The waiting game: a game no one likes to play, but everyone will. The grocery store checkout line we get in is the fastest one until we roll our cart into it. No brake lights are glowing in the traffic to our right or left until we change lanes. Fast food, convenience stores and one-click buying at Amazon have all but erased such words as patience and perseverance from Merriam-Webster’s 470,000-word repertoire, but not from God’s.
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
— Lamentations 3:25–26
As pointed out in Sunday’s sermon, four months passed between Nehemiah’s appeal to God in Nehemiah 1:5–11 and his appearing before the king in chapter two. What went on in Nehemiah’s life during those four months? My guess is more prayer and more fasting.
Granted, compared to Abraham’s waiting more than 25 years before God would give him Isaac, or Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, four months doesn’t seem long at all. But when you’re the one with the burden strapped to your back, like Nehemiah, four minutes can seem an eternity, right?
If you have been hanging out at c|Life very long, you might recall a sermon where we learned about the three Ps. We see them embedded here in Nehemiah’s journal: purpose, process and payoff.
Nehemiah recognized that God had a purpose in placing the burden of Hanani’s bleak report (Nehemiah 1:3) on his shoulders, and he was good with that. We should know there is a purpose in the crosses that we sometimes bear as well. Nehemiah also understood that between the purpose and the payoff was a process — a process that included another set of three Ps: prayer, patience and perseverance.
Standing before the king that spring day, Nehemiah was of a sad countenance, and that was risky business, seeing as he could lose his head. To be anything but jubilant in the king’s presence represented a breach of protocol that could have had severe consequences, but Nehemiah’s patient perseverance in prayer and waiting the previou four months paid off. He found favor both with God and the king, and things began to look up.
I don’t know where in life you may be right now, or what circumstance may find you out on a limb, uncertain if it can sustain you. But I do know that God knows, and he knows that what worked for Nehemiah will work for you: prayer, patience and perseverance.
They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
— Isaiah 40:31