While traveling on the interstate to visit family in the midst of a blizzard, through complete whiteout, we suddenly saw brake lights. My husband slammed on the brakes and we began fishtailing on the icy road. Although we barely missed hitting the cars in front of us, we found ourselves sandwiched between two other cars at an angle. We then watched in terror as cars slid toward us as they came out of the whiteout and slammed on their own brakes. They slid helplessly on the ice. Many ended up at angles nearby, some slid into the ditches on both sides of the road. Miraculously, all of them missed us. Cars were all over the road and in the ditches. Traffic was backed up for miles. Or so we assumed as we sat in the midst of this traffic jam at a complete halt in our journey. To preserve fuel, we turned the car off, only turning it on every half hour to add a little heat to the car. An hour went by without explanation as to why we were stopped. Then hour 2 slipped by. Not knowing the reason for sitting there was beginning to really test my patience. After hour 3 of sitting in the exact same spot, I could stand it no longer. I had to know why were stopped. I got out and was immediately slapped with the cold wind and wet snow. Undeterred, I began walking past car after car.
After passing only 2 cars, I could no longer see our own vehicle through the thick, falling snow. My hair was plastered to my face from the wet snow. I was freezing and the wind was so strong I had to walk at an angle to move further up the road. After walking past about 10 cars, my hands were completely numb, my eyes burned, the cold was sucking away each breath, and I was shivering uncontrollably. I turned back. Each car possessed other impatient people who rolled down their windows asking what I had seen. “Snow!” was my pithy answer. When I finally made it back to the refuge of our own car, I ripped open the door and fell inside. My husband took 1 look at me and dissolved in laughter. My face was splotchy red, my hair was saturated and stuck to my face, and snot was running out of my nose. I did not share in his amusement. Now I was wet, cold, miserable, angry, ugly and I still didn’t know why we were sitting there! Yes, it is safe to say patience is not a virtue of mine.
Yet when I read Sarai’s story in Genesis 16, I want to scream at her for being so impatient. God had promised Sarai’s husband, Abraham, a son. But after years and years of waiting to become pregnant, Sarai becomes so impatient she actually tells her husband to sleep with her servant girl, Hagar.
What??? I would never tell my husband to sleep with the maid!
Maybe not, but there are obviously many mistakes I make when I feel God is moving too slow. I may pray about a decision but don’t wait for an answer. I begin my “to-do” list and start working. I think, “Surely He will appreciate my help and all the hard work I’m putting into this.” I pat myself on the back just before the crash and burn.
Sarai’s story forces me to ask hard questions of myself. How many times have I taken matters into my own hands thinking God needed my help? How many times have I, too, cast blame when the guilt is too much for me to bear alone? How often have I taken my guilt and shame out on others?
There are 2 key ways we can avoid the trap of running ahead of God right off the cliff of despair?
- Pray about every decision and wait on His answer.
- Philippians 4:6 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
- Psalm 27:14 – “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
- After hearing His answer, trust. No matter how long it takes. Many people in the bible had to wait years before God’s promises were fulfilled. I believe the word for this is patience (Yikes! I would like to vote to move that word to the cuss word list, please).
- Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
The good news is God can redeem our mistakes. Sarai finally becomes pregnant with the son promised to Abraham. She was way past the point of being able to have children but God, being God, can overcome any challenge.
Speaking of challenges, returning to the traffic jam, after waiting 4 hours in the same spot, cars began to move slowly up the road. Although we were in whiteout conditions, I was never so happy to be moving along in a car. At the next exit, we turned around and drove home rather than going on to visit our relatives. We later learned a semi carrying 6 brand new cars had overturned in the road. Not only did the semi block the road but all the cars scattered, also blocking traffic. Each car had to be towed along with the semi. No wonder we had to wait 4 hours.
God can overcome any challenge including giving us what we are lacking. Even giving us the patience to wait. Since that virtue is slow in coming for me, I continue to receive lessons in order to learn. Meanwhile, I may just lose my patience and go look for it up the road. Just kidding.
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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson