“Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy. Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves” (Psalm 126:5-6).
The words of the Psalmist haunted me for months, yet I couldn’t determine what they meant for me. I had just completed a new manuscript on the topic of waiting, and the verse seemed to describe eloquently, succinctly what I had done in 40,000 words: We wait for God in a place between hope and fear.
Sometimes God operates oddly in our lives—like the time I tried desperately to obtain a job in my field of study, school counseling, only to realize after several rejections that I was going to have a baby. And that baby, Felicity, needed me to be home with her, as did Sarah, who followed. But while I waited, interview after interview, I couldn’t understand why God had led me to study school counseling with such rigor and seeming success only to leave me dangling by a thread on nothing but an inkling that this might be the right direction.
So many of us linger in that space between hope and fear, don’t we? I consider the friend who asked for prayer as she waited those seven long days to find out if she had cancer … or the man whose daughter went missing in a Montana avalanche. We hurry and scurry, not wanting to be a bother to those around us. And we get the impression everywhere we go that time’s a luxury most cannot afford to lose.
When God asks us to wait, as He often does for undisclosed reasons, He’s sending us this message: already but not yet. We have already begun the often long and painful journey into desert waiting, but we wait for what has not yet been completed. I think of the verse above when I am stuck in what seems like a never-ending holding pattern, and I hate it. I think, too, of all those who are waiting for something they may fear, like cancer, or discovering their spouse has filed for divorce.
Waiting looks nothing like this in my life, at least not yet. But I do know what it is like to sit in a waiting room—or several—time and again as my young daughter is whisked away for life-altering surgery. I often hurry up to the appointment in order to secure our slot, only to wait while filling out paperwork and wait some more to be called back into the exam room and then wait again for tests or test results and the conversation that ensues.
In every case, waiting stretches us, because we must enter into that space where we are uncertain if God will deliver us from fear to hope. We are challenged to trust a God who seems so distant at times, and that means we have to believe that waiting itself has something wise to impart on us.
The truth is, the completion never arrives until we meet God at the moment of death. In that moment, we come face to face with the fullness of why we had to wait and for what we waited. Then we move from fear to hope and from the not yet to “the one who has begun a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Text (c) Jeannie Ewing 2017, all rights reserved.