
Also at 1 Corinthians 11:33, Galatians 5:5, Philippians 3:20, and many others.
The word means to anticipate. For us it has transformed our waiting to the upward look of full expectation that his promise will come at any time. So, it is no longer drudgery, this anticipation. This expectancy isn't surrounded by question marks or preceded by the doubtful uncertainty of "if". It isn't anxious or fretful or tentative. Like the New Testament era believers expecting his imminent return, we have been carried along by this promise that it will happen.
1 Thessalonians is an Epistle about that day, the day of the Lord. It is encouragement for saints who were experiencing great persecution. Paul wrote it to encourage hope in the anticipation of his coming. There weren't many details since no one knows. But, his words gave them confidence that it would happen. A favorite Bible promise was included in the final paragraph---
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV
Paul was teaching them the grace of anticipation. It's one of the lessons of the "what do I get out of this?" question that has bracketed our grief. It's the simple act of believing what he said without having all the details. It means looking up with a tear in our eye. It is anticipating his promise.
And, it's better than waiting.