When b-days and dad’s days roll around I get a little reminiscent of when the girls were little and they’d sit on my lap and I’d read. And we read…lots. ‘Barnyard Dance’ by Sandra Boynton, ‘Pa Pa Chuck’s Big Ideas in the Bible’, anything by Robert Munch like the ‘Paper Bag Princess’, and I loved to read Dr. Seuss. I used to get frustrated when Danny would bring me ‘Fox in Socks’ but I got better at this tongue twister and made it as far as the tweedle beetle battle part and then I’d blow it. ‘Go Dogs Go’ was also a favourite of mine. We all loved the ‘do you like my hat?’ part. One of my faves was ‘Oh, the Places You Will Go!’ for the real life content. The memorable part was when the good doc talked about what he called a useless place: ‘The Waiting Place’.
“Waiting for a train to go, or a bus to come, or a plane to go, or the mail to come, or the rain to go, or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow, or waiting around for a Yes or No, or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite, or waiting for wind to fly a kite, or waiting around for Friday night, or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake, or a pot to boil, or a Better Break, or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants, or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.”
I used to think that the waiting place was a useless place. And let me say that when you’re waiting you don’t just put your hands in your pockets and do nothing. And even though the good doctor called a time of waiting, a useless place, he couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
I think of our good friend Job and how the wrestling was good for him. I think of Joseph and all the time he had to think and trust behind bars when his boss’ cougar wife blew the whistle on him for a crime he didn’t commit. I think of forty years in the desert for Moses and how that shaped him. But I need to comment on the guy, the man, the dude, the Apostle, Paul. We know that more often than not Paul felt like his head was in a vice and everyone would take a turn at tightening it. Listen to his word from 2 Corinthians:
 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 ESV)
To quote a country song Paul felt like he’d been pushed around like a weather vain just hanging on through a hurricane… When life is clipping along and the cupboard is full and the bank account is increasing and we’re getting the promotions and people are liking us on Facebook and the vaca is coming we can falsely believe that we’re in control. But then the bottom drops out…an accident…a layoff…a bitter argument…a sudden illness…a move. Then we realize how out of control we are. Notice what Paul said in the Book. The screws were being tightened in his life. Notice where he turns his attention. He wasn’t looking at his boots and then at the straps and then got ready to pull himself up. He didn’t look deeply within himself to the strength within. He turned his attention to God. The difficulty was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God…That’s good.
When we’re in the waiting place under circumstances that we can’t control we start to realize how self-sufficient that we aren’t. Again, we don’t stand with our hands in our pockets but we start to see ourselves more biblically. We are forced by God to get vertical. We were talking at Bible study a while ago and we came across a church that seemed to be pretty self-sufficient. In reality thought…not so much. They looked at themselves through a very generous lens but Jesus looked at them accurately….and it wasn’t a pretty sight.
 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:17 ESV)
When they looked at themselves in the mirror, they were rockin’ it. But then Jesus makes His assessment. Linger over those words. …wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked… Ouch. Busted.
When you’re in the waiting place you realize how empty your pockets are. Deep trials show us what our faith is made of. Deep trials refine us. Deep trials cause us to rely on God and not ourselves.
Hey, I don’t wish pain on anyone but it causes us to mature, to grow, and to see that we have a lot to learn. Trials can be humbling. They cause us to pray more…to spend time in the Word more…to meditate on it more…to memorize Scripture more…to ignore bogus advice more…to take biblical advice more. It is for our good and for the glory of God. Don’t waste your time by watching season after season of TV shows on Netflix! Don’t try to escape your hard reality and wait for it to go away. Use it to get your humble on and see how much you need to rely on God and cry out to Him. May he be the Strong Tower you and I retreat to. It’s a painful lesson and may come about in your life more than once.