“You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” | Luke 1:45
Imagine Mary waiting to see the wild words the Angel Gabriel spoke to her become a reality. Several months would pass before her miraculous pregnancy would begin to show, but Scripture tells us that even before her belly began to swell with the life of the Messiah growing within her, she believed. Even though she was a virgin and the fetus growing inside her was God in human form, she believed. Never mind that it was crazy and impossible and so few accepted her claim to be true. They didn’t need to believe her, she only needed to believe God.
Sometimes God shows up in the middle of the action, intervening in our lives to make his will known. And sometimes, God shows up before the action, in a dream, in a word, in a picture of his will unfolded somewhere down the timeline. Like how to angel came to Mary and told her that she would give birth to the Messiah even though she was a virgin. Or consider Abraham and the voice of God coming to him, telling him that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars even though he and his wife were barren. Or how about the dream God gave Joseph in the Old Testament, showing him that he would rise up to a position of authority even though his brothers had sold him into slavery. These kinds of divine interventions, when God speaks before something happens, that is when faith is put to the test.
Psalm 105 reflects on Joseph’s story and how after his dream of rising to a position of authority, he not only gets sold into slavery, but then is imprisoned for years. And regarding his time being brought low, the psalmist says, “until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.” (Psalm 105:19 ESV). Sometimes God promises one thing and then life moves swiftly in the opposite direction, and when that happens, my faith, my heart, my soul it all gets stretched to its limit. But this stretching isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it has a very important purpose.
Advent literally means “coming” and it is an invitation to enter into the story as it happened long ago, with a posture of waiting. Just as Mary waited in faith for the Messiah to be born, and the world waited to receive her savior, so we too come into the story of waiting for the Messiah. We wait for him to redeem the brokenness of our lives, we wait for him to fulfill the picture he gave us in a word spoken or a dream dreamt, and we wait for him to return in all his power and glory and finally restore all things.
The Hebrew word for “wait” in scripture is the word qavah (Strong’s Concordance 6960), and it has a substance to it that the english word for waiting does not. When we think of waiting, we think idle, wasted time, like waiting in line at the store. Whereas qavah, the Hebrew word for wait, means to gather something in the anticipation of a future event. It carries with it the metaphor of gathering strands and the twisting and stretching as those strands as they come together to become a stronger cord.
A sparse, limp strand cannot be trusted, it will snap and break at the first strain. But a strong, thick cord of many strands gathered and twisted together, that cord could be used to tether a ship, to ascend a mountain—a strong, taut cord can accomplish amazing feats.
When waiting on the Messiah causes my heart and soul and faith to stretch, I have learned to praise God because he is doing a good work in me. In the uncomfortable place of waiting, he is making me stronger, he is making me more whole, and ready to walk in the fullness that he has always intended my life to carry.
Notice what Mary did with the days following the Angel’s visit (Luke 1:26-56). She went to Elizabeth’s house, her cousin who was also carrying a miraculous promise inside her womb. She went where she could gather strength in the waiting. She leaned into the promise and gathered faith, faith that gave her the emotional strength and mental fortitude that she would need for her coming journey of giving birth to and raising the Messiah. Her life was going to be anything but normal, and she needed the faith and strength to be able to choose God’s presence over an easy life of welcome acceptance. People wouldn’t understand the crazy story she had been invited into, but to be faithful to what God had on her life, she needed to cultivate her faith as she waited.
We have the same choice before us, when placed in an uncomfortable position of waiting on God to do what he said he will do, are we going where we can gather strength? Are we being intentional with how we cultivate faith in the space between hope and fulfillment?
Mary was with Elizabeth for three months, by the time she left her cousin’s house, the promise was beginning to show.
As we wait on the LORD in faith, suddenly the time passing is full and purposeful. God is so good that his goodness saturates even the in between times. The stretching that happens as we wait can be uncomfortable, even painful, but his goodness fills even that space when we believe that he will do what he says he will do. Faith puts you in a posture of waiting that is able to receive and gather all the good gifts the Father wants to give you as you grow into the fullness of the dreams he has for you. Have confidence that God’s word is true. He is who he says he is and he will do what he says he will do. And praise God even if his intervention isn’t immediate.
The waiting is a gift.
May you find joy as you wait for Christmas this year, let it build in you a rhythm of remembering, a practice of waiting, as you stand on the sure knowledge that God will do just as he has said he will do.
“For the word of God will never fail.”