When God Says

When God Says "Wait": Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, Or Your Mind

by Elizabeth Laing Thompson

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Overview

A job, a true love, a baby, a cure. . .
We’re all waiting for something from God.
And the place between His answers can feel like a wasteland where dreams—and faith—go to die.
When we’re waiting, we wonder, “Why?”, “Why me?”, and “How long?”

But the truth? . . .
When God says, “Wait,” He doesn’t tell us for how long.
When God says, “Wait,” we face one of life’s greatest tests.
When God says, “Wait,” we have decisions to make.
When God says, “Wait,” we can control only two things: how we wait, and who we become along the way.

Author Elizabeth Laing Thompson invites you to walk alongside people of the Bible who had to wait on God. . .imperfect heroes like David, Miriam, Naomi, Sarah, Joseph, and others. Their stories will provide a roadmap for your own story, helping you navigate the painful, lonely territory of waiting, coming out on the other side with your faith, relationships, and sense of humor intact. They might even help you learn to enjoy the ride.

This book is about the journey of waiting, the space between answers, and the people we become while we live there. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683220121
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/01/2017
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 198,083
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Laing Thompson writes at LizzyLife.com about clinging to Christ through the chaos of daily life. As a minister, speaker, and novelist, she loves finding humor in holiness, and hope in heartache. She lives in North Carolina with her preacher husband and four spunky kids, and they were totally worth the wait.
 

Read an Excerpt

When God Says Wait

Navigating life's detours and delays without losing your faith, your friends, or your mind


By Elizabeth Laing Thompson

Barbour Publishing, Inc

Copyright © 2017 Elizabeth Laing Thompson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-68322-012-1



CHAPTER 1

Wait Is a Four-Letter Word


Miriam's Story

No Ordinary Child

Based on Exodus 2:1–10


Miriam crouches at water's edge, bare knees quivering, thin legs scratched by reeds, heart aching as she listens to her baby brother wail from within a basket. She prays, pleading harder than she has ever prayed in her young life.

And just when she thinks she can no longer bear the baby's screams, she hears voices — women's voices — laughing and chattering in Egyptian. They are coming closer.

Hope and fear surge, lightning through her veins; her stomach roils, the earth tips sideways. Don't faint, Miriam commands herself. Drawing a shaky breath, she bites down on her fist so hard she draws blood. These Egyptians will either save her brother or drown him. Either way, she cannot make a sound. She inches back into a thicker patch of reeds.

A pretty Egyptian girl, not much older than Miriam, wearing the robes of a servant, steps forward and parts the reeds. She spots the basket. The baby cries again, his voice now hoarse, weak. This tiny cry is worse than the rest, a dagger to Miriam's heart. He is hungry.

The servant girl gasps, looks around, flaps helpless hands. At last she tiptoes forward to draw Miriam's brother out of the basket.

Miriam watches his tiny, fat feet kicking as his blanket — the blanket she herself made for him — slips off and falls into the mud. Her arms ache for the feel of his soft, chubby body; she can almost feel him cuddled up warm against her chest, where he belongs. But still she does not move, does not make a sound.

The servant girl, holding the infant awkwardly — away from her body, as if he is diseased — steps away from the water and calls out. Miriam recognizes a few words in the foreign tongue: Baby. Hebrew.

Her stomach writhes. She is going to be sick.

She can't watch.

She can't look away.

Slowly, she creeps along the riverbank after the girl, keeping herself hidden in the tall grass. The servant girl carries the boy — still kicking and squirming but no longer crying — to the group of women clustered at the edge of a shallow pool, giggling and gossiping as they wade in the water.

A tall woman, dressed in royal garb, steps forward. The laughing voices grow silent. Miriam's breath catches.

Pharaoh's daughter.

The servant girl lifts the baby up so the princess can see.

Kick, kick — fat baby feet dangle over the water.

Miriam's legs quake. Her teeth clamp down over her tongue, holding a scream inside. Her fingernails dig into dirt, holding her body down.

Time stops.

The princess reaches a hand toward the baby.

Miriam prays — not words, just anguished need slung heavenward — till she thinks her head and heart might burst.

The baby giggles.

The princess smiles.

