What do you reckon is probably the worst thing in the world to hear, either from a stranger or from friends, family and loved ones? You know how last week I explored the theme of having our happiness rooted in something more real than our material possessions? Well let me use everything I wrote in that blog (and use that as the first of a mini-series of sorts!) and expand on some themes for a bit- let’s just say that in a hypothetical scenario, we’ve found Jesus and we’re full of joy and we’re happy. Because we’re living this life on this planet called Earth surrounded by believers and non-believers alike; this world sometimes can trip us up and we need all the resolve we can muster to survive and so that our eternal happiness is maintained. But let me tell you, there is a four-letter word that can turn our happiness upside down and can flip our world view from point A to point Z. it’s a word that can make or break our relationships, beliefs and inner strength, and it’s a word that though on the surface is bad, is actually good, in my opinion. What happens when our happiness comes crashing down when we’re told (by anyone or even ourselves) to wait (for anything), for whatever reason?
Waiting can look like many things for many people. Waiting for the bus, for the train, for your spot on a surgery list, for your pay, for your promotion, for your next meal, for tickets to come online for you to buy for your favourite rock concert, to take your relationship to the next level with your significant other, to see if your favourite show will be renewed for another season or cancelled, to see whether your best friend makes it out alive in an operation, for your life to fall into place before you can do x, y, z; but whatever it is, generally waiting involves negative connotations. We can’t handle hearing the news now about ____, be it job or sickness or friend’s sickness etc, so we’ll have to wait. We’re not at a stage where both of us are ready for physical intimacy so we’ll have to wait. The rival at work apparently is besties with the boss, so now I’ll have to wait for that promotion. Waiting involves grumbling, plodding along from day to day, and sometimes us wishing for the waiting to be over so that ‘our life can begin’ in whatever facet however it looks like.
Waiting can sometimes lead to our happiness being diminished just a bit, can lead to our emotions being thrown around a bit, can lead us to ask God ‘why’ if nothing seems to be happening, and waiting around can sometimes force us to act impulsively and prematurely, with dire consequences. Yet most of the time- or dare I say it, all the time- waiting is needed, is required, for us to grow as people and as Christians. Sometimes God doesn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but rather ‘wait’ in order for us to learn a lesson however long down the road, which we may not see right now at this current moment, but is the best for us when we’re looking back on hindsight. While some of us may think that that is a cop-out statement, that if fact our waiting proves that God is indecisive, taking a hands-off approach; I for one reckon that we are told to wait by God for our own benefit. Because sometimes what we think we need now is actually what we want (which isn’t what God wants). And sometimes what we want isn’t that healthy for us, in more ways than one. What we think we need isn’t what we need at all- and as God is the only One who knows us inside and out- He in fact does know what we need, so when He says ‘wait’, it’s usually for something good.
A child thinks he needs candy and lollies all the time, but he really doesn’t- he can learn to wait and be patient because the lollies aren’t going anywhere. A teenager thinks he needs to spend every waking hour on the weekend in a fierce online video game battle with his friends and with strangers across the globe. He really doesn’t- his friends aren’t going anywhere if they’re true friends and they should be patient if he wants to catch up on his sleep. A mother thinks she needs to but a brave face on and take care of her kids all the time despite her being promised to receive help from many other friends. But she doesn’t have to be brave all the time, and she can wait to be ‘Superwoman’ and instead be patient with herself and her abilities which sometimes may not seen good enough- her kids aren’t going anywhere and will appreciate her all the more when she comes back to them refreshed if she chooses to spend a weekend getaway with her and her husband. And now time for an example that actually happened- Mum wanted her foot to be healed straight away, but God said to wait, and what resulted was Mum rekindling some of her friendships from years and years ago. Waiting in these circumstances can be good, but it takes a while to see the silver lining when we have been conditioned to think that waiting is bad.
