So many of us live in a time of waiting.
Waiting through a short time or a longer term. Waiting for something to get better in our lives – for healing of our broken bodies, for freedom from depression, for relationships to mend.
For God to just turn up and do something.
I’ve waited all my life. I’ve been sick since I was a tiny baby, born pale and skinny and floppy, known as ‘the sickly child.’ The one who kept missing school and just somehow didn’t try hard enough. She showed so much promise, too. Maybe when she gets better….
But she never did.
And yet, my faith grew and flourished and sustained me through all of it. My faith in God gave me a grounding, a certainty that my waiting is not unseen, and not in vain, either. And now I’m delighted to recommend a book that is hot off the press, written by my friend Tanya Marlow. It’s called…
Those Who Wait.
I think Tanya is brilliant. She has suffered from ME for at least twenty years, spending many of those years housebound because of this debilitating and cruel illness. She’s suffered through years of pain, and also years of being told she’s not trying hard enough. That she can conquer this with a positive mindset. She’s fought tirelessly for more research into the condition, and for the plain damaging ‘advice’ given to so many to be shelved. Yet it’s still given to many people with ME. Tanya knows what it is to wait through sickness and disease, so her writing has always resonated with me. Plus, she’s a writer married to a vicar, just like me, so reading her stuff always feels like chatting to an old friend who just gets it.
The tagline of this book is ‘Finding God in Disappointment, Doubt and Delay’. So many of us will recognise those words in our own daily lived experience.
The tagline of this book is ‘Finding God in Disappointment, Doubt and Delay’. So many of us will recognise those words in our own daily lived experience. We might be disappointed by our circumstances that don’t seem to change for the better, and experience crippling doubt because of this. And then there’s the sheer length of waiting for it to change. To get better.
For some of us, it never does.
And that’s why this book is such a blessing and a brilliant resource to explore these very authentic human feelings. There’s no apology for feeling this way; no ‘just suck it up and stick a smile on your face, you’re a Christian after all’ – none of that. Just very real, very raw stuff, stuff we all need to read and think about. The book is divided into several sections – an introduction which relays some of Tanya’s story and the theology behind the book, then four parts each taking a Bible character who had to wait, and telling their story in a very fresh, invigorating way which will thrill and inspire you as you live the story with them. We have Sarah, waiting through so very many years for the promise to be fulfilled – an elderly woman clinging to a hope that seems so very crazy in her circumstances. She lives through seasons of hope and seasons of despair, just as we all do. Through it all, she clings to God and to the promise, or the spark of hope, and yet she still has to wait. It’s wonderful to walk through her story, because Tanya brings it to life with sights, sounds and scents, drawing us in to her world.
Then we have Isaiah, the prophet who proclaimed endless words of hope and restoration over Israel, mixed with words of warning and prophecies of desolation. I’d never really appreciated how Isaiah had to wait all his life, and how he never actually saw God’s promises come into fruition – and yet his book ends on that wonderful note of hope, images of ruins restored and long-desolate places brought into verdant and dynamic life.
I loved the section on John the Baptist, so often forgotten in his quirky little sackcloth and ashes and wild locusts kind of way. He was another one waiting out the years, but he saw the promise he’d based his life around explode into life one day when he baptised a certain Nazarene. His story is infused with joy and hope, and yet didn’t end too well.
But that’s why this book is real. Things don’t always end so well, do they?
The last narrative section features Mary in her wait for Jesus. Not a long wait in terms of the ones gone before, but still a heavy weight of waiting, knowing that God has chosen her, while facing disparagement from those around her. The description of the birth of Jesus is particularly profound, drawing us right into the labour narrative and the moment of birth, when she immediately recognises this tiny newborn as God’s son, come to earth among us. I found this emotional – in a good way!
The book closes with a section on how God is a God who waits with us. I love this because it brings everything back around to God with us, a God who gets it. Tanya uses the Romans passage about creation groaning, waiting to be made whole, a passage which has always resonated with me, living in a body which cries out for restoration and healing. God is waiting it all out with us, brooding alongside us by the Holy Spirit, waiting too for the time when creation will be renewed and restored, and imbuing us with hope as we wait too – a hope which refreshes, empowers and strengthens us. A hope which never lets us go.
There’s also some questions and thought exercises at the end of each section, and some prayers of benediction, and then a longer section at the end for group study. This makes it a very versatile resource which can be used for individual reading and reflection or use in a larger group as a course – perhaps an advent or lent course. I can’t wait to use it in a group like this 🙂 (Well, I can. Wait, I mean… 😉 )
I want to recommend this book to all those of you who feel you are waiting, or who are disappointed, or doubting, or who look at the world and think why. I want to recommend it to all those in pain, all those who are weeping and grieving, all those who pray and pray and cling to hope.
For me, it’s been a wonderful time of reflection, reading this, especially when knee deep in edits on my own book about contentment, a not dissimilar subject. Thank you, Tanya!Are you waiting? Are you disappointed, doubting, asking God why? This wonderful book by… Click To Tweet