Updated: Jan 17
Are We There Yet?
Dr. R. B. McFee
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?”
Psalm 13:1-2 ESV
This morning I was reading Day 8 in the devotional The Chosen, 40 days with Jesus, by Amanda Jenkins, Kristen Hendricks, and Dallas Jenkins. In this section the authors created a scenario where Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah, and mother of John the Baptist, is being interviewed by a reporter who asks about her husband’s less than awe inspiring response to God’s angel Gabriel. Part of her reply, after reminding the reporter her husband was a good man, “hope deferred can make the heart sick.”
Wow that’s powerful stuff - “hope deferred can make the heart sick.” Thinking about this comment from a spiritual perspective I wondered if this could also be said of us, or by us?
“Hope deferred” is another way of describing our time of waiting on the Lord. And if we have waited a while, frustration and fatigue intrude. Hope becomes a question – “how long God?”
Throughout the scriptures “how long” is asked of God. Even God’s chosen often asked this while waiting for the fulfillment of His promise. To be sure we see the Almighty show great acts of love and mercy throughout the Bible, but often the recipients at one time wondered “are we there yet God?”
Consider Sarah and Abraham, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the Israelites in Egypt and in the wilderness.
The Psalms are full of heartfelt pleas to God asking the simple question “when?” When for rescue, deliverance, help, a sense of peace, the fulfillment of something, or God’s Presence made manifest.
We as people of faith often wonder “how long God?”“How long” reminds me of a phrase most of us have either heard, or uttered -“are we there yet?”
Having read a fair amount o Scripture, I don’t know the answer. It’s a great mystery. However there is reassurance; the Bible is full of scriptures on trusting and waiting in the Lord, recognizing He answers our prayers, He fulfills His promises.
But which promises or requests, and when? When will we get better, or find our true love, or discover our career, our calling? When will we feel Christ’s Presence? When will we be fulfilled in His service? When will the door open we need to accomplish our goals?
Only God knows. But for mere mortals, waiting is the hardest part of the faith process. Not just recognizing the dream, asking for help, praying, or visualizing God making it happen, but the waiting. Perhaps there’s a reason we often define waiting as interminable amount of time, because it feels terminal, heavy, energy sapping.
And we’ve all had to wait for something. It’s a rite of passage in childhood. We wait for Christmas presents to be delivered by Santa. We wait until we are old enough to drive or get a part time job. But these periods of waiting all are well defined, with notable end points. We know when it’s Christmas, and when our “important” birthdays are.
Less defined periods for waiting have been experienced by parents taking a road trip with children, in the form of shouts from the back seat “are we there yet?” At which point no one wonders about the arrival time more than mom or dad!
But as adults we, too ask God, our Heavenly Father, the question “are we there yet,” only in a variety of spiritual and deeper, but no less anxious ways - “Are you here yet God?” or “Do you hear me God?” or “When will it happen God?,” or “You promised God, didn’t You?”, or “How God?” or “why not now God?”or “is the tunnel getting any shorter to see the Light, God?” or the basic, most heartfelt one we can ask “where are you God?” on and on we ask.
For some our “how long” or “are we there yet God” is about health, or loved ones, or family, or having a child, or getting a better job, or financial challenges, or feeling of God’s Presence, or many other appeals of the soul to our Creator. The list goes on and on.
And yet throughout scripture we are counseled and comforted by the words of Psalms about waiting. Consider….
“Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”
It takes courage to stay the course, to “wait on the Lord.” Consider Noah – it took decades to build the ark – which is to say he ‘waited on the Lord’ a very long time before the flood; a lifetime of faith, trusting in God – “waiting on the Lord.”
Perhaps it is the waiting period that God finds most telling about our character, our ability in listening to, and learning from Him, and our true heart for Christ. Can we stay loyal to God, believing in Him when all earthly signs point to the contrary?
Could the waiting period be a time when our dream is tested, and so are we? Maybe this is the training period to prepare and make us capable of accepting what we asked for. God might be saying we aren’t ready yet.
Or, God might be using this time to show you your desire doesn’t align with His plan for you.
Sometimes we are given a dream and seem to be running with it. We overcome challenges, and it even appears like reality is just a little farther down the road. Then bam we come to an unseen fork in the road. Decisions have to be made – left or right. We don’t end up crossing the finish line. And we wonder why did God put that dream on our heart only to have us run part of the marathon, but not complete it?
