Archive for the ‘waiting’ Category

as it happened

August 27, 2010

I was reading the story of Esther last week and about wicked Haman and his hatred for Mordecai and all Jews in general. He had no idea that the King’s beloved Esther was a Jew. I’ve read this story dozens of times, yet something new stood out to me this time.

Haman wasn’t motivated by a love for the king, or loyalty to the throne or even by service of any kind. He wasn’t even concerned for the king’s well-being. He was motivated by his love of himself. “It” was all about Haman. He was working himself up in the ranks to get as high as possible on the status ladder and annihilate anyone that might get in his way. He wanted power, prestige, respect. He wanted to be feared. He was selfish, hateful, jealous and ambitious. UGLY.

I’ve always loved the part of the story where Mordecai tells his niece, Esther, that she needs to be courageous and risk her life for the lives of the Jews all over the kingdom because of Haman’s plan to murder the Jews. He tells her, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:4)

Esther goes before the king and he extends his scepter, meaning he’ll see her (and not kill her) and asks her what it is that she wants. She has a plan and invites her king and Haman to dinner that night. Haman thinks he’s really something. He brags to everyone about how he has been invited to dine with the king and queen! (He should have been asking himself why!)

As I was reading the story this time, I specifically noticed how God orchestrated things. His timing is breath-taking!

That night. . . That night after dinner with Esther, the night Haman was unable to fully appreciate his amazingly blessed life because of his raging hatred of Mordecai, that night the king had trouble sleeping.

God made the king sleepless. Either it was the king’s habit to have his attendant read to him from the book of history on nights like that, or maybe God gave him that idea right then, but either way, that’s what happened. Even the specific passage that was read to the king was significant, hand picked by God for King Xerxes! It was no coincidence.

The king learns, during his sleepless night, that Mordecai had saved the king’s life by exposing an assassination attempt. Xerxes asks his servant if anything has been done to honor Mordecai.  Nothing had been done. So Xerxes and the attendant begin talking about what should be done to thank Mordecai.

Of course you know the story, but what stood out to me this time is these three words:   “as it happened.”

There are no coincidences with God.  ‘As it happened,’ is really a way of saying, the joke was on Haman. It was no coincidence. You could move the ‘as’ to the end and say, “it happened as.” You see, it happened as God orchestrated! Wickedness was not going to prevail. It wasn’t going to have the final say.

God had had enough of Haman’s wicked schemes and arrogance. He orchestrated that Haman would humiliate himself – that he would walk in just in time for the king to ask him, “What should I do to honor a man who truly pleases me?”

Prideful, self-centered, conceited Haman wonders who the king would honor more than him, so he goes the whole nine yards.  He should wear the royal robe and ride a horse the king himself has ridden which had a royal emblem on its head, and be led by a noble official announcing, “This is what the king does for someone he wishes to honor!”

How Haman’s skin must have tingled with delight at the thought of being that man! Oh how it must have crawled with horror, shame, and disgust when he learned that it was Mordecai the king wanted to honor and that he himself was the noble official who had to lead Mordecai and proclaim the king’s favor! Insult on top of injury! (Oh, if only this kind of justice happened every time people were contriving nasty schemes!) At least that night Haman could look forward to dinner with King Xerxes and the beautiful Queen Esther again. No one else got invited to dine with them two nights in a row! He was still truly something (in his own mind).

After dinner the second night, Esther reveals the evil plan Haman had devised to slaughter and annihilate the Jewish people all over the land. The king is infuriated, and rushes out in a rage to the palace garden.  When he returns he finds Haman begging Esther for mercy, (oh the irony), falling on the couch with the queen. “Will he even assault the queen right here in the palace, before my very eyes?”

“And as soon as the king spoke, his attendants covered Haman’s face, signaling his doom.” (Esther 7:8)

Wow, that’s powerful!

Psalm 36:1-4 describes people like Haman. “Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are. Everything they say is crooked and deceitful. They refuse to act wisely or do good. They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots. Their actions are never good. They make no attempt to turn from evil.”

But the rest of Psalm 36 describes God! “Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you; give justice to those with honest hearts. Don’t let the proud trample me or the wicked push me around. Look! Those who do evil have fallen! They are thrown down, never to rise again.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if justice, like that which was served to Haman, was meted out as quickly in our own lives? Wouldn’t it be great to see those people who behave like Haman ‘get what’s coming to them?’

So often it feels like God doesn’t see the evil schemes of others. It feels as if God is looking the other way. But we shouldn’t be fooled by the length of time it takes for God to bring about an ‘as it happened’ for us. God sees all things. He knows the contents of every person’s heart.

The Bible tells us that God is slow to anger and that fact often frustrates me when I’ve wanted him to shoot down a bolt of lightning and fry someone who hurt me really badly! But then when I think of myself and my imperfections and sin, I don’t want justice for myself! I want mercy! (Ouch, just like Haman! He cooked up a wicked scheme and when he was about to fall in his own pot, started pleading for mercy. Of course I was thinking as I read that, “No way! Haman, you deserve to die!”)

Am I ever glad God is patient and long-suffering with me. As I focus on loving God and others better, I can be assured that God will take care of the Hamans in my life in his own time, in his own way. Someday, the rest of my story will begin with, “As it happened,” which you and I will both know really means, “it happened as . . .”

waiting

July 21, 2010

Recently I was talking with a friend of mine about life and her dreams and desires that have yet to be fulfilled. I was reminded how agonizing waiting can be.

