Every year at about this time, I begin to ask the Lord to give me a verse or a word for the next year. Last year I got a very clear word: “Wait. On. God.” It was very emphatic, like three distinct sentences. It was puzzling to get that word at the beginning of 2020. “Wait on what, Lord,” I wondered. I had no idea what was coming. But it wasn’t too long until we were all waiting. Waiting for the lockdown to be over, waiting for the virus to go away, waiting to go back to work, for the children to go back to school. Waiting for life to return to normal. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
I have to confess that I am not very good at waiting. I hate waiting in line, waiting in traffic, waiting for almost anything. I don’t even enjoy getting my nails done because it takes too long. So 2020 has been a real opportunity for me to learn lessons in waiting. But I still don’t like it.
So as I have begun to pray for my 2021 word, I was hoping for something like, “The wait is over!” Instead the Lord has taken me to Lamentations. Lamentations??? Really, Lord? It’s such a dreary book and haven’t we lamented enough? But the Lord wanted to give me a hopeful reminder In Lamentations 3:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. ESV
This is a familiar, often quoted passage of Scripture. In fact we even sing hymns with those words. Think about it. He pours out fresh blessings on us every morning and those blessings never come to an end. Those mercies are specific to the day that lies ahead, and then tomorrow we get new ones. I am reminded of the children of Israel wandering in the desert. God provided fresh manna every morning, enough for the day.
But then in the next verse, there is that word again. Wait.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” NIV
I believe God is telling me that the time of waiting is not over, but I can have hope because His love never comes to an end, and His mercies are new every morning. When we seem stuck in this sameness, God is declaring that because of His great compassion and love for us, He is doing something new every morning! The word mercies in Hebrew is derived from the word that is used for womb, the place of the strongest love connection, that between mother and child. Neuroscience studies have demonstrated that there are changes that occur in the brain of a pregnant woman that get her ready to respond to the cries of her baby. Within just a few hours of becoming a mother, she can not only distinguish the cry of her baby from the cry of other babies, she can recognize what the different cries mean and respond accordingly. She knows what her baby needs when it cries. In the same way, our Father recognizes the cries of His children. When we cry out to Him, He hears us. He knows what we need and He responds. God loves us, wants good for us, and even when it seems as if nothing ever changes, He declares that he gives us goodness every morning.
I have watched my friends this year, friends who have much to lament. But they keep on going in the face of tragedy and adversity. (You dear ones know who you are.) Friends who have lost beloved family members, friends who are facing great hardships and uncertain futures, friends who have received devastating diagnoses from their physicians, and those who are waiting for an adult child to return from the far country. They keep pressing on in their assignments from God. I have friends who have been waiting for answers to prayers for years and they remain faithful. The only way they can do this is because of God’s fresh mercies every morning. We wait for God to move, but we wait with hope, with expectancy. That is called faith.
In spite of all the hardships of 2020, I know that there were mercies as well, mercies we might not have received any other way but in our waiting. As we come to the final weeks of this year, we are still waiting. Waiting for a vaccine, a cure. We wait for our country to heal, we wait for God to hear our prayers and send a Great Awakening to America. We wait for a time when we can be with family and friends with no concern about a virus, when we can go about our lives without masks. A time when we can return to school and work.
We lament the losses of 2020 and recognize that the time of loss is not over. But we can have hope because the God who loves us with great mercy and compassion is still in control. We can face whatever comes in 2021 because of His great faithfulness.