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Lessons from the Waiting Room

Waiting Area Image

I posted this a few hours ago on Facebook:

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Obviously I intended it as something of a joke, a jab at 2020 for what feels like a pretty unique collection of strange and undesirable events within a 12-month calendar period. But then it got me thinking. (You can draw your own conclusions about whether that indicates I post before I think...)

This has been a year, in large part, of waiting. Waiting for news to break. Waiting for schools to open. Waiting for work opportunities. Waiting for "the curve to flatten." Waiting for travel plans to feel safe again. Waiting for life to return to some semblance of normalcy. 

Could it be that God wants to teach us something?

In James 4:13-15, we read this exhortation:

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit' - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil."

Perhaps the absence of "normalcy" is intended, in God's good providence, to remind us that we "do not know what tomorrow will bring." To remind us that we are not sovereign over our world, over our times - even over our own lives. Making plans and setting goals for the future is not wrong, of course ("The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance," Prov. 21:5). But we are prone to forget the foundation upon which all our plans are to be laid, and the guardrails upon which all our plans are contingent: the sovereignty of God. And to forget that reality is a kind of boastful arrogance.

I take part (as often as I'm able) in a monthly meeting of pastors in Washington, D.C. One of the small things about these particular brothers that I have found so helpful is their commitment to, and habit of, speaking in biblical terms about their lives and ministries. One of the biblical phrases that routinely accompanies their speech about plans, hopes, goals, and the like, is drawn from James 4:15: "Lord willing.

One will say, for example, "I hope in a few years, Lord willing, to plant a new church in the neighborhood." Or, "Our church will have the opportunity, Lord willing, to gather in person for worship this Lord's Day." 

It's a small, subtle pattern of speech that reminds me, in the course of casual conversation, that our plans are subject to the good, wise, loving providence of our God. To quote Andrew Peterson (as I often do):

"Is it good that we remind ourselves of this?"

It is.

So "Election Day" in America has turned into "Election Week." It might turn into "Election Month." The results may be contested, investigated, and dragged out for weeks. But rather than rolling our eyes at some impersonal force of fate ("There you go again, 2020!"), let's consider the message we may be receiving from our very personal God, who wants to remind us: "This is all in my hands."

And honestly, considering the chaos and uncertainty surrounding this season, could there be any more welcome truth than that?