Pharaoh's daughter reaches out bangled arms and draws Miriam's brother into her chest, hugging him close, nuzzling his soft hair with her chin, lifting him high into the air over the water so that even Miriam can see his smile and hear his happy squeal.

Hours later, Miriam stands on her own doorstep holding Moses in one arm, a sack of coins in the other — payment from Pharaoh's daughter, compensation for the wet nurse Miriam promised to find.

Mother opens the door. Whimpers.

Her expression leaps from fear to disbelief to ecstasy. She falls to her knees. Miriam rattles off the story, the bargain: care for the baby until he is weaned, old enough to return to the princess and be raised a prince of Egypt. Trembling, Mother takes her son, breathes him in, and rocks him there on the doorstep. She pulls Miriam down into a hug, sobbing, "Blessed, blessed girl," over and again into her hair. Miriam thinks her heart may fly away.

Throughout the day and into the night, family and friends flock to their house to smile on the miracle babe. A celebration breaks out, the likes of which no Hebrew has seen for years. With the party still going, the sound of Father's booming laughter filling their tiny home, Miriam sneaks away and crawls onto her pallet on the floor, dizzy with exhaustion, drunk with joy. Sleep is already tugging her down and under, lullaby waves, when she feels a calloused hand, gentle on her forehead. "Sweet Miriam, you have saved us all."

Miriam pushes up and throws her arms around Father's neck, breathing in his familiar scent, wood smoke and spices.

"Do you know what I think?" he says in a confidential whisper, brushing hair back from her face. "I think God will use our baby to save Israel. One day we will send him back to Pharaoh's household, and somehow, some way, God will use his position and learning to free us all. One day, thanks to you, we will no longer be slaves."

"Really?" Miriam sucks in air. "How long will we have to wait? How many years?"

Father taps a finger on her nose. "I don't know, darling, but when you have hope, time flies."

Miriam bounces up and down, no longer sleepy. "I can hardly wait."


* * *

I hate waiting.

If you haven't noticed, wait is a four-letter word. Coincidence? I think not.

It goes something like this:

God is good. Life is ... pretty good. We have been following Jesus for a while, and many of our prayer requests — at least the most important ones — have been answered. Our faith is strong, the future brightly shining.

But then ... we want something. Something that can't be bought, earned, or achieved. We have done our part — worked, grown, taken risks. Like young Miriam, we feel a promise ringing in our hearts — Surely what I have prayed for will happen, and soon! — but now we have reached the point where the decision is out of our hands, which means it is in God's. And at first that knowledge feels comforting. Our hopes, our heart, our happiness — all in the hands of God:

God the Father, who loves us and wants us to be happy.

God the omniscient, who knows us better than we know ourselves.

God the omnipotent, who has a plan and the power to execute it.

God the Creator, who controls the cosmos (surely this one little request will be easy for Him).

All He has to do is snap His all-powerful, all-loving fingers and ... done. Wish granted. Prayer answered.

So we turn to God with our request, asking Him to do for us The Thing we cannot do for ourselves.

But there's a problem.

He doesn't do it.

He doesn't not do it, either.

He does nothing. (Nothing we can see, anyway.)

God doesn't say no, but neither does He say yes.

God says, "Wait."

Wait, what?

And here's the part that makes it really difficult to swallow: With God we don't get the kind of two-way human conversation we are used to. With prayer there's usually no verbal response from God, no explanation, no "Here's My timeline for your life," no "I hear you and I love you, but I can't give you what you want (yet) for the following loving, logical, and comforting reasons. ..." Instead, we pray and — nothing. Heaven resounds with His silence.

The longer the wait, the louder the silence.

But God is good, so we swallow hard and determine to wait patiently.

On good days, we turn back to prayer.

On bad days, we turn to social media. After two excruciating minutes — a contentment-shattering onslaught of clever stories, airbrushed images, and Big Exciting Announcements — we find ourselves sinking into the abyss: Everyone else is happy. Everyone else is getting the thing I need, right on schedule.

With knotted stomach and burning eyes, we try to regroup, drawing on life lessons we have collected over the years. Our earliest memories (thank you, Disney princesses) sing, "Believe in yourself! Follow your heart! Dreams come true!" Our middle and high school teachers' voices echo, "Never give up! You will get it soon because you are awesome (everyone is awesome!), and awesome people always succeed!" Our Sunday school education encourages us, "Be the persistent widow!" Our adult theology reminds us, "Keep on asking, keep on knocking!"

