This is the question at the heart of Marlo Schalesky's new book, Waiting for Wonder: Learning to Live on God's Timeline.
I confess, when I first read the title I wasn't sure I wanted to delve into the topic of waiting. Waiting is hard and it takes intentional soul work (and a whole lot of prayer!) to wait well. We all tend to start out waiting well-- with hope, grounded in our faith, with expectation for God to meet us in our place of need and answer our questions, our prayers, to bring our dreams to life. We like to think we are o.k. with God's timeline, but when days turn into weeks, which turn into months, which turn into years...sometimes many years...do we still wait well? Or, do we become discouraged?
Perhaps you are waiting for healing, or a baby, for a dream to come to fruition, for family reconciliation, for your financial situation to change, or for a breakthrough for a beloved family member who is lost and in need a hope themselves...the list of things that we can find ourselves waiting for is long and varied. Waiting with hope is a God-centered place to be, it's where we all want to be, but often not where we find ourselves.
Which is where this book offers so much encouragement. As the book states:
The book examines the lives of Sarah and Abraham in their decades long wait for a son-- a son promised by God! When their own waiting turns to fear and fretfulness, all sorts of unfortunate decisions take place, including Sarah (then Sarai) giving her maidservant to her husband to bear a child (a common practice in that day, but far from what God had planned), and eventually becoming bitter towards her maidservant for what she (Sarai) had chosen.
While I have heard this story countless times, Schalesky offers a fresh, and perhaps more personal perspective, than I had heard or read before. It's a perspective that takes Sarah's longing for a baby and makes it more universal for those of us who have different longings, that inevitably can lead to the same crises moments in our faith.
By the time I finished the book I felt encouraged and reminded that longing, and fear, are a normal part of the human condition. That we are not alone in our internal questions and wrestling, and that God blesses, forgives and redeems our lives even when we make a mess out of our waiting.
A few of my favorite quotes from the book:
"God's delight has always been the full, true, complete redemption of the things in our lives that we hate the most, the things that cause the deepest sorrow, the worst guilt, the most agonizing pain. Those are the very things God longs to transform--for Sarah and for us."
"I want to believe that when God calls, the journey will be straight, unhindered and without delays. There will be no stuck-halfway, no settling in the in-between places where the past is behind yet the promises of God still seem distant.
But I don't always get what I want. In Sarai's story, or in my own"
"Sometimes life doesn't turn out the way you planned. In fact, it rarely turns out that way. So often we stand hurt and frustrated as our carefully constructed plans are crushed into find sand, running through our fingers. Where is God then? Whom do we turn to? How do we trust? And what does it mean to leave the broken parts of life in the hands of our God?"
"God gives you your true name. He knows it and declares it. He tells us who we are. Not our failures, not our faults, not our mess-ups, not our spouses, not our friends, not our enemies--none of these define us. We are who God says we are."
And, this might be my favorite...
"Sometimes when God is saying to us, "Almost, but not yet, not quite yet" he is not simply extending our pain. Instead he is cleansing us. He is setting us free from patterns, entanglements, and sins we don't even see to become who we are meant to be."
Definitely consider picking up a copy of this book. It will encourage and refresh your soul. It will water the dry places of waiting and renew your hope. It will help you to wait well, whatever waiting looks like in your life.
You can pick up a copy on Amazon, by clicking here.