Now approaching his 97th birthday, my grandfather reminisces a lot. Many years ago, he built a lake house with his own hands. Lately, he’s been reminiscing about all the summertime trips he made with my sister and I. I think only God could keep track of the number of times we made that drive. As a kid, the dreadful length of the trip weighted on me every time. My sister and I alternated our pesky questions on an infinite loop: “Are we there yet?” “How much longer?” “Are we there yet?” …. (I will spare you. You get the picture.)
I recently found myself in the driver’s seat hearing those indicators of anxious impatience from someone else for the first time. My nephew piped up on a ten-hour drive: “This is why I hate driving to Michigan. It takes forever! Why can’t we fly?” As he said this, each word got longer than one before it. He intuitively used every vocal resource he had to indicate how the trip seemed to keep stretching on and on. He’s four.
A few moments of impatience notwithstanding, my nephew handled our trip very well. (So well, in fact, he’s decided I should play chauffeur on the next long family adventure!) But he reminded me how hard waiting on the Lord in our sojourning can be, especially when: 1) We know the Lord could move faster if He wanted to and 2) We don’t know how long or how hard (or how good, for that matter!) the journey will be. If the hardest part about waiting is waiting without answers we know the Lord could give, then the second hardest part about waiting must be receiving a different answer than the one we were hoping for. This was familiar ground for Christ’s disciples just before His ascension in Acts 1:6-9:
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
I can almost hear my nephew’s tone (even my own!) in the disciples’ voices when they ask Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” What did the disciples want to know? Quite simply, “Are we there now? Are You ready yet? Will you restore the Kingdom now, Lord?” I love Christ’s answer. At first blush, it seems he says something like, “No, and it’s none of your business…” But Jesus didn’t say, “No.” He told them the details of the timing were not for them to know, but then He answered a question they weren’t asking. He told them how He would restore the Kingdom. But first they would have to…. (You guessed it!)… wait on the Holy Spirit. They would be waiting for the Spirit to give them power to bring about the very thing they want to see accomplished, albeit at a much different pace and without a violent overthrow to Caesar’s government. Their view of the restoration was simply incomplete and short-sighted. God’s plan was far more glorious. By God’s design, the restoration would essentially happen one gospel conversation at a time.
Taking this as my first cue, here are three hope-filled “No, but…” answers we can glean from Scripture that speak to our spiritual “Are we there yet?” questions.
- No, but we have a commission while we wait (Matthew 28:16-20). I don’t know about you, but often my desire for the Lord to act more quickly is based on selfish desires that seem to multiply anytime I take my eyes off Him. When we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, the Great Commission is ever before us, ever occupying our minds and even our hands. This doesn’t mean we never plead with the Lord to quickly answer us in our need. It does mean that we are, by His grace, able to be found faithful when He does grant that long-awaited answer. “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready…” (Luke 12:35-48).
- No, but God hears our “Are we there yet,” prayers as a gracious and patient Heavenly Father. Although grumbling and complaining is something we need to repent of, the Lord has flung His door wide open to receive earnest prayer along the lines of “How long, O Lord?” He’s flung it so wide, in fact, that we have prayers in the Psalms we can pray when the wait is too much for us. See Psalm 13 for just one example.
- No, but we can worship while we wait. See one example of an eager wait turning to worship here in Psalm 130:5-7. Even when we face the bleakest of circumstances, the greatness of our God is not diminished (Habakkuk 3:16-19). His nature is not tarnished. His goodness has not run out. What would happen if we fought our temptations to mumble in impatience with worship? Here’s a small sample worship resources available to help get us started worshipping the God of perfect timing in our waiting seasons:
I pray the Lord will answer you quickly when you call to Him. But if, in His providence, you find yourself lingering in the middle of a long, hard, wait, I pray He’ll bring to your mind scriptural truths that strengthen and comfort you. May we wait on the Lord “more than watchmen for the morning,” and more than four-year-olds who are ready to go swimming on vacation!
BJ Rathbun works as an analyst. Her liberal arts education has given her an eclectic work background and a multitude of stories. She most enjoys spending time with her family, church family, and friends.