I am not the best at waiting. I know some people who can sit in ambiguity and uncertainty, let it wash over them, and they remain peaceful and calm the entire time. My first instinct, instead, is to become more like the Tasmanian Devil, spinning fast without any particular trajectory, unaware of the mess that I’m creating in the meantime. I have to be so intentional about slowing down, focusing on specific goals, and trusting that God will bring the best outcome to fruition.
We watch Abram struggle to wait in Genesis 15 and 16 as well. Up until this point, God has indicated to Abram that Abram will have an heir and create a great nation (see Gen. 12); however, by chapter 15, Abram has aged quite a bit, and wonders whether he will actually create the nation God promised.
Recognizing Abram’s doubts, God gives Abram a vision in which God says, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your protector. Your reward will be very great” (Gen. 15:1). As an aside: the phrase “Don’t be afraid” shows up 93 times throughout the Bible — it’s a continual directive for us to choose peacefulness over anxiousness, and calm over worry.
Then, throughout the rest of Genesis 15, God gives Abram a number of signs and promises that Abram will in fact have a heir. God moves beyond hinting and whispering, and instead demonstrates to Abram that he needs to trust God’s plan.
Abram’s actions in Genesis 15 and 16 remind me of a scene in Bruce Almighty. Bruce is driving down the highway, and a truck pulls out in front of him carrying road signs that say, “Wrong Way,” “Stop,” and “Dead End.” Rather than reading the signs, though, Bruce gets frustrated that the truck is driving slowly, speeds around it, and ultimately wrecks his own car.
I’m not suggesting that Abram gets into a car wreck because of his decisions in Genesis 16, but he certainly makes the situation far more complicated than it needs to be.
After chapter 15, in which God shows up to Abram in a very tangible way to try to convince him of God’s faithfulness in providing an heir, Abram then takes Hagar, Sarai’s servant, and impregnates her. In a strange way, Abram may have thought that he was taking action to fulfill God’s will by impregnating Hagar, since ultimately, she births his child. However, God had planned all along for Sarai to birth Abram’s son.
Abram got hasty and impatient. He knew the promises God had for him, but rather than accept them and trust that God would fulfill them in God’s time, Abram intervened. We will get into the story of Hagar tomorrow, but for now I want us to dwell in the understanding that Abram’s doubt led him to act in a way that did not further God’s ultimate plan (Sarai still gets pregnant later on), and that created a lot of turmoil for a number of people.
Like I said in the beginning, I struggle with patience. I have a very Type-A, assertive personality, and when others don’t follow schedules and plans, I can get antsy. I have had many times in my life when I knew God had an idea of what would happen next, but I couldn’t see the full picture yet. In those moments, I could choose to either pout, cry, and question God, or I could sit back, rest, and know that God works all things together for the good (Rom. 8:28).
What are the things you’re waiting and hoping for right now? What has God promised that you want to see fulfilled? In the midst of life’s pauses, we have the decision to fill the space with busyness, anxiety, and futile work, or we can stop, rest, and listen to the words God has for us. May we strengthen ourselves to have patience today, and know that God is faithful.