Is anything harder than waiting on God? How many times have we prayed for the same things repeatedly, only to learn that God’s answer appears to be a “no” or “not yet”? In the midst of waiting, we are often tempted to become impatient and frustrated with God, and perhaps even worse, we are tempted to play God.
Such temptations were able to penetrate the hearts of Abraham and Sarah. Decades had passed since God had made the promise of children. Between the making of that promise and its fulfillment, many moments of weakness and failure had occurred in their hearts.
Twice, Abraham prevailed upon Sarah to lie about her being his wife so that his life might be preserved (Gen. 12; 20). Each time, Sarah is taken into another man’s harem. Like a lamb, Sarah is sacrificed on the altar of Abraham’s fear. But the grace of God prevails over sin and weakness, and God providentially preserves her purity and her life. God Himself proves to be her true husband who would never abandon or forsake her.
Sarah is not without her own moments of weakness during these decades. Not only did she agree to lie for Abraham, but even worse, in her own dark hour of desperation, when waiting on God seemed to be too hard, she gave her maidservant, Hagar, to Abraham. In desperation, she said, “Behold, now the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her” (Gen. 16:2). Not only does she compromise her marriage, but she also stood in the place of God, blaming God for the predicament that she then had to remedy.
It is against these faith-stretching backdrops that God brought about His own promise. God’s timetable is not always the same as ours, just as it was not the same as Abraham and Sarah’s. But God’s plan was not simply to give them a child, but to do so in such a miraculous way that He would be glorified and their faith would be stretched.
This is a hard but important lesson: God often shapes the details of our lives into stories that cause our faith to be stretched. He teaches us to wait on Him even when we would prefer to do otherwise. He teaches us to rest in Him even when we would prefer to play God.
Abraham and Sarah foreshadowed their descendants, who had to wait until “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) when God would bring about the Son who is so much greater than Isaac. It is this Son who would truly laugh in the face of death by triumphing over it in the resurrection—God’s climactic miracle.
Let us learn both from the stories of Scripture and from the providentially arranged stories of our lives not to doubt or usurp God, but to trust Him and to wait by faith.