So believe and dream and ask and knock and ask again and knock again we do. We turn to the Bible, to classic, sublimely comforting waiting passages like "Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD" (Psalm 27:14), or this, the crown jewel of all the waiting passages:

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart....
Be still before the LORD
and wait patiently for him.

Psalm 37:3–4, 7


With our faith renewed, we enjoy a little chuckle at our own expense, resign ourselves to wait patiently for a few more days (even weeks, if need be), and offer a prayer of apology for our impatience. In our contrition, we even do a heart check:

Dwelling in the land? Check.

Trusting in God? Check.

Delighting in the Lord? Well, I could read and pray a little more, but ... as of tomorrow. Check.

And then we sit back and expect God to grant our request within the next seven to ten business days.

The problem is, we keep adding our own words to these waiting passages, and we have no idea we are doing it. We read them, we think we understand what they are saying, but we don't realize that subconsciously we keep tacking a little asterisked addendum onto the end of them that goes something like this:

"Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD ..."*

*because He is going to give you exactly what you want really, really soon.

"Delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart ..."*

*and that is a guaranteed formula: If you work hard and love God, then you will definitely, absolutely get your heart's desires — and "desires" includes all of your desires: admission and scholarships to the college you want; the job and salary you want; the guy and wedding you want; the apartment you want; the baby you want; the family you want; the friend you want; the health you want; the house you want; the happiness you want — as soon as you decide you want them ... or pretty soon afterward.


And so, armed with our unintentionally asterisked waiting passages, we wait. We pray. We read more waiting passages. We pray some more. We try not to fidget. We delight in God. We delight in God some more. We humbly remind God that we are delighting in Him (teeth gritted, fists clenched, neck veins popping, but doggone it, if we were any more delighted, we'd have a heart attack). We alter our request to make it sound more spiritual, more like a prayer God would want to say yes to. We read more waiting passages. We get radical, and we fast. We ask friends to pray for us and fast with us.

Time passes. Too much time. More time than we'd ever imagined. As faith fades, doubts bloom. We question God, the Bible, ourselves. The longer God's silence stretches, the more things start to break inside.

I don't know what you are waiting for right now, but we all are waiting for something. If you're like me, you're waiting on several somethings. Sometimes The Thing we seek is not even a thing, but a feeling: peace, joy, relief, release, security, home. For many of us, waiting seasons are the first time our faith has been truly tested. They present risk and opportunity in equal measure, making us ask the hard faith questions, making us fight to find — and accept — the answers.


Yes, No, Wait, and ... Maybe

You have probably heard some preacher say, "When you ask God for something, He gives one of three answers: Yes, no, or wait."

It's a good point, a nice sermon illustration. It makes sense.

But the problem is, yes is obvious. Yes means you get what you want. End of story, end of prayer request. Time to begin offering prayers of thanksgiving.

Yes is wonderful.

Yes is what we want every single time we ask God for something. Yes doesn't happen nearly as often, or as quickly, as we'd like.

And then there's no: Sometimes no is just no. You want to marry so-and-so, but he marries someone else. End of story. Find another guy.

But it's not always that clear-cut. The problem lies between the no and the wait. Because really, it's tough to tell the difference. Sometimes we think God's answer is no, but later — weeks, months, even decades later — the answer we thought was a no turns into a yes, so it turns out we actually had a wait all along.

And to make matters even more confusing, I believe God offers a fourth option — a theologically mind-bending option, which we will explore in greater depth in our chapter on persistence in prayer (chapter 6) — and it's this: "Maybe. Ask Me again; you might talk Me into it." And that answer may be the most maddening — but hope-sustaining — answer of all.


Mr. Letterman Jacket

But back to the quandary of the no-man's-land between no and wait. I have more examples of this from my own life than I can count.

When I was eighteen, I fell madly in love with the most heart-stoppingly handsome, sincerely spiritual, adorably sweet guy I had ever met, who also happened to be a quarterback on our college football team and my closest friend and my ride to church twice a week in his sporty little Dodge Avenger. I spent the first two years of my college career begging God to make this handsome, whole-package guy — we'll call him Mr. Letterman Jacket — fall in love with me.

