DELAYED

March 4, 2016 at 5:11 pm

delayed-flight

I was trapped in the Atlanta airport last week during a sudden Nor’ Easter that crashed into the coast. Hours later, I was trapped in Charlotte. Arriving in Austin the next morning, I was delayed for two more hours at the car rental counter before collapsing into a cheap hotel moments before the sun rose.

There few things in this world capable of bringing out our true character more than when the word “DELAYED” flashes across our plans. More than a few people flew into a rage, aiming their anger at employees behind the ticket counter, while others vented to friends and relatives on the other end of a cell phone. Some were proactive making new plans or calling it a night and heading to a hotel. A few were more optimistic and settled in to watch the newest release on Netflix, work on a spreadsheet, finish a book or connect with a stranger. And then there were of handful of people, like myself, who had nothing else to do but simply wait.

The word “delayed” comes from an Old French word delaiier which combines the words “away” and “let” to create the notion of putting off until later. We can chose to delay something, but we can also be delayed. In this way it is an interesting word that can sometimes embody the ideals of  wisdom, process, boundaries and patience, while at other times it can convey the very opposite of these ideals: loss of control, plans gone awry, inability to make progress, frustration and mounds upon mounds of stress.

The scriptures bear out this tension as well. Even as the Psalmist urges us to “be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:14) the author of Proverbs confesses, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Pr. 13:12). When it comes to the spiritual life, it is the latter lament that tends to fill our minds most often.We might very well believe God will move in our lives, but we so often grow weary of waiting.    

Many people throughout history have been forced to wait for God’s plans to unfold for their lives. Some did it well, but just as many, if not more, felt like you and I. We grow weary, we get cynical, we give up. The bible opens with the story of two such people, Abraham and Sarah. They were a “barren” couple who God promises a multitude of children. Think about the deepest longing of your own heart. A successful marriage, to stop an addiction that’s killing you, the ability to finally forgive someone, to be free from depression, to be a great parent, to love, to trust, to be accepted unconditionally. And imagine now that God comes to you and tells you he will grant you fulfillment to that desire, if only you are willing to wait. Perhaps even 25 years to be specific. That is the story of Abraham and Sara and that is, in many ways, my story and yours.

Their personal journey unfolds through most of the first half of the book of Genesis and the bible doesn’t flinch from their all-too-human responses. They begin with hopeful expectation and end with cynicism and laughing into the very face of God. In the middle they take matters into their own hands and try to bring the promise about by force and human effort. I have been guilty of trying to force God’s hand numerous times. Chances are that you have too. The results, even when appearing to be “successful” always fall infinitely short of God’s original intentions. 

G.K. Chesterton once observed, 

“Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all…As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.”

The Apostle Paul recognized something similar when he referred to Abraham and Sara as those who had “hope against hope” (Rom. 4:18). Hope when there is nothing tangible to hope in any longer. Hope when hoping is irrational, pointless, or a joke. Hope when all  things appear lost. Hope in the darkness.  It is our commitment to continue to wait even amidst these types of delays that God forges within us a new faith which proves to be (a bit ironically even) more convinced of God’s ability to bring to pass all that he has promised to accomplish.   

Paul continues, “Without becoming weak in faith he (Abraham) contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb;  yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.” (Rom. 4:18-21)

If you are feeling a bit delayed in life right now recognize this, the waiting is not what you are doing until God begins his work, but the seasons in life through which God is accomplishing his most important work of all in us, increasing our faith in his ability to accomplish all that he has promised.