Could it be because God had a different finish line than the one we saw? Could it be we finished the race He set for us, and we fulfilled what we needed to, even though it was a different outcome than we thought it should be? Could it be God was transforming us from someone incapable of even entering that race, to someone who ran in it?
Maybe the dream was placed there by God as a catalyst to move us in directions we might never had considered. That it was all about the journey, not the destination, or at least not the one we saw?
Here’s an example.
Several years ago I invented some medical technology. I figured this must be the path God wanted for my life, and things were going as planned. Then came the fork in the road I never saw coming – taking the next step on the development ladder, which meant either selling it to folks I didn’t think would build it right, and live successfully ever after, or walk away, and live morally ever after. I chose the latter.
Truth be told, for quite a while I felt in some ways like a failure. I asked God why give me the dream, then let me get only so far? And for a time it made me hesitant to pursue other ideas from God.
But as my spiritual journey evolved and my trust in God deepened, I began to realize there were a lot of experiences during that technology journey that I never really counted as blessings at the time. I began to think differently about the outcome of that venture. Maybe God was training me for something else.
A few months later a potential client approached my boss. It was a long shot we would get the contract. But the owner of that company was embarking on a new venture, and needed someone a background he didn’t have, such as designing clinical trials, working with government agencies. Without the experiences I had gone through we wouldn’t have earned the contract. I even developed lifelong friendships in the process!
“God is not a man that He should lie…. hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?”
When I focused on Him, more than me, God did “make it good!”
Instead of focusing on the disappointments from “hope deferred,” or “are we there yet,” I looked at me. How had I changed in my technology saga? What had God done to me through the dream? Did I learn something, anything? Did I learn to run a race that God saw the finish line before I did? Did God have a different finish line for me than what I thought? Was I transformed?
Simply put – “yes” to all those!
Do I still have dreams, and hopes on my heart that I have placed before the Lord? Yes. But to paraphrase Elizabeth in her “interview” “her desire was for a child, but her hope has always been in the Lord.” So my “desires” are placed at God’s feet, but my “hope” is in Him. And whatever answer He gives me, I know during the waiting period – it is my training period to be transformed, to move closer to God. I am seeing Him as my portion, my sufficiency.
Do I feel that sense of calm and acceptance all the time? Are you serious? I’m human. I still ask God “are we there yet?!” But then I step back, recognizing He knows the question before I ask, has the tissues before my tears, and has set in motion the answers I need.
As partners with God will we allow God to prepare, teach, and transform us along the way? It is up to us.
So as I occasionally ask God “are we there yet?,” I then remind myself it’s the journey with Him, not just the destination; the only “there” that matters is in the loving arms of God.
As Christians there are mysteries in our ministries. Within the Bible are the hopes and dreams of people who had intimate relationships with God, so much so that they freely expressed their love, hopes, and at times frustrations with the Almighty, including “how long,” and “are we there yet, Lord?”
Even Jesus didn’t know the “how long” or “are we there yet” answer about the end times, when His Disciples asked. So if Jesus wondered “how long God,” and the Disciples wondered “are we there yet?” we are indeed in Good company.
Are you waiting on the Lord? Are you sometimes asking Him “are we there yet?”
If we are alive and healthy enough to ask that, we already have a great gift of God, and a gift of reassurance. We have purpose in the ‘not there yet’ portion of our journey.
But, we need to align our purpose with His. Do we ever ask God what His dream is for our life? Our dreams ought to in some manner advance God’s Kingdom.
So are our dreams positioning us to be closer to God, to grow in faith?
“Are we there yet”
That’s up to our Driver. And while we wait, He helps us develop our spiritual and earthly skill sets.
Maybe you’ve hit a fork in the road, or the goal line disappeared before you crossed it? Do you trust Him? Or are you back seat driving, trying to give God instructions on where to go?
Remember God wants us to be happy. Our input is important. But He is driving our car. Are we open to what God is doing to and for us through this waiting period? Easier said than done for sure; that’s where faith, constant communications with God, and discernment come in!
It’s in the waiting that we are transformed. The time between the dream and the fulfillment is where we grow in strength and faith, taking a more honest inventory of who we are and what we have accomplished so far. When we do this, the blessings may surprise us!
Consider God’s blessings, His Promises and words of comfort….
31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Are we there yet?
If we trust God, maybe it doesn’t matter where “there” is after all.