There’s a verse in the bible that I’m constantly drawn to- it’s Isaiah 40:31, and it’s always brought me great comfort. It says ‘…but those who hope [wait in some other versions!] in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint…’. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m all for the ‘renewing of the strength’ and ‘soaring on wings like eagles’ and ‘running and not growing weary’ and ‘walking and not be faint’- all of these sound very cool, but what does that actually mean? Does it mean that we can sit at home, say ‘yep God I’m waiting on you, I’m hoping in you’ and expect things to fall into our lap such as great providence and blessing? Does it mean that we need to wait, but only for a little while and then take matters into our own hands if ‘God is too slow’? Nope, and nope. While waiting can be passive and God can and sometimes does move in our lives even if we’re lazing about; the active type of waiting that I think this verse is talking about is more of a doing things not in our own strength but in God’s strength- and also in the same vein and at the same time, we can trust in God and wait on His promises and everything He said He would do while doing our bit. This type of waiting doesn’t need to be a bad thing- we can wait on God and still be alive, and that’s the type of waiting is something we should want to undertake. Even while we’re waiting, we can praise God and seek God, and you never know what He can impart to us in the season of stillness and wondering.
This past week it’s been the premiere week of the 2018 fall broadcast TV season- which means plenty of returning shows and plenty of new shows as well. While there are a few new TV shows that we have seen, and more that we are planning to check out; three of them are shows that we will be continuing to watch on a weekly basis, and these three each have something in common that they’ve each taught me this past week. Manifest, A Million Little Things and God Friended Me debuted a few weeks ago on NBC, ABC and CBS respectively and while on the surface they are all polar opposites (you can read the reviews of the pilot episodes here, here, and here!); a look deeper reveals commonalities. What struck me as interesting was that in each of the three shows, there was personal adversity for at least one character. And at least one character in these three shows (at least in the pilot episode!) subsequently suffered from a loss of faith or had an existential crisis or was a cynic due to said adversity. Each show reminded me that as humans we’re not immune to thinking that waiting for good things to happen in the midst of suffering is just as bad as the suffering itself.
Gary (A Million Little Things) is suffering from breast cancer, and coupled with his friend’s death, is obviously tired of waiting for his life to change as evidenced by his unexpected blowup and tirade with his other friend detailing that his remission isn’t healing, but that it’s only a licence for him to breathe for the next 3 months. Ben (Manifest) is a man of science, logic, reason and explanation, and tirelessly revolved his life around his son Cal who was dying of leukemia. Yet his efforts were futile until time travel meant his son could be cured, however as Ben saw injustice everywhere else, he became angry at God, dumping his grievances to Him without even a chance to respond- he was waiting for a miracle and he got one but others were still waiting. While Miles from God Friended Me became an atheist after his mother died in a car accident. Even after waiting for his mum to beat cancer, the result was still horrific, thus shattering his hopes for something bigger than himself. This is probably where all of the similarities lie and also end, but the point remains- obviously these three characters experienced waiting at its absolute worst, and this isn’t indicative of what waiting looks like for every person, and it’s more than likely that these three characters become better people as the series progress and more adapt at waiting; yet we are still nonetheless reminded that waiting without seeing the bigger picture isn’t the way to live. Also waiting while thinking that we need something now rather than thinking about what we’re asking first, isn’t the way to live either. While waiting on Jesus and waiting for Him to move in our lives and the lives of others, while at the same time living our own life and being active in everything we do; is the way I reckon.
How would we know which things we have to wait for and which things we don’t have to? It’s a bit of a trust thing with God (I will delve more about trust soon on this blog!) but as I go and let you go about your week, let me point out The Afters’ album Life Is Beautiful– a positive inspirational mainstream-style album containing a few songs about waiting- including “Broken Hallelujah” and “Believe (Waiting For An Answer)”. It’s an album full of pop tunes and heartfelt inspirational ballads, and an album that you all need to hear (maybe from start to finish) as we fully understand that waiting is often good and required for us to learn something in the waiting and become better people. So sit back, enjoy and relax as you hear The Afters minister to you. And if you are in a season of waiting, just know that it won’t be forever- and remember that you aren’t alone. All of these heroes in the Bible waited for ‘an eternity’ too inclusive of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel, Jonah, Job, even Jesus!
Until next time guys! Enjoy your week!