As I write this I am waiting.
I’m waiting for a representative from one of our local pest control companies to come by and address our “ants in the pantry issue.” I was told we were first appointment and that he would be here by 8:30. Nope. Nothing. Still waiting.
And I’ve been waiting longer than just this morning, too. The ants actually revealed themselves in their horrible, icky little ant way last Saturday. That’s upsetting, isn’t it? You’re hungry. You open the pantry to see what deliciousness you might find there waiting for you, only to discover that someone else… many “someone elses”… have beat you to all the food! Bagillions of tiny little someones… with teensy little feet and creepy little bodies.
So, of course I called the bug company as soon as I could begging them to, “Please come quick! We have a crisis over here!” But my cries of desperation seemed to land with much less urgency in the ears of the receptionist than I had hoped. “Well, the earliest we can have someone there is Tuesday.”
Ugh. Tuesday? “Sorry kids, you cannot eat in or use the kitchen right now. The ants are currently taking up residence in the pantry so we’ve had to move out. It’s too gross. But it’s only until Tuesday. That’s 1…2…3… 3 days. No big deal. We can do this.”
Long story less long, the bug man never came on Tuesday. So we rescheduled to today. “First appointment.”
I suppose we could do like they did in the movie “Ant Man” and make them our pets. Maybe we’ll learn to love them. Maybe we’ll like living with ants. I mean, if this relationship is going to go on forever, we might as well learn to get along, am-i-right?
Okay, yes, I’m being a little overly dramatic… (or am I). But here’s the point:
Waiting can be tough. Especially when the current situation is not the ideal one. And if the waiting goes on for very long, you can begin to lose hope that your circumstances will ever change.
The prophet Malachi was the last of the Old Testament writing prophets. He wrote during a time when many of God’s people were discouraged. Times were hard. They were experiencing drought and famine, causing them to wonder if God really cared for them. The walls of Jerusalem and the temple had been rebuilt, but the wicked seemed to prosper while those who were faithful to God did not. On top of it all, the kingdom they were expecting had not yet come, and they wondered if it ever would.
It was into this environment that Malachi spoke. And through Malachi’s word, God promised that he would be coming saying, “But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness will rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day I will act.”
Great! God is coming! He will make all things right! Good news!
Now they had hope! Now they had something to look forward to… something to keep them going when times were tough. “He’s coming. Things are going to change. We can do this.”
But this word from Malachi was the last word from God through a prophet until John the Baptist came proclaiming that Jesus was that promised Messiah—get this—four-hundred years later.
Four-hundred years, guys.
Four-hundred years is a long time to wait. I’ve been waiting 6 days and I’m about to lose my mind. But the people of God lived for four-hundred years in the tension of an unrealized promise, and they were starting to lose hope that anything would ever change for them.
Maybe you can relate.
Maybe you have experienced or are experiencing a season when things just seem to be going from bad to worse. No efforts you make seem to be helping. You’re stressed out. You’re tired. And it seems like your situation is never going to change. It can be very hard to hold onto hope in times like that.
But, guys… as hard as it may be to hold onto hope… hang in there. Don’t give up in the middle of the tension, because your God is with you. Don’t just wait. Wait with hope.
The book of Lamentations is a book of pain and tears. God’s people were suffering—badly. And in chapter 3, verses 19-20, the writer gives us a window into how deep his pain was.
“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is bitter beyond words. My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.”
His pain was deep. The circumstances severe. His soul was “bowed down.”
But in the very next verse he remembers something.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.”
Listen to me… all of you who are waiting and waiting for something to change…all of you who are beginning to lose hope or who have lost hope:
Your peace and your healing will not be found in a change of circumstances.
Hang with me on this, because this seems counterintuitive.
A change in circumstances is not what will sustain you in the future, nor will it be what forms you. It's not what you need the most. What you need the most is your God. Period. Your peace and your healing are found in Him no matter what your circumstances are. In Him you find everything you need to make it through even the toughest times.
Your God is faithful to give you every ounce of patience you need, every ounce of grace, good humor, creativity or strength required for your present situation. And remember, you are not alone. Even though you may be waiting, God is with you, and He will see you through to the other side. He is your hope.
I think this is why the Apostle Paul could write the following message of hope to the believers in Philippi:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, ‘Rejoice.’ Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:4-7; 19
I know that we all want to be on the other side of the waiting. I really want to be on the other side of waiting for Mr. Bug Man to show up and evict these ants from my kitchen! (He’s still not here, by the way.)
But what if God is there in the waiting, too? What if in that space of unrealized deliverance, God wants to do a work in you that will set you up to truly prosper when the season of waiting is over?
I believe He is able…not only to deliver us from the painful times…but to use those things that tried to end us to make us stronger and more beautiful.
Be patient, friends. Wait with hope. Your God is faithful.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” ~Psalm 43:5
Lord, for any today who are struggling with losing hope, will you reveal yourself to them? Show them where you are working. Show them your faithfulness. Pull back the veil so they can catch a glimpse of your power. Fill their hearts and minds with an understanding of your great love for them. Reassure them that you see them and care for them. Remind them that you will never leave nor forsake those who trust in you. Give them hope that you will see them through to the other side of this trying time. Thank you, Lord, for being good and faithful. We love you. In Jesus name we humbly pray and say, Amen.