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Hurry up and wait

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By The Staff

(Note: This is adapted from my book, "Prayers God Always Answers.")

My soul was in anguish. I knew exactly how King David felt when he wrote his laments, wondering how long he had to wait for God to answer his prayers.

I was 11 years old and I had been waiting my entire life to shave my legs. However, my mom said I needed to wait, but what do moms know? I had a forest growing on my lower limbs that needed razing - right then.

Not when I was "old enough," which is, at best, an arbitrary concept. Of course, when you're 11, you don't use words like "arbitrary." You lie across your bed and sob because life isn't fair and your mom is mean, and you plot to shave your legs anyway.

So, I sneaked my dad's razor into the bathroom, lathered up my legs and took one, flesh-slicing swipe - and bled like crazy all night. I might've gotten away with it, but blood-stained towels stuffed in a closet are almost always a dead giveaway that someone's doing something wrong.

Mom found out and was not pleased. Selective memory prohibits me from remembering what happened next, but I'm guessing Mom applied something we called "burny-burny" on my self-inflicted wound. After that I most likely ended up where I had began, sobbing on my bed because life isn't fair and you have to wait for stuff you want right now.

Mom probably said something like, "Waiting builds character," but when you're 11, you don't want character; you want smooth legs.

Here would be a good place to say I learned my lesson, but you've been 11 yourself, and you know that's not likely. I could tell you that once I came to faith in Christ I put off disregarding any and all directives to wait and never took matters into my own hands ever again. But that would be lying.

The truth is, often I'm still an 11-year-old lying across my bed, sobbing that life isn't fair. The truth is, since coming to faith in Christ, waiting is often a whole lot harder because, by its very nature, living by faith involves a lot of waiting. Otherwise it wouldn't be faith.

That doesn't mean I like it. As 1800s New England preacher Phillips Brooks once said, "The trouble is, I'm in a hurry, but God isn't."

I want patience and I want it now! I want the Cliffs Notes version of knowing God, freeze-dried, "just add water" wisdom, immediate strength of character and on-the-spot holiness.

But God often doesn't do things when I want him to, the way I want him to. He often says, "Wait." Actually, he often doesn't say anything at all. He doesn't have to, being God and all. He often just lets me ask and beg and plead and bargain while he goes on being God, running the universe, while I flop myself across my bed lamenting that my soul is in anguish because I want to shave my legs or whatever else it is that I want.

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him," wrote the psalmist (Psalm 37:7). I'm no theologian, but I think the measure of your ability to wait patiently is proportionate to the measure of your belief in the sovereignty of God.

If I believe that God is 100 percent in control of every molecule of the universe and that nothing surprises him, shocks or scares him and that he knows exactly what I need for my soul to thrive, then if I'm left waiting for something to happen, even my waiting is part of his plan.

As the psalmist said, we wait for him, not necessarily on what we want. To put it another way, if I am focused on what I want and what I'm waiting for, then I will be frustrated and anxious. And if it never comes to pass, then I'll be discouraged or despondent.

But if I'm waiting for the Lord, and not what I want him to do for me, then I'll never be disappointed because he always gives himself.

Besides, it's been my experience that I've received some of my greatest blessings in waiting. I never would have known that I can wait and endure with hope and persevere with patience - and have joy! - unless I had been made to wait.

Because God is in control, because he loves his own, because he is good and his wisdom is flawless, you and I can wait.

Because we wait for God, we wait for what's best. What more can we want?