In his classic work, Waiting on God, Andrew Murray says that waiting “gives a higher value and a new power to our prayer and worship” because it links us to God and gives us the “unbroken enjoyment” of his goodness.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would ever put “waiting” in the same sentence as “unbroken enjoyment.” Not even on the same page. But thanks to one of those cosmic collisions that happens between life and learning, I am starting to believe that Murray might be on to something.
The “life” part of the collision is an unsettling mix of unmet longings and disappointing circumstances, the things I see and experience in the lives of those I hold dear. The dating relationship that was “supposed” to lead to marriage but didn’t. The promotion at work that never materialized. The deal that has not yet closed. The “deferred” notice on the med school application. The gap between homesick and happy for college students. The desire to have a baby (and the heartache that grows with each negative pregnancy test).
Those are the unexpected outcomes – and the unanswered prayers – that can make a person wonder about verses like Isaiah 49:23, which is where God says, “Those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
The “learning” part is the light that is piercing the darkness. Thanks to resources like Murray’s book, as well as a Bible study I am doing right now on the Psalms (click here to see the teachings offered through Galilee Church), I’m cobbling together an understanding of verses like Proverbs 13:12 (“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”), and I want to invite you to join me.
Over the next three weeks, I am going to write about what happens when hope is deferred:
What are we supposed to do when our prayers are not answered in the way that we expect – or when they seem to be not answered at all?
How can we handle the grief, or the anger, that can slip in through the door of disillusionment and wrap itself around our hearts?
Is the “unbroken enjoyment of God’s goodness” really an option for believers today? And if so, how do we get there?
Waiting is hard. Murray says that the word patience is actually derived from the Latin word for suffering. That, unfortunately, makes sense. And it might explain why the Bible offers this little pump-up nugget: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage” (Psalm 27:14 ESV).
“Be strong and take courage” are words you might expect to hear at the outset of some adventure, some challenging or difficult enterprise that will tap (and maybe even exhaust) your deepest reserves. And if you don’t want to slog through that mire with me, I get it. Just check back in December, when I promise to post something more fun (an update, perhaps, to the Posture Brace or maybe even the Christmas Sweater).
But if you want to come along for the ride, I’ll leave you with the promise of good things to come: A rescue, a firm footing, and a new song:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3)
And PS, for those who might want their own copy of Waiting on God: You can download the 1896 version for FREE by clicking here, or order the updated version ($5.99, and with language that is easier to follow but still needs maybe a 600 on the SAT Verbal) here.