Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
I was making spaghetti and meatballs the other day. The meatballs were mixed and rolled, and baking in tomato sauce. The garlic bread was prepared with butter, garlic, and seasonings. It smelled like an Italian restaurant. Everyone was hungry. I filled the pot with water and set it on the stove top. Once the water boiled, I could add the pasta and put the garlic bread in the oven to broil.
I turned on the stove and I waited. I set out the plates and silverware. I set out the glasses. I checked the water in the pot.
Nothing. Just water.
I looked through the mail. I cleaned some items from the refrigerator. I checked my phone messages. Then I checked the pot again.
Nothing. No bubbles. No steam.
What was taking so long? I needed to finish dinner. I still had to help the kids finish homework and drive them to their evening activities. I didn’t have time to wait so long for the water to boil. As I watched the clock, I thought about skipping the pasta and just throwing in the garlic bread and having meatball subs. I even thought about putting the spaghetti on hold and having a late dinner. But everyone was hungry now. How was I going to get all this done? The water wasn’t boiling fast enough … and I was tired of waiting.
Then, just as I was about to change my plan for the evening, … finally … the water was boiling. It started out as little bubbles dancing around the bottom of the pot and then the bubbles got bigger, floated to the top, and soon, the whole pot of water erupted into a rolling boil that signaled it was time to add the spaghetti. I put the garlic bread in the oven and then a few minutes later, dinner was ready… just in time.
Funny how that happened. I got anxious when I had to wait. I got impatient. I started to panic and thought about changing my plans. Then, in the nick of time, the water boiled, dinner was cooked, and it all worked out fine.
When we find ourselves in a difficult situation and we pray to God for an answer, for relief, for change; sometimes, the answer to that prayer doesn’t come as quickly as we like. Sometimes, the relief, the healing, or the solution doesn’t come in time. Sometimes, what we ask for doesn’t come at all.
It was difficult when we were in that holding pattern. Everyone struggled with something. Maybe they waited for someone to forgive them. Maybe they tried to forgive themselves. Maybe they waited for the resolution to a personal problem, a new job, or a medical miracle. When they were left to wait, when they were left feeling lost, when they were left feeling desperate; they might have started to think God forgot about them, that He stopped listening, or that He didn’t care.
I have a dear friend who said something I always tried to remember in times like that…
“Don’t mistake God’s silence for His absence.”
That resonated with me the first time I heard him say it and it has stuck with me through the years. Along with a cancer diagnosis, there are all kinds of ups and downs, twists and turns, and roads leading towards the unknown. When I was first diagnosed, I had a lot of medical tests. I had to find out what type of cancer I had, what stage it was, and what my treatment options were. I had to find out if my body could handle the harsh treatment that was prescribed. I had to spend days in the hospital and sleepless nights waiting for results. I had to endure brutal chemotherapy treatments, surgeries, and procedures. I had to suffer through excruciating pain, praying for the strength to keep going. God was with me every step of the way. I knew that now and I knew that then, but there were many nights when the pain was unbearable and the tears wouldn’t stop, that I had to remind myself that God was still there. I might have felt alone but He hadn’t left me. It may have been difficult to walk that path but God was holding me through it and leading me to where He wanted me to be.
I did it. I made it through treatment and surgery and reconstruction. I made it through the sickness, the isolation, and the pain. I was declared cancer free. I was slowly returning to my ‘normal’ routine and learning to navigate my life after cancer. Things were going great. I was just about to hit my third year anniversary of being ‘cancer free’. Then, on that beautiful October day…
I heard my doctor say that my cancer had spread, there was no cure, and that my disease was now terminal.
Wait… What? How? Why?
Why would God allow this to happen to me again? Why would God bring me through all those horrible things, give me hope for a brand new future…and then take it all away?
Had God forgotten about me? Would He not keep those promises He put on my heart during those long nights while I was lying in silence and crying in pain? Did I do something to deserve this? Was I going to be okay?
I clung to my faith during that time … because that was all I could do. I didn’t hear any more messages from God. When I was first diagnosed, God sent an army of people to rally around me. He made things happen. He opened doors. There were signs along the way that all was going to be okay… but now, there was only silence. He was quiet. There were times I prayed and checked in, hoping God would put something on my heart …
Nothing. Silence. An uncomfortable quiet.
But, I waited. And I prayed.
I kept praying…because I knew that even though it seemed like nothing was happening, I knew that God was working. He was working for me. He was working for my good.
As my friend so perfectly explained…
It may have seemed that God was silent, but He was definitely not absent.
Soon, my test results showed that my cancer was only in one bone and the spots in my lungs were small. The test results showed that radiation to the bone lesion would bring good results. The test results showed that I was a candidate for a new drug that was proving successful for many patients. I learned that my treatment was an oral drug, not an IV chemotherapy drug; and that I wasn’t going to have to lose my hair again. I learned that there were so many people supporting me, praying for me, and willing to stand by me…for the long haul. There might have been a period of uncertainty, confusion, fear…but God was there during that time. I just had to trust Him.
We can’t see what God is doing or how He is working. We can’t know when He will act on our behalf. He asks that we have patience. He asks that we wait on Him. He wants us to know that He will work behind the scenes and He will intervene on our behalf, but in His own time.
Remember that water that was sitting in the pot? No bubbles. No steam. Although the water was still and calm, its temperature was rising. Unseen by my watchful eyes, that liquid was turning into vapor. That vapor was forming tiny bubbles. Those bubbles were growing bigger. The water boiled. That flame under the pot was working..not as quickly as I liked, but it was working…like God is always working in our lives.
It takes patience to wait for a pot of water to boil.
It takes faith to know that it will.
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”