Two miserably long years later, the summer after our sophomore year, a summer filled with lots of vague but promising vibes, God's answer felt imminent. The two of us were going to join some college friends for a weeklong Christian conference in Paris — Paris! The one in France! The romance capital of the world! And I was sure the time (and place) had come for God to answer my prayer. All summer I begged, "Please, Lord, make things clear by the time we go to Paris." So when the Love of My Life kept asking every beautiful girl at the conference out to dinner along the Champs-Élysées, I had no way of knowing if God's answer was the non! it appeared to be or if it was a wait disguised as a no.

I tormented myself with questions: If God's answer was indeed no, did that mean no just for dating Mr. Letterman Jacket right now, but wait for a boyfriend and marriage, because eventually God would say yes when the right non-idiot guy came along who saw me for the prize I was?

Or did it mean no to a boyfriend and marriage and a first kiss, and yes to a life of celibacy and single-serve microwavable meals to be enjoyed in the company of my library of books and my houseful of cats? (I'm not making fun of crazy cat ladies here. I am the crazy cat lady. I adore cats, books, and — foodies, hide your eyes — I have been known to enjoy many a microwaved meal.)

Confused? So was I ... and it certainly wasn't the last time.

For many of us, waiting is unfamiliar terrain. New territory. We have forgotten how to navigate it — or maybe we never learned to begin with. And it's not entirely our fault. This world we live in is all about immediate gratification:

Fast food!

High-speed Internet!

Overnight shipping!

With speed as a cultural priority, it's no wonder wait feels like such a bad word. We don't believe in waiting.

Waiting is a waste of time.

Waiting is boring at best, agony at worst.

Waiting is the worst possible place to be.

A place? Yes, a place. Because waiting isn't just something we do; it's a place we live — usually against our will. It's a stage of life, a journey we take, a crucible for the heart.

The good news? We are not the first people to journey through the waiting wilderness. People in the Bible had to wait on God, and most were just as confused as we are, just as mystified and unhappy. Think for just a moment about some of these people, whose stories we will explore in the pages of this book:

Miriam, who may have expected God to use her baby brother to do something spectacular, but if you had told her how many years she would wait before seeing her hopes fulfilled, her people freed, I wonder how she would have felt, what would have happened to her faith. She spends decades — decades! — in slavery, waiting and wondering, before a burning bush finally lights a fire under Moses, and Miriam gets to dance out of Egypt, an aging woman leading her people in a song of praise.

David, who is anointed the future king of Israel when he is just a teenager, but spends years hiding in caves in the wilderness, fleeing his enemies, before claiming his promised throne.

Naomi, who loses her husband and two sons; devastated, she renames herself "Bitter" and goes home to wait for death to set her free. Yet God gives her a new family, a second chance.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from When God Says Wait by Elizabeth Laing Thompson. Copyright © 2017 Elizabeth Laing Thompson. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Wait Is a Four-Letter Word: Miriam's Story: No Ordinary Child 9

Chapter 2 Pitfalls on Road Trips: Sarah's Story: The Day of Decision 21

Chapter 3 Survival Skills for Spiritual Waiting: Hannah's Story: Year after Year 37

Chapter 4 Lies about Waiting: Naomi's Story: Waiting to Die 57

Chapter 5 When Prayer Becomes a Battleground: David's Story: The Dreams We Had 77

Chapter 6 Squeaky Wheels and Little Old Ladies: Jacob's Story: Until You Bless Me 93

Chapter 7 The Friends Who See You Through: Ruth's Story: The Longest Day 107

Chapter 8 Finding Joy in the Journey: Mary's Stone Treasured Things 125

Chapter 9 When Faith Starts Fading: Gideon's Story: Mighty Warrior 145

Chapter 10 Navigating No-Man's-Land: Joseph's Story: No Good Deed. 161

Chapter 11 Gifts Waiting Gives Us: Martha's Story: Joy in the Mourning 181

Chapter 12 Are We There Yet?: Abraham's Story' So Many Diamonds 197

Notes 219

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