What do you do when you are waiting for God to do a work in someone else’s life? Perhaps someone you love is making poor decisions. Maybe they have turned away from God, and the consequences are piling up. Possibly it is a wayward child or a wandering spouse. It may be a friend for whom you care deeply. You’ve offered counsel, but it was thrown back in your face. Even with the offense, you are still clinging to hope that they will change. But hope is fading. It is daunting to wait while you watch them struggle.
Tucked away in the Old Testament is a short little book called Lamentations. It is only four chapters long. You can read it in one setting. Most scholars believe the prophet Jeremiah is the writer of this text. He writes of Jerusalem, his beloved home. His brokenness over the state of the city bleeds throughout the book. The imagery is haunting. The city is in utter ruins. Piles of stone mark the spot where proud buildings once stood. There is no food. The people are starving. Children beg for crumbs. The children that perish are eaten by their own mothers. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
It is in this context that Jeremiah walks us through his beloved home, street by street, alley by alley. He describes in brutal detail the rubble that once was a beautiful, thriving city. Think of it as his version of Aleppo, the city currently destroyed in the civil war in Syria. Verse by verse he describes the devastation. Then, in the midst of his lament, a strange thing happens. He pauses, and we wait to hear what he will say. He gathers himself as if looking back to a familiar truth. A small glimmer of hope appears. A single shaft of light pierces the gloom. This is what he says:
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:21-25, ESV).
Jeremiah loved Jerusalem. Surely he had cried out in prayer to God. Surely he had interceded for the people he loved. He had pleaded for them to repent, to turn back to God. But in their stubbornness, they had refused to change.
How Jeremiah must have hurt to stand by and watch, knowing that if there were no change judgment would be swift and thorough. Can you imagine how deeply he must have felt this? I can, and I think many of you reading this know this feeling as well. We cry out to God on behalf of those we love. We beg God to intercede. We speak loving truth to the wayward. We know that if there is no change, judgement will follow.
In my own life there are times when a situation I am facing seems to drag on and on with little change. I pray, “God, what do you want me to do?” He replies, “Wait.” To which I answer, “Really, God? Anything but that.” I imagine God chuckles. Frankly, I laugh at myself as well. For in that moment I see God at work in my life. And if the only work I see God doing is the work he is doing in me, then I am okay with that. I will wait on God. I will put my hope in him. Because he is good, and he is kind.
In the midst of the waiting, God is loving. God is merciful. Day after day he refreshes me with mercy equal to my need. I continue to hope in him. He is enough for me. He is good to those who wait for him to move, to those who seek him with abandon. I am reminded that I am not God. I am not, nor will I ever be, in control. I cannot fix others. Fixing others is the sole domain of the Holy Spirit. I cannot transform anyone. Unfortunately, I am action oriented. I want to get in there and fix it. I’m a guy. That’s what guys do. We fix things. It is part of who I am, and it can frustrate me when I am faced with the fact that I am helpless to change the ones I love.
What I can do is to bring that person to God. I remind myself that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. Morning by morning I bring that one to the feet of Jesus and cry out for him to do a work in their life. Even after Jerusalem had experienced the judgment of God, Jeremiah still held onto hope that there would be change. The same should be said for you and me.
As I wait on God, continuing to pray, I put my hope in him. That makes all the difference. I put my confidence in knowing that the words Jeremiah wrote still ring true today. Jeremiah’s hope came from reminding himself of the character of God. He washes himself with thoughts of God’s love. God’s love is steadfast and never ceases. He is always merciful. Every morning God gives me enough mercy and love for the day ahead. He is faithful. He is my portion. He is good to all who wait for him. Therefore I will hope in him.
My friend, what is the situation in your life that is weighing you down? Who is the one for whom you are praying? You’re exhausted from carrying this burden. You’ve come to the place where you realize there is nothing else you can do except to wait. Wait anyway. Don’t give up or give in. Pray. Have hope in God.
When someone you love is struggling, and there’s nothing left to do, try waiting for a change.
This article was originally published in the February 2017 Newsletter.