While We Wait
Pastor Ian gives four reasons why God invites us to wait.
There is no doubt that the Coronavirus has generated significant, global suffering. It has spread to 213 countries and territories in the world, has taken over 350,000 lives and has deeply damaged the global economy.
Here at home, though we have avoided the death toll seen in many other nations, we have nevertheless seen a significant impact in the way of life we have come to enjoy. We have lost the freedom of travel, the joy of visiting with friends in our local kopitiam, and we have missed the comfort of gathering with friends and family in times of joy and bereavement. Additionally we have discovered unfamiliar anxieties. According to the Social Service Research Centre, Singaporeans are currently experiencing unusual challenges in the area of financial difficulties (51%), emotional distress (43%), employment challenges (35%), mental health conditions (22%), and even caregiver fatigue/spousal abuse (21%).
And in the midst of these unprecedented challenges, we as a church were looking forward to last week’s announcement of the lifting of the circuit breaker measures and the transition to “Phase 1 of Singapore’s re-opening”. But when it came, the answer to our expectant prayers was, “Nothing is actually going to change.” We will still not be able to meet in our CGs or gather together in worship. Neither our pastoral staff nor administrative staff will be able to work from the office. And our Sunday worship experience will—for at least a month (or more) longer—continue to be painstakingly stitched together by our long-suffering AV Team.
But, even in this challenging season I am very confident that the same God who gives us life and invites us now to wait, also has a good plan to strengthen our hearts during this time of holy waiting, because—
Waiting reminds me that God is sovereign, and that I am not. Waiting is one of my least favourite things because it reminds me that I am not in charge. Of anything. Even in the best of times we are not in charge of the calendar or the clock. Yet ironically, especially in times of stress, we often exert even greater effort to attempt to manage crises, to get things “under (our) control.” We make contingency plans, even though all our plans are dependent on the decisions others will make! And so, difficult days help us find our proper place. They remind that though we don’t control many things, God controls everything and in everything, He has a plan for our good. And so His invitation to us is, “Wait upon me, and renew your strength.” (Is 40:31)
Waiting exposes my idols. If we find it intolerable to wait on God, it is likely because the things we want (or want to happen) have become more important to us than the things God desires, and plans for us. And so we are quietly irritated that God is not blessing our plans, our desires and our dreams. My idol of success and constant pursuit of personal glory has led me to distort the benediction found in Hebrews 13. And so I feel resentment that He has not equipped me with every good thing, that I may do my will, that which is pleasing in my sight. And so the answer is, “Wait.”
Waiting stretches my faith. If faith is indeed the evidence of things unseen and confidence of things that have not yet taken place (Heb 11:1), then this present suffering is surely the garden in which God cultivates the fruit of faith. The very concept of faith as described by the author of Hebrews assumes a gap between my hope and God’s response. If everything happened immediately, just as I desired, then this faith would not be necessary. And so it is in the gap between my suffering and satisfaction that He fruits out godly faith. We are strengthened as we wait.
Waiting makes me grateful. When we seek something and God allows us instead to wait, we are more intensely grateful for the day His answer comes. In Psalm 130, the psalmist opens his song with a desperate plea for God’s intervention: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” (Ps 130: 1-2) But by the time he penned the words of verses 5-6, he had fully settled into the faith-strengthening calm of waiting: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”
The watchmen longed for the morning, because the morning marked the end of a long work night and signalled the beginning of their rest. It was this kind of rest sought by the old watchman named Simeon when he set his eyes on Jesus in the temple and rejoiced, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” (Lk 2:29) It is the kind of rest that is only fully appreciated after a long period of holy, trusting waiting. And so we gratefully wait.
Whatever God’s plan for us is in this Covid season, let us be determine to express our joyful confidence in the God who fully knows us. And until His future prepared becomes our present fulfilled, may He find in us hearts to declare with the Watchman Micah, “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” (Mic 7:7)
This Friday—We will gather together for our monthly Zoom Prayer meeting. Let’s express our dependence together by joining through this link.
This Saturday—If you are interested in our CG ministry you are welcome to join us from 930-1130am as we learn how to use God’s Word to love, care and strengthen one another. You may join this meeting via Zoom here.
This Sunday—Elder Caleb Yap will continue to lead us in our pursuit of radical dependence in the Gospel of Luke as we discover what it means to “take up our cross”. Let us prepare our hearts together by reading Luke 9:18-27.