(Estimated Reading Time 7-8 Minutes)
Simple answer: 25 years.
From the time God first called Abraham (i.e. Abram) in Haran, to the time when his “son of promise” Isaac was born, nearly three decades went by.
Abram left Haran for the “Promised Land” when he was 75 years old, full of faith and the zeal of a new recruit into God’s kingdom.
Only at the seasoned age of 100 did God decide it was time to make good on His original promise to Abraham and give him a son through his wife Sarah, which by that time, Abraham had all but given up on.
Because we are able to read through the entire duration of these 25 years of waiting in nine chapters of Genesis (Gen 12-25), or, in roughly thirty minutes to an hour of concentrated reading, it is too easy for us to underestimate the personal struggles Abraham must have inevitably gone through during this long period of waiting.
A lot of life was happening in those 9 chapters, a lot of questioning, and a lot of doubting.
How many times was Abraham tempted to think: “Did I not hear God? Did I take a wrong turn?” “Did I believe in vain?” “Where is this dynasty I was promised!?” “I’m not getting any younger over here!”
There is a pattern to the life of faith that often follows a sequence of promise –> excitement –> waiting –> doubting –> testing –> refining –> reinforcement –> and then, eventual fulfillment. This is essential to grasp if we ever hope to serve God as mature men and women in the faith.
The challenge we have with this however is that everything in our culture works against us becoming a people well-equipped to wait on God’s perfect timing.
Instant gratification and impatience have become hallmarks of our society.
We only have to “tolerate” 5-15 seconds of advertising before getting to a Youtube video.
We are promised “instant weight loss,” “instant success,” and “3 Easy Steps…” to achieve just about anything.
It seems as though everything is right at our fingertips, right how we want it, and right when we want it.
Waiting, enduring, and learning patience, exercises of the will and character that have been integral to Biblical faith for thousands of years, are not exactly hot topics in an age where we can scroll through our boredom at the rate of 13 Instagram pictures a second.
Nevertheless, the promises of God for our lives often have to be wrestled down from heaven through long periods of waiting until they eventually inhabit the reality of this earth and become real to us.
This is a critical lesson God has in store for everyone, in one form or another, who is called to be an ambassador of His kingdom.
I’ll save some of the reasons why I believe God decided to make Abraham wait this long for another post in this series, but for now, I just want to highlight 3 appropriate responses to God during a season of waiting, waiting….and maybe even waiting some more:
3 Biblical Responses to a Season of Waiting
1) Gratitude for God’s Abundant Mercy
When God asks you to wait for His perfect timing, you have to recognize that this is actually a form of His mercy to you. By forcing us to wait, God protects us from becoming spoiled children and develops our character. We will never be effective servants of the King if we are too much like the spoiled rich girl who has Daddy wrapped around her finger and always gets what she wants, right when she wants it.
I currently work in the public school system where I go to different middle and high schools throughout the district on a regular basis. I can tell you unequivocally that in the richer parts of town, as a general rule, the kids are far more disrespectful and entitled than the kids who live on the “other side of the tracks” so to speak.
God doesn’t want spoiled children. He wants us to be people of character who recognize that the world does not revolve around us. So He often asks us to wait and learn patience. You should thank Him for this, because when God asks you to wait, He is actually doing you a favor.
As Paul says, when we are waiting on God,
“we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.” (Romans 5:3)
2) Hope in God’s Anticipated Action
Although this is one of the more counter-intuitive aspects of our walk with God, it is actually the case that the longer God makes you wait for something He has promised, the more your faith and expectation in the fulfillment of His Word should grow.
Waiting on God should produce a hope that invades your soul and carries you away into states of rapture.
The longer you wait, the closer He is getting to fulfilling His word and the more that reality should propel you to even more faith and hope in what is about to come to pass.
Even as you are waiting on God, don’t miss the opportunity to praise Him for what He is about to do.
For “salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Rom 13:11).
I sometimes look at older people in the faith and think they should be the most on fire and excited lot on the whole earth. Of all people they’re the closest to meeting Jesus and entering Paradise!
Since I’ve only lived a mere 33 years to date, I’ll refrain from coming down too hard on my elders here, but perhaps just a word of encouragement is in order for the older generation at this point, as well as those of us who feel like God may be keeping us in a long season of waiting.
You still have such great things coming on the horizon. Your life should be overflowing with joy, sacrifice, hope, and praise.
Even though seasons of waiting can tend to wear us down, forcing us to face our own doubts, fears, and insecurities, always remember to praise the Lord in the midst of your waiting.
3) Surrender to God’s Perfect Purposes
We all start out in our relationship with God wanting to be more or less in control of the operation.
This is called idolatry.
Yes we want God, but we kind of want Him on our own terms. We want a God we can fashion and shape, a God who will serve our needs and our agenda. It is especially in the moments of waiting on God to do things His own way, and in His own time, that reveal to us just how deeply entrenched the idolatry truly is within our hearts.
Part of what God was teaching Abraham during those 25 years of waiting was his need to fully let go of his own will.
Sometimes we think that just because God has called us to serve Him it must mean we are somehow superior and don’t need to go through the common and unglamorous gauntlet of character formation that is almost always connected to long periods of suffering and waiting.
As a matter of fact, it is often quite the opposite.
God is often more stern with the son or daughter He plans to use in the most dramatic way.
Waiting on God to fulfill His promises shows us just how truly surrendered to His will we actually are. Anyone can be God’s friend when all is well, but what do we do when God is silent?
We surrender. We surrender our pain and our unmet expectations.
And in that surrender we will find a comfort in knowing that God is God, that He does not need our advice, that His ways are higher and better than our ways, and that He is good to the deepest core of His being.
All is not lost and things have not been thrown completely off course. You are just in a season of waiting. Everything is happening exactly as God always intended it to.
“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).
Surrender your will to Him and your waiting will be worth it.
When you are waiting on God, continue to:
1) Thank Him for His mercy
2) Look Forward to His Faithfulness
3) Completely Surrender Your Will to His
The Joy of Fulfillment
Whether you are currently waiting on a personal promise God has given to you specifically, or are simply longing for the promise of eternal salvation and deliverance that we all share as followers of Jesus, always remember that no waiting on God is in vain.
He never forgets, He never goes back on His Word, and the joy you will experience on the day of your vindication will be that much greater simply because you waited well.
“And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:9).
“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. As surely as the sun rises He will appear. And He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:3).