By: Samantha Edwards
Psalm 27:13-14 “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (NIV).
All of us can agree that we have felt the agony of waiting. Whether it is waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for your food to come at a restaurant, waiting to see your grades once the semester is over, or simply waiting on someone to text you back. It is something we all have in common; everybody has waited for something at some point in their life. According to a Timex Survey, humans spend approximately 6 months waiting in line, 43 days waiting on hold for customer service and those who use public transportation wait approximately 27 days at the bus stop. That is a lot of time!
With modern technology, waiting has become harder because everything is designed to make our lives easier. With microwaves cooking food in minutes it is hard to wait hours for dinner to be ready. If we don’t know something, we google it on our smart phone or ask Siri and have the answer in seconds. We do not have to go to the library and search for the answer in books for hours anymore. With the convenience of modern technology, it has resulted in an impatient culture. We want everything now and no longer value the waiting period, even though we all know a meal slow roasted in the oven tastes much better than something that is cooked in the microwave in minutes. We lose quality with convenience.
In our Christian walk we often want the best of both worlds; we want God’s plan for our lives, but we want it right now. We know from countless examples in the Bible that God does not work like that. He is VERY patient! According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary waiting is defined as, “to remain stationary in readiness or expectation.” It defines patient as, “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint, and not hasty.” Waiting is the delay but patience is tolerating that delay without complaint. As Christians we must learn to be patient in the waiting and know that God is working, even if we cannot see it.
In the Creation story in Genesis 1, God created everything in 6 days and rested on the 7th. He did this not because He needed a break, not because He could only do one thing at a time, He did it this way to reveal His character to us. Everything has a beginning and an end and there is a process to it all, this is God’s way. He is able to work instantaneously, but He chooses not to because He cares about the journey, not just the destination; He values the waiting period.
Genesis 15:4-5 “Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be’” (NIV). The LORD promised Abram a son. We see in Genesis 16:1-4 that Abram and Sarai had waited 10 years for this promise to be fulfilled.
There is tension in the space between when God promises something and when that promise is fulfilled. The waiting period is a difficult place to be in because we cannot see what God is doing. When we can’t see it, it seems as though He is doing nothing at all. During this time period the one thing society viewed as necessary for a woman to be successful was to have children. It was her responsibility to provide children to her husband so that their line would continue; if she didn’t society viewed her as a failure. If the husband died first it was the children’s responsibility to take care of their widowed mother. If a woman was barren, it was a frightening reality for her future. Abram received a promise from God that he would not only have a son, but that through this son a great nation would be formed. That is a lot of pressure on Sarai. Every day that passed she felt as though she was letting Abram down and she was letting God down because she was an important piece of this promise. It was up to her to conceive.
Genesis 16:2 says, “so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai said” (NIV). Sarai acknowledged the LORD in the verse, that she was not responsible for having children by herself but it was the LORD who gives children, but she stopped there. She never sought God about how He was going to accomplish His plan for Abram and for her. In her brokenness, she decided to take matters into her own hands and accomplish God’s will her own way. Many of us can relate to this: if we don’t see God’s plan for our lives happening on our timeline, we take the reigns and decide to help Him out. But God does not need any help. He is working a plan, even if we can’t see what He is doing and even if we don’t understand why He is making us wait so long. At the end of the verse it says, “…Abram agreed to what Sarai said.” He trusted his wife so he listened to her, but he too was at fault because he did not seek counsel from the LORD.
Sarai told Abram to sleep with her slave Hagar so that she would produce an heir. This may seem very strange to us today, but this was a very common practice in Abram’s time. If the matriarch was barren, she would give her husband her slave so he could produce an heir through her and she would become a second wife. If the husband gets the slave pregnant the first wife would take the child and claim it and raise it as her own. Geneses 16:4 “And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress” (ESV). The Hebrew phrase to look with contempt literally means: to become small. Hagar looked down upon Sarai.
In Genesis 16:5 it says, “And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!” Sarai was mad at Abram for listening to her plan! When we try to do God’s plan our way it never works out. His plan is the best way and anything else is going to cause problems later on. Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV).
The problem with Sarai and Hagar is they allowed society to give them their identity and not God. Sarai thought she was nothing because she was barren, Hagar thought she was everything because she was able to conceive. We cannot let the broken world that we live in dictate our value. Misplaced identity can be detrimental. Sarai was not rejoicing in the fact that Abram finally had an heir because the child didn’t come through her body. So she viewed herself as a failure, and the child reminded her of that. If we try to find our identity in anything apart from being rooted in God, we will be miserable. God will strip away anything in your life that is unnecessary and a distraction until you plant your roots firmly down deep in God. When that happens, you can be barren and rejoice. Isaiah 54:1 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord” (ESV).
It wasn’t until Genesis 21:1-2 when Sarah finally conceived a child. Abraham was 100 years old when God’s promise was finally fulfilled, and he waited 24 years for it to happen! God is patient; He is not in a hurry. He is going to do things in His timing, in His way. All we have to do is wait patiently.