Read This Week: Genesis 21
Now, the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and he did what he promised for Sarah. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac was born. – Genesis 21:1-5 NIV
Waiting is so hard. No matter how patient or longsuffering, waiting for something we have been promised is never easy. It can test and challenge the most forbearing and tolerant of people. To wait on something is to be confronted with the reality of having expectations and then not knowing when they will be met. Any way you slice it, it is not effortless for us as imperfect human beings to wait, and it can test our faith in ways we can’t prepare for. It has been said that the “Christian life would be much easier if the time between when you first appeal to God’s promises and when you receive what he promised were short.” This saying is indeed true, but with God’s help, we can live victoriously in the waiting.
Abraham and Sarah knew what it was like to wait. God had promised them a son in their old age, and it took 25 years for this promise to come to pass. Imagine being told that you will experience the joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction of a child and then waiting a quarter of a century before it happens. But God’s promises never fail, no matter how long we are called to wait on them. Verses 1-2 say that the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and he did what he promised for Sarah. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham.
This miracle promise of a child was not fulfilled because Abraham or Sarah was perfect in their obedience; they were far from it (as we saw in the last chapter). The promise of Isaac was accomplished because God was faithful to His Word. Some promises of God are conditional and depend on something we are called to do. Other promises of God are unconditional, and He fulfills them not because of what we do but because of who He is. The Lord can’t be anything other than a faithful promise keeper, so we just have to learn to live and trust him in the time we have to wait for them to be fulfilled.
This is enlightening for us. As we have seen with Abraham and Sarah, life with God, or life in general, is not easy. It wasn’t intended to be. That isn’t one of the promises. But, the promises of God that we do know are real, true, and eternal and possess an endless capacity for our lives. A capacity that can provide a son for a one hundred-year-old man and his wife. The knowledge that those types of promises exist is not the problem. It’s what happens in the middle: the parentheses of time between the awareness of what is promised and its realization. It’s the parentheses of promise that gives us such trouble. It challenges us to believe. To believe not in ourselves, our capabilities, or the strength of anything on earth, but in the power of Almighty God while we linger in the parentheses.
Ironically, it is in the parentheses that our faith is increased, our mettle tested, our resolve set, and our lives sanctified. The parentheses are where we become the people God desires us to be. It’s here that we cling to and cry out for those promises. It’s here that we wait and endure. It’s in the parentheses that we anticipate a moment of fulfillment and the surprise of joy that we can’t predict. And even if it never comes, it’s here that we keep going because we have the hope of the promise. It’s not easy. It’s not fast. But with God and His Son, Jesus Christ, in the parentheses, it’s always promising.