*This book review originally appeared in The Budget’s March 15, 2107, Local Edition
By Pat Edgar
As Christians, we believe that God hears and answers prayers, but sometimes that answer is no. In addition to the answers yes and no, author Elizabeth Laing Thompson says that a third option is wait.
In her newest release, “When God Says Wait” (Shiloh Run Press, 2016), the author points out that virtually everyone is waiting for something whether it is a change of circumstances, healing for yourself or others or even just a change in thinking like turning fear into faith or despair into hope. Thompson maintains that “wait” is a four-letter word and her subtitle “Navigating life’s detours and delays without losing your faith, your friends or your mind” is an apt description of this very readable and powerful book.
Waiting can be a very difficult time for even those who have the strongest faith. It is during these periods that doubt and fear can replace faith and hope. We pray but don’t hear answers. We may even imagine that God has overlooked our prayers and feel resentful towards others whose prayer requests are met. We wonder if God has even heard our prayer, and as Thompson explains, “The longer we wait, the louder the silence.”
This waiting time doesn’t have to be a time away from though. The author encourages us to fill these pauses with earnest prayer and continued trust in a faithful God. She does this beautifully by exploring the lives of 12 very familiar people from the Bible—both men and women. From Abrahams’s wife Sarah to Mary, the mother of Jesus, Thompson shows various lessons learned from waiting. Each chapter contains a story about one of the Biblical figures (from both the Old and New Testaments) as well as a well-documented lesson.
The chapter continues with a section entitled “Waiting Room” in which the author gives readers scripture citations and other study aids to bolster them while they wait. Completing the chapter are a Journal Prompt for those who use writing to help them understand their feelings and a short prayer to put the reader into closer communication with God. The parts of the book in which Thompson describes her own periods of waiting helps us confront our own impatience as we relate to the author. She writes with humor and wisdom, taking us on an authentic journey of waiting. Thompson doesn’t claim to have all the answers but her education, research and clear knowledge of the Bible give us comprehensive starting points.
The author’s first chapter takes a look at Miriam, the sister of Moses. Thompson paints a riveting picture of Miriam waiting among the reeds after putting Moses into a basket and setting him afloat in the river. As Pharaoh’s daughter and maidservants discover the child, Miriam knows that they will either save her brother or drown him. The wait is not long but excruciating nonetheless as her plan unfolds to save Moses from the edict of the Egyptian ruler to kill all male Hebrew newborns.
In today’s world of fast food, two-day shipping, movies on demand and high-speed Internet, wait- ing seems more and more like entering unfamiliar terrain for many of us. What is even more frightening is that waiting is open-ended. Only God knows when our wait will end, and when it does end, whether the answer will be the one we want. In fact, as we wait, the result we prayed for may seem less important or even unwelcome. On the other hand, the waiting may also result in our seeing our goals and prayer requests more clearly in the plan of God’s world. We know now that Moses lived a long life. His sister’s wait was a short one. The waiting period for him to lead his people out of slavery and into the Promised Land was much longer, but God’s plan and promise were fulfilled.
In the author’s account of Sarah’s very long wait for a child—and the mistakes she made along the way—the author compares Sarah’s wait to her own time waiting for children. The lessons Thompson learns during this very difficult time served to help her then and help us now when we don’t know what God has in store for us. How we face waiting and what it changes in our lives, the author explains, maybe even more important than the end result.
Elizabeth Laing Thompson is a minister, speaker, and novelist. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, also a minister, and their four children who she says were well worth the wait. I would recommend When God Says Wait for personal study, faith-based book and Bible studies or Sunday school classes. Readers will find the text beautifully written, easy to understand and relevant to their own situations. I know that I will return to it in the months and years ahead.