|FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- When I was about 8 years old, my family had a bunch of people over for a pool party. I was so excited to jump in with the crowd until my parents told me that since I'd just gotten over being sick, I'd have to sit this party out.
I was disappointed, to say the least. I had my very fashionable goggles and was ready to go, only to find out that "for my good" I would have to sit on the sidelines, by myself, when everyone else was having a party. To my 8-year-old social life, this was devastating. All the people were there, the pool was right there -- all I had to do was jump in! I was supremely bummed.
But later, as I was sulking on the porch, my parents surprised me with the reason for the restriction: In just a few days I'd be getting on a plane and traveling 3,000 miles to see my favorite childhood friends. My little 3rd grade heart was elated. All of sudden I didn't feel so left out. Another sniffling nose or ear ache would have made for a rather miserable trip. Then I realized that what seemed like a joy-stealing restriction was actually a preparation. Once I realized what was coming, I didn't mind temporarily sitting off to the side.
While the days of pool parties may have passed, there are still times when it seems like I'm sitting on the sidelines, waiting for some divine revelation to make sense of all the "whys." Maybe you've been there too, asking God: Where do I go from here? What's the next step? Is this ever going to change?
Sometimes we feel stuck waiting for the answer. Or, perhaps we've convinced ourselves that we have the answer, but God doesn't seem to be on the same page. The solution is seemingly right there -- you could just jump in! But, for whatever reason, you've been given what seems like a joy-stealing restriction or another closed door and you're left wondering whether God really is the caring, involved Father that He says He is.
But learning to wait on the Lord seems to be an unavoidable aspect of the Christian walk. Miles Stanford said, "God does not hurry in His development of our Christian life. He is working from and for eternity! So many feel they are not making progress unless they are swiftly and constantly forging ahead" (Principles of Spiritual Growth). If the pace of our lives is in His hands, then even our seasons of silence are for a purpose that goes way beyond our current circumstance.
In fact, one biblical woman shows us that how we wait for God is just as important as what we're waiting for Him to do. Hannah had wanted just one thing from the Lord -- a son. After enduring years of being reproached in her society, ridiculed by the child-bearing second wife, and perhaps feeling forgotten by God, she pleaded with the Lord: "O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life" (1 Samuel 1:11). She prayed, wept and poured out her soul. Then, without any guarantee that the Lord would even fulfill her longing, Hannah got up and "her face was no longer sad" (verse 16). She trusted the heart of God even before she knew His answer. She had surrendered herself to whatever He had in store.
But what's even more striking about Hannah's request was her focus. In the deepest cry of her heart, her focus was still not on her own happiness. She had already determined that, should God give her the one blessing she wanted, she wouldn't hold onto it for herself. Hannah vowed that if the Lord gave her a son -- the one thing in this life that she wanted -- she would give that son back to the Lord, dedicating him to His service.
Perhaps we can learn something from this woman in waiting. Hannah surrendered to trusting the will and timing of God, even if it meant giving back the very blessing she'd hoped for all these years. God did give Hannah a son (1 Samuel 1:20), and Hannah gave her son back to God (1 Samuel 1:28). It was only when she determined to give God glory in whatever He chose to give her that she was finally blessed with it. Continued...