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Abraham was waiting for a child. Joseph was wasting away in prison. Moses was wandering in the wilderness.

The stories are so familiar we forget that they are real stories and real people endured them. When we recall these Sunday school stores, they go by so quickly. They are tiny dots on a timeline, a little bit of chronology. “And then Moses did this and then they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and then Joshua came…” It’s just something on a chart of Old Testament history. But do you know how long it felt like for Moses in the wilderness? It felt like forty years! That’s me going nowhere in particular until I’m seventy-five. Moses led a rebellious people for four decades in the desert, just waiting for them to die.

And think of Joseph. When we think of Joseph, we think of how he rose to power, how God turned everything to good. We love the story of Joseph. Someone should write a musical about it. But what did the happy story feel like for Joseph? Not always very happy. Imagine how you would feel if you were faithful in your master’s house, his wife came on to you, you said no, and you still ended up in prison? And you stay in prison because the man you helped get out of prison forgets all about you. We remember Joseph’s beginning and middle in light of his ending, but that’s not how Joseph experienced it.

Or what about Abraham? God promised him land, but he never inherited any of it. God promised him a son, and he had to wait a lifetime for it.

Can you believe that God has something good in store for you? Will you trust that someday when you see your beginning and middle with the ending in view that it will all make sense? Can you hope against hope that God has not forgotten you, that his promises are true, and that he is up to something? He was for Abraham and Joseph and Moses. Why not you too?

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19 thoughts on “Waiting, Wasting, Wandering”

  1. Dan says:

    To answer your questions in the last paragraph – by the grace of God, I say yes!

  2. Ash says:

    Yes, I can. Can you tell everyone else around me? That it’s okay to be in a place of waiting on God? That the wilderness/prison can very well be part of His glorious plan? That having done everything, sometimes you can only stand and wait and trust and pray, and it’s not necessarily sin/laziness/blindness/fear that keeps you in a place like that? That it’s not always the best idea to “make it happen?” (cf. Ishmael and Moses killing the Egyptian.)

  3. Wow, this line really hit me between the eyes: “Moses led a rebellious people for four decades in the desert, just waiting for them to die.” And we know that he was meekly faithful in the face of such seeming futility.

    I’m blown away. Not that I haven’t heard the story a bazillion times, but something about the way you wrote that sentence made me see it in a whole new light. So often my life feels like an exercise in futility, but I’ve got nothing on Moses in that regard. Lord, please help me to be meekly faithful!

  4. Michael Scaman says:

    Abraham had to wait a lifetime for his son… but when Abraham died at 175, he saw Issaac at similar ripe age of 76 or so as Abe was when promiced the child.. ohhh hundred year ago or so.. When did that child become an old man?

  5. Maria says:

    John the Baptist was beheaded in prison. Most of the early disciples were executed. It should teach us that His plan might not have anything to do with our “good” but His greater purpose.

  6. Rose says:

    @ Ash. I hear you. It gets so bad that when we are meditating on the example of Stephen, stoned by crowds of people who had hardened their hearts the application we get is, “If everyone around you is telling you that you are wrong, consider that you might have a hard heart.”

  7. Val says:

    Thank you so very much for this. It’s exactly what I needed to be reminded of today. May God give special grace to those of us who need to ‘hope against hope that God has not forgotten’. And may we have grace to yield to his will remembering that ‘God often does his best work while we’re IN the waiting room…'(Warren Weirsbe)

  8. Charla says:

    Great! Absolutely perfect timing for me personally and great writing..makes me want to run out and buy one of his books! ;)

  9. P4T says:

    I believe what you wrote, and I am Thankful to God for his faithfulness- but those individuals all had close undeniable experiences with God who spoke to them clearly.

    What about all the people who journeyed with Moses and history never told of? Or the other people who were wrongly imprisoned and never got out… The people who feel in the end- they were not redeemed.

    I don’t mean to be hostile at all, this is coming from a serious place and time in my life right now. It’s just… sometimes it feel like you are a forgotten Israelite more than a Moses.

    I know the journey isn’t over, it’s just difficult for me to reconcile the fact that for every Moses, Joseph, and Abraham, there are countless men and women who didn’t receive a blessing and don’t have such a relationship with God. Sometimes it feels like we resemble those people more than the great men of faith you mentioned.

    Thank You for the article, it’s a great encouragement none the less.

  10. Karen says:

    Perfect post with a much needed perspective! Thank you!

  11. Phil says:

    A bit of hope I could use right now. The vehicle?

  12. anaquaduck says:

    There is a musical called “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” I recall my Grandmother/Ma going to see it many years ago here in Australia.

    Don’t underestimate the encouragement of the Scriptures though, or the music of the Psalms with the blessing of God… Praise the Lord.

  13. Austin says:

    You wait long enough then something good is bound to happen.

  14. Kyle McDaniel says:

    @Ash You took the words right out of my mouth. In my experience that has been the most difficult part. That others simply can’t fathom that the Lord would call one of his own into the desert, much less, let them wander there for several years. The Holy Spirit tells me “rest”, “remember the sabbath” but my flesh, my pride, rages within me, “Why won’t anybody else see this for what it is? Why must they presume I’m doing something wrong?!” My pride still begs me to justify myself before my fellow man. Why is the justification I’ve freely received before the Father not enough for me?

  15. JEN says:

    Wow. This says a lot. Thank you.

    The comments are revealing. There are a lot of hurting and/or unfulfilled hearts in God’s kingdom and yet these individuals remain faithful to God. I am so touched by all of this.

    @P4T: what you say is so very true. These big names of the faith have their own hall of fame. We have our own sort of celebrities in the faith today, too. A statement a heard often in the 1980s when TV preachers were a big thing was, “God is no respecter of persons.

  16. JEN says:

    To clarify my comment above, I’d like to add that “respector of persons” referred to the idea of giving someone of status (a leadership role, wealth, family name) higher regard and value than to those without it.

    God doesn’t do that. My thinking: He knows He’s the one who facilitates our status, not us. So He deserves the accolades.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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