“How much longer?” A question we’ve all posed at least once in our lives. And no, I’m not talking about a “How much longer” asked from the backseat of a minivan on an endless road trip. I’m talking about the “How much longer”s that flow out of hearts in desperation. Your version of this question may be a typical (but no less discouraging) one such as: “How much longer will I have to wake every two hours to feed this ticking time-bomb?” Or “How much longer will I be in this ghastly, unrewarding job… or spending half my life in the kitchen doing all the invisible work around here.”
Or perhaps your “How much longer” has grown out of deeper pain… “How much longer will this spare room remain a spare room…instead of a nursery.” “How much longer will I have to live in this frozen, suffocating marriage?” Or “How much longer will every twinge and new symptom cause me to automatically jump to assuming it’s a relapse…and that the nightmare is starting all over again.”
I wonder tonight how many of you are asking yourself, “How much longer…How much more will I have to bear?” The truth is that burdens without end dates are the hardest to endure. They leave you scanning a future full of ghostly, empty fog. There is no way to plan… no sign posts, no mile markers to give direction. For all you know, the pain may never end. And it’s hard to keep going when you don’t know if you’ll be carrying the weight you’re under for another ten minutes or another ten years.
The thing is, the Bible is filled with stories that have an underlying, “How much longer” theme. In the book of Genesis we are given front row seats to Sarah and Abraham’s decade long struggle with infertility. The book of Exodus opens with Israel’s four-hundred year cry for deliverance from slavery. In the New Testament, Jesus meets a woman who suffered from a debilitating and isolating disease that had plagued her for twelve years. And the Apostle Paul details his desperation to be rid of a handicap that interfered with his mission in life.
The Bible is riddled with this question…and never once was God blind to the one who was asking it. Watching His response to these questions, however, is very telling. He was not quick to jump in with status updates. No “Ten more years! Keep pressing ahead…you’re doing great!” And even more alarming, there aren’t many instances of immediate interventions. Again, Sarah’s infertility lasted decades…the Israelites were enslaved for centuries. This appears to be some serious feet-dragging on the part of God. We have to wonder why. Why would a God Who clearly loves His people and clearly has the power to intervene when they are suffering choose to delay deliverance and choose to keep His people ignorant of when deliverance would come.
And I believe that no matter how you look at it, you have to end up recognizing the fact that God is always working towards different goals–aiming for things we rarely even think about. We ask “How much longer,” and we mean “How much longer will I hurt.” He hears “How much longer” and thinks “How much longer before the pain produces the growth.” We desire a baby in our arms, a five year cancer free status, a life void of pain; and He desires a child who is mature in Christ, who has unshakable peace, and who is filled with supernatural joy.
We dream our narrow dreams without ever seeing the connection between the delays, the interruptions, the heartbreaks and the forming of a far greater victory. He may indeed restore your marriage, He may enter into your broken world and bring the desire of your heart. But in His delay, don’t think He isn’t near or that He isn’t at work. He is both. And He is dreaming greater dreams for you than you can imagine. Embrace the delay. Let it work in you to create something beautiful.