Waiting slows life down to a crawl. It drags our emotions through the dust. It pushes us to frustration and despondency. It causes us to believe that God has forgotten us or that he doesn’t care or that he’s checked out of our lives and moved on.

Waiting for years and years for a longing to be fulfilled can cause us to become bitter and angry and cynical and caustic.

It can also move us to make choices and get things rolling in our own effort, in our own way, often with disastrous results.

I’m reminded of people I know who have married someone they knew wasn’t a good match, but in their desperation to escape singleness, went ahead with it – only to be heart-broken and devastated, emotionally and financially bankrupt.

We read about movie stars who want to be pregnant and have children but don’t want to be married, so they are inseminated by some male’s donated sperm and they selfishly get what they want, without ever thinking what’s in the best interest of that new life. The child is a commodity, like a purse or pair of shoes.

As a person who believes that Christ is the way to life and the world’s only hope, the One who forgives my sins and gives me a clean start and a reason for living, I also believe in his words, (the Bible), and choose to obey them, to live by them. I’ve learned about waiting, both by reading the Bible and by my own life experience.

Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Waiting takes stamina. It takes strength. Waiting is not a passive activity. You need to keep your focus, encourage yourself and be emotionally strong. Waiting is work, hard work.

Part of waiting is taking heart. That means to encourage and strengthen your resolve by reminding yourself of why you are waiting, and who you are waiting on. It helps to know the life stories of others who have waited well and have finally seen their longing fulfilled. Often, it doesn’t look like they expected, but amazingly, it’s even better than they could have imagined.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5

There are people who see God as a cosmic kill-joy. They see him craning his neck, peering over the edge of heaven, watching every move so that he can zap any fun out of their lives and destroy their plans. That just isn’t God’s nature.

Isaiah 30:18 tells us, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.”

There is waiting involved in just about everything in life. A farmer plants seeds. There is a long time of waiting for the plants to grow and bear fruit. Investors wait and hope that they will see dividends, but there are many ups and downs in the waiting process. A husband and wife wait for the miracle of pregnancy and spend the better part of 9 months dreaming and anticipating and longing for their baby to come. We wait for the mail, we wait for the cake to bake, we wait in line at the grocery and for lengthy periods of time in the doctor’s office! We wait for a loan to come through and for weekends to come. Waiting is just a part of life. Why do we behave as though it is unexpected, unnecessary, unwelcome?

Some people are better at waiting than others. Some people are action-oriented and see waiting as unacceptable. There are times for action and for finding another route. But there are times when there is absolutely nothing we can do but wait.

During those times, it is helpful to quiet our heart and choose to listen for the whisper, the nearly imperceptible voice of God.

I love reading the Psalms. I am encouraged that the writer poured out his true feelings to God. He didn’t over- spiritualize his emotions. He didn’t pretend that everything was ‘Wonderful, Praise God!’ He was raw and authentic and desperate for God to take action. He was ecstatic at times and at others he was cursing his enemies and lamenting his woes.

Psalm 142:1-7 says,”I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD’s mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. When I am overwhelmed you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me. I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me. Then I pray to you, O LORD. I say, ‘You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life. Hear my cry, for I am very low . . . .'”

You are all I really want in life. Wow. How many people say that?

When I was in the midst of chemotherapy, and sick and dizzy and miserable and despondent, I got to that place. I remember listening to a song, the words of which expressed that thought: “All I want is you, Lord, is you, Lord, all I want is you . . .”

Sometimes waiting is the best thing for us. It forces us to look at life with a new perspective and alter our expectations and values. When we are desperate for God to move on our behalf, we come to understand that all we really need is God. When we are at a place that medicine has done all it can do and it’s still not enough, we need God to intervene. We are right where we need to be. For the first time all the clutter of life and action and thought gets shaken down and we are left with the stark reality that all we have and all we need is God. If he chooses to rescue us, that’s ideal, but if not, we’re finished. Our earthly life is over. Every breath is from him. Every heart beat.

I can remember saying to God, “You are my only hope. You are my life-giver. You hold me in your hand. Please rescue me.”

Life is so much easier when we’re in control, otherwise we feel vulnerable and helpless. But feeling like we are in control of our lives is really an illusion. We really are dependent on God for every breath and every heart beat, whether we know it or not! So getting to a place of vulnerability and helplessness is actually not a bad thing. It feels awful sometimes, (okay, most of the time!) But it’s a good thing! When we feel helpless, we are prompted to think about God more. Then we cry out to God in earnest, and that’s often when he moves.  It’s too bad that it takes a tragedy or disease to open our eyes to the reality that we live in vulnerability every day. We are so very fragile, every one of us.

God knows we ‘are but dust,’ yet he “longs to be gracious to [us]; he rises to show [us] compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.” (Isa. 30:18)  Wow, we are blessed because we actively wait for him!

Be encouraged, my friend, knowing that you aren’t the first to wait on God, and you won’t be the last. We don’t understand his timetable, but we know that he is faithful and gracious.

It’s difficult to wait and to be patient. Take heart. Be strong. Don’t give up. Tell God you’re waiting on him and that you know you are completely dependent on him. Breathe out your stress and anxiety that comes from fear and trying to make things happen, and slowly breathe in his peace that comes as we trust him.

God is our source, our answer, our provider, not the president, nor the economy nor our employer, not the doctor or our our medicine or anything else other than the Maker and Sustainer of Life.

Like King David, let’s say to ourselves, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:11)