“Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?’ Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” -Isaiah 40:27-31
The lectionary passages for this season are taking us through the book of Job and I have certainly identified with the struggle lately. Job loses everything and cries out to God for justice. He simply wants to state his case before a righteous judge and hear what on earth he did to deserve this type of suffering. But that is not the answer Job receives. When God finally does arrive (in chapter 38) God doesn’t say a word about WHY Job lost everything he had worked so hard to build, or his children whom he loved, or his health. God basically says, “Who do you think you are, questioning my ways? And who do you think I AM? I created this world and I made everything in it and sometimes you won’t get your way. When you are God, then you can make the rules.” And in the end, Job didn’t really need or want an answer to WHY did this happen to me. He just wanted to God to show up. And that’s exactly what God does.
But waiting for God to show up is pretty heavy. The weight of the wait can be more than I can bear at times. In my latest theological argument with the Almighty, I am discouraged. The words that keep coming to me are from Isaiah 40, “those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” Well, Lord, I’m about ready to pass out from the burden of waiting. I feel forgotten. I feel like you must not care about my suffering. And then you keep running these words through my head.
We all spend seasons of waiting. It might be for test results, or a health care scare. Your wait may be for that “special someone” to come along and sweep you off your feet… “Someday my prince will come.” We wait for babies to be born. We wait for results of the pregnancy test. We wait for that loved one in hospice to finish their journey of life. We wait for that prodigal son to come back home. We wait for the job or the career to begin. We wait for the playoffs. We wait for our turn. In my case, I wait for and pray for and long for the news that finally, after more than two years of adoption paperwork and sending money to support an orphan in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I might be able to go and bring my daughter home. My heart aches for this child whom I have never met. My soul longs to be a family. I cry out to God, not in sackcloth and ashes like Job. My tears usually come in the bathtub. You can’t hide behind much in that vulnerable state and my honest conversation of Lord, please, please, please, PLEASE let today be the day that the paperwork goes through. PLEASE DO SOMETHING! I can’t bear the wait any longer. I can’t bear the weight of this wait all alone.
And God says, “You aren’t alone.”
I sure feel alone!
And then the words wash over me, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matt. 11: 27-30). The weight of this wait is not a burden I carry alone. God shows up. Maybe not in the way I had hoped or imagined. Perhaps it wasn’t in the storm or the hurricane or in the cleft of the rock. Perhaps it is in the small whisper through my tears that I hear the words of God speaking to my pain.
But it isn’t just the promise that surely Christ is “with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matt. 28:20), it is also in the community. I Corinthians 12:26 says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” However, in order for the body of Christ to rejoice as well as suffer together, we have to be honest about our pain. We have to be vulnerable and share the story, humble enough to share our joys and allow people to celebrate with and for us. I need to not be so proud and look like everything is put together and just fine long enough to give the body of Christ a glimpse at the streaks of tears running down my cheeks. I am not alone. I don’t need to feel alone. I need to bring in my community to rally around me with prayer and supplication.
The best part of the book of Job is when God shows up. Job finally has a deep understanding of who God is and replies, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you,” (Job 42:5). God showed up. The second best part of Job is when his friends show up. Before they start talking and blaming him for the tragedy in his life, they rally around him. “When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was,” (Job 2:12-13).
You don’t need to come over to my house and sit in the dirt with me. Although I could use some help rebuilding the fence. The stupid goats keep getting out and I’m a little afraid that the Sabeans or Chaldeans might come and carry them off, or a fire of God might fall from the sky and burn them up! (Job 1:14-17) But I am asking that you please pray for me and with me. Pray for my little daughter in the orphanage in Kinshasa and for the DRC government and embassy to move quickly. Remind me that I’m not alone and that together we can bear the weight of this wait for one more day.
Editor’s Note: Hanna moves into her new home in Oklahoma today… with her daughter! Vivienne arrived in the U.S. with her mother on February 10, 2013. Mother and daughter are happy and healthy.