Maintain kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually- Hosea 12:6b NASB
It’s literally the worst.
Just hearing the word can make otherwise rational, mature people cantankerous, anxious and irritable.
Waiting is terrible. However, some things are easier to wait for than others. It may not be pleasant to wait for the barista to finish your latte. However, unless you have a childlike absence of self-control waiting for coffee will not present any real challenges to your faith. Waiting on God can be another matter altogether. There is nothing worse than being stuck in a bad situation that is one-hundred-percent outside your control and waiting for God to do what only He can do.
Waiting on God is always bewildering and frustrating. However, if the situation is dire enough or goes on long enough, a protracted waiting period can and often does present some very real challenges to our faith. The story of Hannah in 1st Samuel 1:1-2:11 provides valuable insight into what goes on behind the scenes as we wait on the Lord.
Hannah was married to Elkanah. Hannah and Elkanah loved each other. The only real sticking point in the relationship was Hannah’s infertility. The text strongly implies (but does not say outright) Elkanah chose to take a second wife (Peninnah) in order to build a family. This plot twist is appalling to our modern sensibilities. However, Elkanah’s actions were culturally appropriate and even expected at the time. Having children (especially sons) was critically important to ancient people and they would go to great lengths to make it happen.
That being said.
Humans were not made to flourish in polyamorous relationships (Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:7-9), as a result this arrangement generated trauma for both women. Peninnah appears to have effortlessly conceived children. However, she was devastated by Elkanah’s lack of affection and care for her. She responded by cruelly taunting Hannah for her barrenness (ouch) and poor Hannah had nowhere to run from her problem. It literally confronted her at the dinner table every night. Year after year Hannah pleaded with God to change her situation and year after year she got nothing but crickets from the Almighty (1st Samuel 1:1-8). First Samuel reveals God may have been silent in the face of Hannah’s pain but He was far from absent in her situation. Anytime we are stuck in a holding pattern God is actively doing at least one of the following four things.
Teaching us to live by faith rather than by sight-
There are times in this life when we just don’t get what we want or need when we want or need it. When this happens, we are left with one of two options. We can get mad at God, take matters into our own hands and see where that lands us. Or we can choose to believe God is good and He still loves us in spite of the fact life is hard and we are not getting what we want or need. When we choose the latter our favor with God increases exponentially because nothing in this world pleases God more than faith in the face of impossible situations (Hebrews 10:38, Hebrews 11, James 2:23)
Preparing us for the next thing-
God eventually answered Hannah’s prayer in a big way. She ultimately gave birth to three sons and two daughters (1st Samuel 2:21). Her first child was Samuel, a little boy who would grow up to be a Prophet, Priest and the final and most important Judge of Israel. Samuel led the Israelites faithfully, anointed the first two kings of Israel and mentored David, the man who would be called a man after God’s own heart and the great-great-great-grandfather of Jesus. In order for Samuel to become the man God needed in that moment of time, it was mission-critical he receive in-depth instruction from an early age. Hannah took Samuel to the tabernacle when he was about five-years-old to be trained under the Priest Eli. Hannah’s years of waiting, praying and trusting God for a miracle made her strong and prepared her to do what needed to be done so Samuel could become the man God needed in the moment.
A spiritual stronghold is an area of our lives where our flesh (humanness) or Satan has more control over our actions and attitudes than God. Even Christians have spiritual strongholds in their lives. God wants to free us from our strongholds so that we can become more like Jesus and more spiritually productive in every way (2nd Corinthians 10:3-5, Matthew 28:18-20). Periods of waiting have a way of creating stress that reveal our strongholds. Sometimes God makes us wait so we will see the things in our lives that need to be transformed (Romans 12:2, 2nd Corinthians 3:18)
Working on the people in our sphere of influence-
There are times when our pain isn’t all about us. Sometimes the way we handle our struggles has a huge impact on the people in our circle of influence. Such was the case with Hannah. Through her faithfulness, persistence and trust in God Hannah taught Eli (the priest) what it really looks like to seek the Lord in the midst of a trial (1st Samuel 1:12-17). By following through on her vow, she also showed Eli what real obedience looks like (1st Samuel 1:9-24I. it was a lesson he needed to learn (1st Samuel 2:12-17)
If you are in a period of waiting I want to encourage you to make every effort not to give into despair during your trial (Psalm 31:24, John 16:33. 1st Peter 1:3-7). Instead, do what Hannah did and seek God until you have peace or see transformation in your circumstances. Above all, trust God is doing something in you or through you cannot see or understand just yet.
Because that’s what He does in a period of waiting.