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Waiting with Hope, Faith, and Grit

Is there anything more difficult for a child than waiting?  Waiting their turn, waiting for a snack or meal, waiting for their birthday, each seems to take eternity!  Even as we age, waiting remains a difficult task, only we now find ourselves waiting for the job that becomes a meaningful career, the right person to marry, or dreaded--though important--test results.  Often, when we are people of faith, we assign the responsibility to God for slowing our progress in these areas.

We might wonder if there is something wrong that makes God think I'm not ready for a spouse.  Or we get frustrated that our prayer is not answered about career advancement.  We question God about his lack of intervention in natural disasters and human atrocities.  More than anything, we ask, "why God," when we (or those we love) become physically or mentally ill and time moves too slowly as we wait for help and healing.  We join generations who have longed for God to seem nearer in our most difficult and lengthy seasons.
The Bible is full of people like us, also waiting.  Some are waiting on God to change major circumstances for a whole people group while others are waiting for a spouse or a child or to know their purpose or for a healing.  These ancient people cried out to God and proclaimed aloud the scriptures they knew by heart as if reminding God of his own words.  They expressed their anger and disappointment in God; their doubts and their fears live on in their stories and poetry and songs that make up the pages of scripture.  Despite the pain of waiting, these people never lost sight of God.

A few years ago, there was a popular book that proposed the idea that grit is more of a factor in success than talent or intelligence.  The author, Angela Duckworth, essentially says that people with grit are able to stay determined and motivated over long periods of time despite experiences with failure and adversity because they hold onto their "ultimate concern" as a compass to navigate over the long-haul.  Our Biblical examples of waiting were men and women with grit, passion and perseverance rooted in their faith.  They held God as their ultimate concern which gave them purpose, hope, interests and practices (earmarks of gritty people) to help them persevere.

There is a lot more to Duckworth’s book on grit, but these ideas resonate so well with the Biblical biographies of people like Noah, Ruth, Jeremiah, Hannah, Abraham, Esther, Anna, Simeon, and on and on.  In 2020, how do we hold fast to God?  How do we cut through the fog of pandemic and politics to find purpose and hope?  How do we choose interests and practices not motivated by commerce or religion, but rooted in truth and faith?  I think we return to honest conversations with the Lord.

If you think about a garden, it is all about hope and grit.  You take dirt and seed and invest a lot of effort and resources when it all looks like nothing.  You get dirty and sweaty and then you spend a lot of time waiting to see the results, but tending to the garden brings purpose in the waiting.  When we read about our ancient brothers and sisters, we see them in the dirty and sweaty mess and they brought God right into it.  They kept on worshipping and tithing and celebrating even when they could not see God, trusting that amid the thorns of life a rose would one day appear.  David says in Psalm 40:

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…

Too often, in our modern image of Christianity, we believe we can only approach God after we are all cleaned up, only when the bloom is on the rose.  It makes our waiting even more unbearable.  We miss God in the midst of our waiting.  We miss moments with God.  David cries out in the mud, God responds:

…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.

Waiting will always be difficult, but most of the best things in life are hard won.  The discipline of waiting, is to keep pressing into the Lord.  Make it your purpose and practice to keep calling his name, keep quoting his promises aloud to yourself and to him (and anyone else who might hear), keep looking up to see if today is the day he will lift you from the pit.  Ultimately, hope and faith are not beautifully lettered phrases on tee shirts and tattoos, they are gritty and dirty and sweaty actions that result in lasting relationship with the God of the universe and make all the waiting in life worthwhile.

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