Waiting on the promises of God is quite possibly one of the most difficult things we do on this earth. The holidays are often a time of great joy and celebration mingled with reminders of old wounds and prayers waiting to be answered. This week we learned about Simeon and Anna, two people we usually just skim over when we read the birth story of Jesus in Luke. Simeon was waiting on a promise and Anna was wounded by widowhood. Have you ever felt that way? Wounded by a painful event in life, like Anna was? Or maybe you are more like Simeon, in a season of waiting?
Waiting is made all the more difficult in this culture of “right now”. If Amazon says I can have it in two days, what is God’s problem? Additionally, we often confuse waiting with stagnation. Waiting for God can feel like treading water in the ocean, we aren’t going anywhere but it’s taking a lot of effort to keep our head above water. We assume, incorrectly, that because we have to wait for something, we aren’t doing anything, that the time is wasted. Simeon didn’t have Amazon, but he did have a promise from God – that he wouldn’t go home to heaven until he met the Savior. We know Simeon was a “righteous and devout man”, the Holy Spirit was upon him, and he had been in a season of waiting (Luke 2:25). We don’t know how long he waited, but we see his response when his season of waiting ended – he praised God (Luke 2:28-32). This holiday season, I hope you can find comfort in the life of Simeon – our God is the God who fulfills his promises, even if we have to wait a lifetime.
From Anna’s life, we see a widow who went from having a wound to being a warrior for God. We first learn that she’s a prophetess– that was her true identity. Then the Bible tells us that she had been a widow for 84 years. Finally, the Bible tells us her position – she was in the temple day and night. Note the order the Bible introduces Anna to us, the Bible tells us who she is in Christ first (a prophetess), before it tells us about her wounds. The Bible does not deny or avoid her wounds, but it is not the first thing we are told about Anna. Your wounds do not define you. We learn about Anna’s identity in Christ first, then we learn about her wounds, and, finally, we see what she did with her wounds by her position – she was in the temple day and night, fasting and praying.
Emotional wounds can cause paralysis, both physical and emotional, but Anna did not have that struggle. She repurposed her pain into prayer and fasting. She woke up with a purpose, to serve the God she loved. We can begin to heal from our wounds by learning from the life of Anna – we need to remember what Jesus says about us first, and make that our identity. Then we need to acknowledge our wounds truthfully, and finally, we need to make the choice to position ourselves to serve the God we love.
Finally, in Numbers 24:17, we read that a “star” will come. With the Bible, we are able to see how long God planned for the first Christmas. I read an excellent question once; it asked ‘when we consider how long God planned for the first Christmas, I wonder why some of us don’t even trust Him with our tomorrows’? Hundreds of years had passed between the writing of Numbers and Luke, and yet God had made a promise. This holiday season, let the Christmas celebrations be the evidence you need of the promises of God being fulfilled. Whether you’re wounded or waiting, take comfort in the fact that Jesus loves you and what He promises will be done.
- Simeon wasn’t the only one who waited for God’s promises to be fulfilled. In her Bible study, He Speaks to Me, Priscilla Shirer reminds us that the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk (don’t even try and tell me that this isn’t an excellent baby name) knew what it meant to wait on God’s promises while things were shattering around him. This prophet modeled for us how we need to express our questions and emotions to God during the wait. While many of the Old Testament prophets contain the Lord coming to a prophet with a message, the book of Habakkuk contains the prophet going right to God with his questions and emotions. Habakkuk lived during a time where the righteous were being persecuted and wickedness seemed never-ending (hmm… just like 2021), and he wanted to know how long he would have to deal with this (Habakkuk 1:2-3, 13).
- The book of Habakkuk is 3 chapters, so if you have 5 minutes, it may be a good idea to read it and marvel at the boldness of Habakkuk’s questions to God.
- Focus on Habakkuk 3:17-19. What Habakkuk proclaims is that even though these bad things are happening around him, he will still rejoice in the Lord. In his waiting and his hardship, Habakkuk finds hope in God.
- I’m going to challenge you to write your own personal, 2021 version of this declaration. Think about your current life, the things that have wounded you, and the things you are waiting on, and write out a personal declaration between you and God.
- Example: “even if my healing doesn’t come, even if my loved one dies, even if the divorce happens, even if I’m financially struggling, I will still rejoice in the Lord, I will still look to the Lord because He is my strength”.
- In Genesis 16, we see Abraham and his wife become impatient in waiting on the promise of God to be fulfilled. Lack of knowledge while reading the Bible also contributes to our misunderstandings about the way God works present day because lifetimes are told in paragraphs. Abraham waited for 24 years between the time God told him he’d be a father and the birth of his son, Isaac (Genesis 15-21). When I read it in my Bible, those 24 years of his life are told over three pages. This can send the wrong message about God – that He isn’t answering our prayers because the answer isn’t immediate.
- Reflect on your life – have there been times where you have become impatient with waiting on God? Have you done what I’ve done and just tried to make it happen on your own? How did that work out?
- The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If you do not want to repeat your own pattern of impatience, bring it to God in prayer, confess that you’re terrible at waiting, confess your unbelief in His promises and His timing, and ask Him to help you rest while you wait.
- Put your waiting to good use! From a mental health perspective, waiting of any kind creates doubt, fear, anxiety, anger etc. Focusing on your wait will increase your anxiety, so try to model your season of waiting after Anna and use your talents for God.
- We aren’t told any specifics about the life of Simeon except that he is a righteous and devout man and that God had told him, individually, that he will not die until he meets the Savior (Luke 2:26). Unlike Anna, who spent the majority of her time in the temple, Simeon was “moved by the (Holy) Spirit” (Luke 2:27) to go to the temple courts on the very day Jesus was there. If we breeze past this phrase, we will miss the divine work of God. The Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to go to the temple to meet Jesus that day. The Holy Spirit moved Simeon into action; it was not the work of Simeon, but the work of God being done in Simeon’s life. Simeon was in the right place at the right time not because of fate or coincidence, but because of God’s divine prompting. In other words, if God promised it, it’s not up to us, and God will ensure that what He promises will happen. Look at what Simeon says in Luke 2:29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised…”.
- What does this mean for us in 2021? Are you waiting on the promises of God? No personal striving can bring about what God wills to be done. If God declared it, He will make it happen and nothing you do, or don’t do, can interfere with the work of God. So relax, God’s got you ☺
- Take some time and reflect on your life thus far. Write down 3 things you have prayed and waited for, they can be anything. Then write down the prayers you are currently waiting on God to answer.
- As you consider the faithfulness of God in your past, and your current prayers, take some time and listen to Maverick City’s song Promises. As you listen to this song, do any words or phrases stand out to you? Consider making these words or phrases into personal prayers.