The next thing I put in that suitcase can only weigh 0.2lbs or it is going over the 50lb weight limit for international travel. I am almost finished packing for a quick trip home to Jamaica, and then to join a friend for the tenth anniversary of the KLOVE Friends and Family cruise.
Mixed in with my excitement is a little anxiety about some challenging situations I am currently facing, but overarching those emotions is a sense of awe and renewed confidence in the faithfulness of God who hears our prayers, always has the right answer, and no matter how long the delay, He never forgets.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:15-16
As a single mother of three, vacations allowed by our extremely tight budget consisted mainly of visiting with friends in different parts of California. But all year I would pinch pennies and save for the one vacation where the kids and I would actually stay at a motel; the four-day summer music festival in Monterey, California known as Spirit West Coast. There I would watch the promos for the KLOVE Friends and Family cruise and resolve that “next year” I was going to be on that cruise.
I prayed and prayed, and saved and saved but each year the kids got older and necessities and unexpected expenses kept eating away at every attempt to save enough money to go, so eventually I stopped praying about it, and without any bitterness at all took it off my ‘bucket list’.
Meanwhile, someone I did not even know during those summers of going to Spirit West Coast began making plans to go on the same cruise and was all set to be on board in 2012. However, a happy family event conflicted with the date of the cruise so she had to change her booking to the 2013 cruise. In the interim her youngest daughter met and became best friends with my youngest daughter when they played on the volleyball for their high school team. Inevitably, their moms became friends too.
One day, ‘out of the blue’, my new friend shared her plans and said she had been praying for over a year about whom she should ask to go on the cruise with her to share the cabin. Maybe I should have at least stopped to pray when she asked me, but remembering all those years praying for a chance to go, I barely paused before saying a resounding, “Yes!” And so it is that nine-plus years after I stopped praying because I believed God said “No” to that desire, my bags are packed, and I’m ready to go.
Hearing “No”, when God actually says “Wait”, brings to mind two women who could empathize with me. The first is one of my favorite women in the Bible, Hannah, who was a dearly loved wife of a godly and affluent man, but in a culture that stigmatized women unable to bear children; she suffered the social disgrace of being childless, and had to endure the mocking of her rival.
“And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.” I Samuel 1:6-7
Year after year, Hannah continued to pray and grieve until one fateful day in the temple when the priest gave her a promise from God,
“The Eli answered and said, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.’ And she said, ‘Let you maidservant find favor in your sight.’ So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” I Samuel 1:17-18
God had heard and answered Hannah’s prayers, “Yes, just wait” . Eventually she became pregnant and gave birth to Samuel and after he was weaned she fulfilled a vow she had made and gave him back to the Lord to serve in the temple. Samuel grew up to do monumental things as a prophet of the God of Israel, and when all was said and done, his mother Hannah had the last word:
“And Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation. No one is holy like the Lord, for there is no rock like our God.” I Samuel 2:1-2
Abraham’s wife Sarah also struggled with being childless and one can only imagine how often they both prayed to God that she would become pregnant. In fact the issue was on Abraham’s front burner when in one encounter with God:
“…the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision saying, ‘Do not be afraid Abram, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’ But Abram said, ‘Lord God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless…” Genesis 15:1-2
The God of the universe promises to be his shield and ‘great reward’, and foremost on Abraham’s mind is the fact that he and Sarah did not have any children! God led Abraham outside his tent and directed his gaze to the night sky, with this promise,
“…count the stars if you are able to number them…so shall your descendants be. And he (Abraham) believed in the Lord, and He accounted to him for righteousness.” Genesis 15:5-6
We can only imagine Sarah’s relief and joy when Abraham shared the news! However, fifteen years went by without her getting pregnant and unlike Hannah, Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands and convinced her husband to have a baby with her maid. Did Sarah think God had forgotten His promise? Did she think Abraham had misheard or misunderstood? Did she choose to believe her biological clock instead of God? Regardless, the Arab-Israeli conflict that still threatens our world today is one frightening consequence of Sarah’s failure to trust that God had not forgotten their prayers or His promise.
“But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:8-9
So, here’s the thing, whatever that thing, or whoever that person is for which you have been praying for years and years with no obvious results, please do not lose heart! You may be tempted to believe that your prayers have gone no higher than the ceiling, but God has heard every prayer you have prayed and according to His plan and purpose He will come through for you.
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to Him, trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass…Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him…” Psalm 37:4-5, 7
There is something about “delighting in the Lord” that reshapes your desires to conform with His best for you. Encourage your own heart with the irrefutable evidence of His faithfulness found in the Bible, in the lives of those around you and in your own life in the past. As for me, I’m going to try to fit a pair of jeans into that suitcase, and then keep on… just living the thing.