A Waiting Game
Everyone in the room darts forward, each person desperately trying to get ahead of the rest. That is the point of the game, though, right? We want to cross the finish line first—beat the crowd, win the game.
Oh, yellow light... Does anyone actually understand yellow light? I guess we are supposed to slow down? That's easier said than done. In this game, we are supposed to go fast—faster than everyone else. None of us have time for your silly "yellow light," all-powerful caller of the game.
Oh, yes—the dreaded red light. Right as it is called, several eager beavers at the front of the group stumble and fall. They messed up by not stopping when the red light was declared, but they are not taken out of the game because that's not how "Red Light, Green Light" works. All they are required to do is make the short walk back to where the game first began at the start line. As the victims of the red light return to the start, the rest of the group anxiously waits for the caller's next move.
Unprecedented—a double red light. No one in the group was expecting that. More than half of the group took a step forward, hoping the call was going to be either a green or a yellow. We could have guessed which people were going to be sent back to the start at the call of the first red light—they were the ones who sprinted on green and still ran faster than most on yellow—but no one could have predicted the people who were going to move on the second red light. They had all expected a different outcome from the call and it cost them. All of this could have been avoided if everyone had just waited to hear what The One calling the shots actually had to say.
I just exited a season of waiting myself, and, before I write anything more on this matter, let me first confess something before all of you—I am horrible at waiting. That being said, I can now share with you how God has miraculously bestowed upon me a new appreciation for seasons of waiting from this previous season of life too.
I applied for a Fulbright scholarship last fall, knowing that I would not hear anything back about the status of my application until the winter of my senior year at Palm Beach Atlantic University. All I was told at the end of January was that I was a semi-finalist for the scholarship—and that I would be finding out "before May" whether or not I was actually a finalist... "Before May" was a tricky time frame to wrap my head around because, frankly, I was graduating in May, and I really hoped to have something lined up before that milestone in my life... Needless to say, waiting can often cause its fair share of anxiety.
Looking back at this previous season of life, God has given me some tremendous insight regarding waiting that has now inspired me to write this post for anyone who might need it. Interestingly enough, the two people who He used to teach me about everything in this post are also two of the most famous individuals surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus—although they are famous for very different reasons—the apostle Peter and Judas Iscariot.
Let's start with Peter... It's funny how many of us tend to forget that the men and women who surrounded Jesus throughout his life were just as human as you and me. Although Jesus did tell Peter that he was going to be a rock one day, he really was just a man. I am sure the future looked pretty hopeful to him, though, as he sat with two of his closest friends in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of the Passover, awaiting further instructions from his Beloved Rabbi who had asked the three of them to stand watch as He prayed. Peter must have felt so comfortable about his life in the moment that he even managed to somehow fall asleep right there, having no idea that his "green light" was about to turn "red." This would be one of his last restful moments for quite a while before entering into one of the most dreadful seasons of waiting anyone could imagine.
Waiting comes in many forms. It can come in the form of an application status, a medical report, important exam results, or even a long line at the DMV. For Peter, it came in the form of a heartbreaking trial, a devastating sentence, and an excruciating execution; all with his Teacher, his Friend—his Messiah—right at the center of the attention. Peter was able to rest when everything looked hopeful, but that quickly changed when life was flipped upside down. In the midst of his waiting, Peter allowed his anxiety of not knowing what the future might hold to take control of him. He messed up—three times (Matthew 26:69-75). I bet he was thankful, though, that Jesus had given him a different answer when he first asked Him about how many times someone should forgive a person who had wronged them (Matthew 18:21-22). Peter wept bitterly in response to his mistakes, but he did not allow for them to take him out of the game. He picked himself up, walked back to the start line, and was given another chance. Sadly, the same could not be said for the second player I already mentioned in this waiting game.
Waiting comes in many forms. It can come in the form of an application status, a medical report, important exam results, or even a long line at the DMV.
Many of us know the fate of Judas Iscariot—but have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself what can actually be learned from the life and death of the man who betrayed Jesus? Peter might have experienced intense anxiety in the hours leading up to Jesus' execution, but can you even imagine the depression that Judas must have faced in those hours too? I have to be honest, my heart breaks for him. Scripture literally tells us that Judas was "seized with remorse" (Matthew 27:3 NIV) after learning that Jesus had been condemned, which led him to even return the money that he had initially been given for betraying Him. Tragically, while Peter was able to overcome his anxiety in the hours leading up to Jesus' death, Judas' depression became too much for him—he eventually took his own life (Matthew 27:5).
Judas' life and death serves as a sobering reminder for all of us—a person can walk with Jesus for years and still be just as susceptible to the darkness as someone who has never walked with Him when life goes from "green" to "red" if they are not willing to bring everything in their life to the Light.
Strangely enough, it seems the moments in our lives when anxiety or depression—insert whatever you might be dealing with on this side of eternity here—often surface the most are in seasons of waiting. Crazy as it may sound, though, this is exactly the reason why I now have a newfound appreciation for seasons of waiting! God often presents us with opportunities to confront the darkest aspects of our souls in seasons of waiting because they are also seasons of preparation! We cannot forget, my friends—both Peter and Judas messed up in the hours leading up to Jesus' death on the cross. For Peter, it was his fear and his aptitude for lying. For Judas, it was his greed.
This is the most crucial aspect of the insight that I have been given involving these two individuals, their struggles, and seasons of waiting that I pray you all understand after reading this, though: although Satan used Judas' mess-up to take him out, Jesus was able to use Peter's to prepare him for what was still to come. Jesus knew that His rock could not be a fearful liar—after all, He planned to build a church on Peter's life (Matthew 16:18)! And now, all of us Gentiles out here have Peter (and my dude, Cornelius) to thank for our relationships with Jesus today too (Acts 10:1-11:18)!
Although Satan used Judas' mess-up to take him out, Jesus was able to use Peter's to prepare him for what was still to come.
It really is possible to win in a waiting game, my friends. All we need to remember is that Jesus truly can use anything—any past failure, any struggle, any hurt, any pain, any rejection, any shame—to glorify Himself in the end. After all, all we are here to do is tell as many people as we possibly can about the incredible things He has done in our lives, hoping to bring more people along for this beautiful ride that is walking with Jesus Christ, until the day that He finally returns again. I know that is exactly what I will be doing in South Korea throughout my time as a Fulbright scholar, and that definitely sounds like a win to me.