Read: Romans 8:18-25
My husband planted the tomato seeds in March. We became excited as the spindly little stems popped up into their minuscule pots. Then we had the joy of watching the first leaves and the thickening of the stems. By that time, I could already taste the tomatoes, tossed lightly in ranch dressing and seasoned salt. After about two months indoors, it was time for the plants to brave the elements outside, and we were excited when the first flowers appeared. Then, voila. Tomatoes. Yes, they were tiny and green, but they were there.
This week, it was finally time. The first big red tomato was perfectly ripe, but there was a dilemma. A few days before that tomato had ripened on the vine, my husband had dusted for tomato worms. We had heard that they were a problem in our area, and we wanted to be certain the plants didn't get destroyed by them. Sadly, the number of days hadn't passed between the dusting of the plants and the time when it would be safe to eat that first luscious tomato. What to do? Should we take a bit of a risk? We could wash it well and it would probably be safe to eat; however, we didn't do that. Instead, my husband decided that it was worth the wait in order to be certain the fruit was safe to eat. Today is that day. There are red tomatoes to be harvested, and I believe waiting these extra days will make the enjoyment of the tomatoes even greater than it would have been if we had decided not to wait. There is a sweetness in the anticipation.
Do we have an anticipating heart when we wait for the Lord to answer our prayers? When we are waiting for Him to do something good, we often view those days as time we simply want to rush through with indifference. We want to have the Lord's answer quickly. I surely have been there.
However, what if we looked at this waiting time in the way a child looks forward to going to the ocean? He thinks about making sand castles or jumping in the waves. She thinks of finding shells or watching the dolphins play. They can hardly wait, and they count off the days until the longed-for time comes. What if, as we factored in God and His wisdom, power and love, we thought of the waiting time with the knowledge that His perfect plan was unfolding and we would fully realize it someday. Even though, we don't frequently know how long we will have to wait before we receive what God has promised, each day brings us one day closer to either seeing our longed-for outcome or seeing His hand, even if only a bit, in our lives' circumstances. What if we anticipated God's work with that childlike excitement? What if we eagerly looked for His leading, knowing that He is at work all the time?
A little story from Howard Hendricks who is now with the Lord, reminds me of the sweet anticipation we could have as we wait for the Lord to act. The Bible teacher who was known with affection as Prof related that when his children were little, the family kept a prayer journal. Requests were written down on one side of the page, and God's answers on the other side, were noted, as He made His will known. One day, the family went to the airport to pick up the grandparents for a visit. The Hendricks family had been praying for them to receive Jesus as Savior, John 1:11-12. As the children greeted their grandparents, they excitedly asked them if they were saved yet. When they were told no, the response was precious. They said that it would happen. They were looking forward to it with delight because they had been praying. Sweet anticipation. The kind that says, "maybe today".
About now, I can hear in my mind an objection. Sometimes, God's answers and paths look very different than what we ask Him for in prayer. Back to Howard Hendricks' prayer journal. You see, he told about the time when that very thing occurred. Mrs. Hendricks was pregnant, and the family was praying for the babe growing within her. I don't remember all of the details, but one day, Howard Hendricks brought the family together, along with the prayer journal. He reminded the children that they had been praying for their mom and the babe for all to be well. The baby died prior to birth. He wrote that God had said no this time. I can't recall what else he said, but no doubt, Hendricks used God's saying no as a reminder that we pray, but His plan is the one that will stand.
Those types of occurrences in life are the ones that can so easily wound us, taking away our anticipation as we pray. The Evil One would want us to pray in drudgery, not hoping for the goodness and mercy of God. He would want us to forget the joy of earlier answered prayers. He would want us to stay so focused on our hurts and disappointments that we forget that God is sovereign and that one "no" doesn't mean that He won't say "yes" the next time.
What if we are there now? What if it seems too hard to anticipate God's goodness as we pray? I don't mean to be simplistic, but prayer is the answer here. I'm so glad we can run to the Lord and tell Him that we need His help to pray and then look up expectantly, Psalm 5:3. I need to ask Him for this very help. Lord, let me have childlike anticipation when I pray. Help me to recognize the Evil One's lies and replace them with Your truth. Thank You that You want me to come boldly to You in prayer for Your grace and help, Hebrews 4:14-16.
In Romans 8:18-25, we see a beautiful thing. The whole creation, with whatever childlike anticipation it has, eagerly awaits the day that God will make everything new. We're right there too. We will be made new one day. Talk about something to anticipate. No wonder Paul can confidently affirm that the pains and sorrows of this world pale in significance compared to what is to come when Jesus rules as King, Revelation 19:11. The apostle doesn't say that what we deal with isn't difficult. He merely affirms that we can anticipate with great joy, what the Lord has for us, John 14:1-3.
We are doubly blessed. With God's help, we can anticipate His goodness while we walk on the earth and also rejoice in anticipation because of what is to come.