Waiting at Red Lights

The other day I was rushing to get somewhere when I was stopped by a red light — a very long red light. Heart-pumping, brain-whizzing, grip on the steering wheel clenching, I felt certain the world would end if the stoplight didn’t turn green that instant.  I watched enviously as cars whizzed by wondering when it would be my turn, wondering if the light was broken, wondering how much longer I could possibly wait as all of humankind seemingly passed by at an unimpressive 40 miles per hour.

That’s what it feels like with God sometimes – an agonizing, monotonous wait. “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).  Certainly, God’s timing is not my own.  I have known this for some time and while I try not to begrudge it, there are moments in my prayer life where I feel the same urgency I did that day at the stoplight.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you,” (Matthew 7:7).  Stop at a red light and it will turn green.  Presto.  Prayer answered.  I feel like that scripture should come with a bible-sized addendum outlining exceptions, exclusions, and caveats to explain the time gap between asking and receiving.

Because sometimes the wait with God feels like an eternity. Especially when we are constantly reminded of life’s brevity, encouraged to make the moment count, and are certain that we know exactly what’s best for us.  With all that going on, why would we wait?  How could he ask us too? Why can’t he just give us the signal we want? Doesn’t he want us to get the show on the road so we can do all the great things he created us to do?

Yet so often – we wait.  As much as this sometimes frustrates me, it’s also when I feel the most faithful.  We have a choice with God. It’s like the lyrics from that song by the Clash, “should I stay or should I go?” We don’t have to wait for God’s answers to move forward.  We can rely on ourselves and plow ahead.  It may be like dodging cars at an intersection after running a red light: reckless, dangerous, and selfish.  Yet it’s our choice to make.

Waiting for God to answer our prayers requires patience, trust, and faithfulness to his will.  It’s hard.  We don’t know how long it will be before we get an answer.  We aren’t guaranteed the answer we want.  We get annoyed when Garth Brooks sings “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

Still, it’s at this crossroads when we decide if we are going to be faithful to God as he remains to us.  “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 3:3).

I could have chosen to run the red light that day to put an end to that agonizing wait.  Even though it would have been dangerous, I would have felt more in control than I did waiting helplessly for the light to change.  But in all my gritting and grunting, in all the ways that my need felt paramount, urgent, and imperative, I knew it was best for me and for others that I wait.

Our faith journeys may not always be smooth.  We may encounter bumps along the road, breakdowns, and long waits.   But then our faithfulness will get us where we long to go — in an entirely different kind of light.

What are you waiting for? Read last week’s post here. 

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