I remember many times during my last deployment to Afghanistan when I was sitting and waiting for “the next thing.” There was one day specifically, that I remember quite vividly. It actually began just after 1 a.m. when I was awakened from my sleep with the concussion of a huge blast. The wall above my bed cracked and some plaster fell on me. I remember looking over at my roommate and saying, “Wow, that was big…” Turns out it was a suicide car bomb just a block or so away that leveled some government buildings and shops and homes nearby. About ten minutes after the blast, our incoming alarm finally went off. We sheltered in place and after receiving the all-clear, tried to return to sleep. It was roughly another hour later that we were hit by an RPG attack near the side gates. Again, another alarm, and then another all-clear. For the remainder of the morning and afternoon, it seemed like we were hit every two to three hours. It was at this point that I was actually at the post warehouse waiting in line to pick up some supplies that had been requisitioned when an MP ran in and said that we had to shelter in place, lock the doors and that there was an active shooter inside the wire. Now, my job at that time was as the Chaplain’s only defensive weapons system, and he wasn’t with me. He was…somewhere. I had no idea, but I told the MP, “sorry… gotta find him.” I was trying to prioritize how and where I would look for my charge, and I had no idea where he was presently located. “You had ONE job!” I was internally ridiculing myself. Now, all of this (and more) was happening within the first three steps out the door as I rushed to find my Chaplain. I never found him…just kidding, he was safe, and I was able to shelter up until the all-clear. That’s pretty much how that day went. A few moments of excitement, anxiety, and stress, but hours of sitting and waiting for word or orders. Let me tell you something about the US Army. They seem to tell the Chaplain units most of the information last. I know, shocking. But, it is frustrating. The only time we are informed quickly is during times when something really bad happened, like a KIA/WIA, suicide, or family death. So, as frustrating as it is, it’s a good day when we are ignored in the information chain. It was early evening when I was getting ready to go for my evening run and get my to-go dinner when the whole place started to shake and rattle. But there was no concussion. Confused, I looked at my Chaplain and stated, “What did they hit us with now?” Turns out, that they had hit us with nothing, but mother nature had decided to unleash a 5.7 earthquake. The incoming alarm went off and we all went to shelter, but none of us thought it would take long for someone to override the system and set the all-clear. The remainder of that night seemed on edge. Like we were expecting something to happen, but nothing else did. It’s interesting how it can affect your decision-making processes as well. Do I go for a run? Should I do this or that?
I should let you know that I HATE waiting. I’m not patient, at all. Ask my beautiful bride and she will agree, I am a terrible waiter. It should be no surprise then that often when I read the Bible, God directs my attention to sections of scripture that involve patience. As a rule, God gives us what we need when we need it. In Psalm 40:1 the psalmist states, “I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry.” David continues by pointing out that because he waited (patiently) for God that he is given mercy, love, deliverance, and blessings. All the good stuff. All the evils that were trying to overcome him…gone. All the difficulties that were arising around him…done. So in reading this a guy ought to do the simple mathematics that by waiting patiently with trusting hope in God Almighty, things will work out. But there’s always a “but” isn’t there? How often do I struggle with patience? How often do I want instant gratification or instant acknowledgment? I’ve been known to drive three miles out of the way to make a one-mile trip instead of stopping in traffic. What God tells me all the time in my studies is this: Wait. Have patience. The answer is coming but I want you to just quietly wait and realize that I am God and you are not. That message which I so mightily struggle with is why God also gives us messages like the one found in Psalm 106:13, “They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel.” This psalm is actually about the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness. They saw His works, heard His words, they tasted His manna. And even after experiencing all of that, and even after believing Him and praising Him, they quickly forgot about Him and did their own thing. The earth swallowed them. Let that sink in for a moment (pun intended). The people of Israel had asked for God to intervene in their lives and He had. In mighty ways, in actual physical, real ways. They had seen this, they had experienced this, and yet, they quickly forgot. It would be easy to look at this and come to the end of the rubric that if they forgot so much so quickly, how am I supposed to have a chance at doing what is right? God always has answers for us. He wants us to have a full and rich relationship with Him. If we only read the part of the psalm that deals with their forgetting and his judgment of them we could easily become despairing. But that is what happens when we hurry up and get frustrated and do our own thing. What happens when he wait upon Him? We ask those normal questions out of our desperation. We ask those questions out of our fear. And then we wait for the loving Creator to bring us to the message He has for us. Psalm 106:44 has a word that is for those of us that are impatient and are searching with anxious hope: nevertheless. Nevertheless. What a beautiful word for the lost, the hurting, the doubters, and the fallen. “Nevertheless, He looked upon their distress, when He heard their cry.” We are so fortunate that God is who He is, that “nevertheless” is a part of His vocabulary, because in that “nevertheless” we find the seeds of hope. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t perfect at waiting upon Him, He is always ready and able for us. Patience is something that we must practice, and I am chief of that particular tribe. But the seed of hope within the struggle of impatience is found in a God who not only blesses those that are faithful and patient but has also laid down a path for those of us who need guidance in sheltering in place and waiting on Him. There is nothing we can mess up so badly that we can’t come to Him with, and that “nevertheless” should give us all great peace.