Have you ever felt as though God has given you a promise? I’m talking about a whisper in your spirit, a prophecy, or a vision so incredible and fleeting you think surely you’ve been drinking too many lattes. I have.
September of 2016 marked the beginning of a season of great communication and whispered promises between the Lord and me. It began with an entertainment fast (that means no TV or Netflix, ladies) and an intense period of plugging into the Word – I’m talking hours a day. Since then, God has given me a few very distinct promises, all ministry-related.
While this past year has been the biggest year of promises, it’s also been hard. I’ve given up passions that had previously fueled me for new passions God planted in my heart. There’s been rejection after rejection as I pursue each of the promises. In this time I’ve learned how sensitive I am to rejection and it never gets easier. I’ve learned my impatience is something God is working out of me, and the process has been painful. The waiting has felt endless. And at the end of much of the waiting has been the repetition of rejection.
Have you ever felt like this? If so, keep reading. If not, you will, so keep reading.
In my last blog, When the Promise Doesn’t Go as Planned (a perfect example of tangible rejection in this season), I wrote about how much time I’ve spent in Genesis reading about Sarah and Abraham.
Abraham was seventy-five when the Lord first told him he’d become a great nation. To be the father of a nation, Abraham needed a son. But his wife Sarah was sixty-five years old and likely beyond the edge of her childbearing years. God’s promise must have been overwhelming and yet invigorating to them. A child? After all these years? Praise God! Abraham didn’t ask questions; he just followed along his path of obedience. He picked up his whole world and moved it across a continent, traveling with not only his family, but with all the livestock they’d need to survive. They set up tents and slept on the ground, propelled by obedience instead of comfort.
But it’s not Abraham and what he did that has my heart here; it’s Sarah. As a woman, her identity and purpose was wrapped up in motherhood, and for all her adult life she likely already felt like a failure, like she’d gotten the short end of the fertility stick. When this promise was given to her, she didn’t have time to waste. I bet she had her ovulation sticks handy and kept Abraham close for when it was time to get to jiggy with it.
And yet, for the next ten years, imagine the monthly devastation. Not only was she isolated when she was menstruating because she was considered unclean, she was mourning the loss of a promise month after month, first as her period came and went dozens of times, and then likely as her periods dwindled into nothing. And what of her heart? How broken it must have been. Her faith must have been rattled. Was she beginning to believe Satan’s whispers of doubt? That God had lied to her? That the promise was a test she was failing?
And here I’ve been whining about one year in which my promises haven’t come to fruition! What about you? How long have you been waiting? How hardened has your heart become in this season of frustration? Are you beginning to believe Satan’s whispered lie that God has lied to you?
After the ten-year-mark Sarah decided God’s promise needed a little help. She came to the conclusion many of us women do: if you need something done, leave it to a woman. When Sarah ordered Abraham to produce an heir with Sarah’s slave Hagar (a perfectly acceptable custom then), she found herself not only heartbroken and frustrated, but also jealous of the slave and the son that should have been her own. Eleven years after the promise and she was more miserable than ever, despite doing her best to help it along.
Another thirteen years would pass. Still no baby. Now she was wrinkled where she was once supple. Her period was long gone and with its end another deep mourning. Perhaps she isolated herself monthly still – even though no flow came – just to cry in silence, without the eyes of her husband upon her, without any reminders of how she’d failed and God had failed her. The quiet of the wilderness or a tent must have been the only peace to the torment in her heart.
Where was her promise? Where was her God?
When, just at the cusp of 90 years old, 24 years after the promise, the Lord appeared at their camp and said Sarah would have a son within a year, she laughed. She was over the cruel joke of the promise. She must have doubted more than she believed. It had been over 24 years of waiting. Of rejection. Of doubt. Of frustration. It didn’t matter that the Lord was there in front of her. She rejected the reminder of his promise with a laugh.
Because waiting often feels like rejection. And then we begin to question…we question the one who gave us the promise, and then we question our faith because we’ve questioned the promise.
Despite the fact that Sarah’s faith was a mess on the road to baby town, and she tried to take the situation into her own hands, and by the end she was so cynical she laughed at God, the writer of Hebrews still considered her to be an example of faith in action: “And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise” (11:11).
I’m no expert but none of her behaviors equal incredible faith to me. But the writer of Hebrews has a lesson for us here, and in this season of waiting, I’m ready to receive it. Are you?
Even though Sarah’s faith was more challenged than championed, even though she began to second-guess the promise and potentially her faith, she is still considered faithful. She is included with the other all-stars of faith alongside Joseph and Moses. She didn’t part the sea or knock down the walls of Jericho. Her miracle was minor if we’re making biblical comparisons of awesomeness. All she had to do was receive a promise and wait for it. And she didn’t even do that well.
Sarah should encourage us as we wait for our promises because she shows us faith isn’t perfect. It isn’t always patient; it’s mostly messy. And yet, like Sarah, we can still be considered faithful when we’re flaw-filled. We can still seek our promises and feel impatient in the process. That’s why there’s God’s grace. Sometimes God’s grace is the part of the promise we seek the least but need the most. And he offers it without guilt.
Sarah received her promise. And so will we. When the timing of the promise is perfect.
(I’m still praying it won’t take 25 years.)Sarah received her promise. And so will we. When the timing of the promise is perfect. Encourage a Friend
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