How Long Do I Have to Wait?

written by Bev Phillips
11 · 28 · 22

One of my least favorite things to do is to wait. Waiting in lines to get gas, to pay for groceries, or to speak to a “real person” in a company’s phone queue can all elicit frustration. Other types of waiting are also difficult: for children/grandchildren to come to the Lord, for reconciliation of relationships, for healing of illnesses, for purpose in post-retirement years. But God has given instruction, and even commands, on the topic of waiting. For example, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). During the upcoming time referred to as “Advent” we are doing another kind of waiting: eager anticipation of the celebration of our Savior Jesus Christ’s birth. 

Two people who had been waiting many years for the first coming of Jesus were Simeon and Anna (Luke 21:25-38). Simeon is described as a righteous and devout man who had eagerly anticipated the arrival of the Messiah for a long time. Not only did the Holy Spirit’s presence fill him, but Simeon was taught and guided by the Spirit. It was revealed to him that he would live to see the Savior with his own eyes. On the day baby Jesus was 40 days old, his parents brought Him to the Jerusalem temple for purification rites and dedication. That very day, the Spirit led Simeon to go to the temple where he immediately recognized the baby as the Messiah he had been longing to see. He is the only one the New Testament describes as personally holding Jesus in his arms and he begins to praise God, announcing that He would be a light for the nations. After saying a blessing over Jesus and His parents, Simeon foretells the purpose of Jesus on earth and the pain Mary would experience at watching her son killed. Seeing Jesus personally prepared the godly older man to die in peace; he now could move from “Immanuel: God with us” to “God with me.”

Although it is assumed that Simeon was elderly (since he was ready for death), Anna’s age is undoubtedly even more advanced. She is described as “very old” (v. 36) and only married seven years before being widowed. Some versions write she was 84 when she saw Jesus although other interpretations say she had been widowed 84 years. Since marriages often occurred in the early teens for girls at that time, this means that Anna could have been over 100 years old! Either way, she had been alone for a long time (no mention of children). But Anna was not bitter; she had a life full of purpose and hope. She was called a prophetess, the only one mentioned in the New Testament, as she remained in the temple, worshiping and serving God continually with prayers and fasting. She, too, immediately recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of the long-awaited Savior. Her enthusiastic response was to begin publicly praising and worshiping God, thanking Him for keeping this special promise. Anna then became the very first evangelist (man or woman) as she began publicly proclaiming Jesus as Redeemer to everyone she encountered.

How did these saints find the patience to wait for many decades to see the answer to their prayers? Both saturated themselves with the Scriptures and worship of God. They believed the promise of Isaiah 60:22 (“When the time is right, I, the Lord, will make it happen”) and lived each day with hopeful expectancy. Waiting on God was their daily practice and lifestyle. They saw everything through eyes of faith, believing God always keeps His promises in His own timetable and not according to our human calendar. To Anna and Simeon, waiting was not passive inactivity. They were actively serving God, looking to Him for each day’s “assignment”, and trusting that He is the One in control, knowing what is best.

Today we are not waiting for Christ to be born, but we are awaiting His return to earth. We are waiting for answers to other heartfelt prayers, some longed for over many decades like Simeon and Anna. (A personal example is my own 50+ years of prayer for my nonagenarian father’s salvation.) I have learned I cannot “fix” or control people or hurry God. Rather than looking for answers from God, I desire to follow the model of Anna and Simeon and look for God Himself. In a season of waiting, it is good to remember that “not yet” does not necessarily mean “not ever.” Delay doesn’t mean permanent denial. Michael W. Smith’s song, “Waymaker”, says it well: “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working; even when I can’t feel it, You’re working. You never stop working.” 

May these words bring us patience and hope as we are in God’s waiting room: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

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Bev Phillips

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