Imagine you’re sitting on an outer porch of the Jerusalem Temple during the time of Jesus. You’re at one end of a massive stone structure, as large as six football fields. And, you’re on a height, nearly ten stories up in the air. Just sitting and watching as the religious come to mark the eight-day feast of the Dedication of this very temple.
You’re sitting at the edge of a particular porch named for Solomon, famous for his wisdom–a place where people would come to teach and discuss the Torah. Jesus, the teacher and miracle-worker so many have been talking about over the past year walks in. Immediately people gather around him to ask him a question, now that he’s putting himself out there to teach in such a place.
You overhear them ask Jesus, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense?”…”tell us plainly” (John 10:24).
And you think, yes, I want to know too. Jesus, how long are you going to keep me in suspense…guessing, wondering, and having doubts about….”
- what you’re doing in my life?
- why it (whatever “it” is) is so hard?
- why are there people who suffer so much? and what I’m supposed to do to help? or why I can’t seem to do anything to help?
- why I’m hurting?
Many, if not most, of us have questions that we feel like we’re waiting on God to answer. And, if you’re anything like me, you just wish that God would make it plain, and quickly! at that. Make it clear. Give me the sign that explains everything, so that I can be at peace, knowing how it all works out.
To my fill-in-the-blank question, “Jesus, how long are you going to keep me waiting on ____________?” Jesus’ answer is nothing and everything, all at the same time.
Speaking of those who believe, Jesus says:
My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27-30)
There are three promises here for those who believe Jesus is the Savior:
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Notice that this isn’t a statement of causality, but of apparent fact. And “hear” is a continuing present tense. Even when we feel like we’re in suspense, stuck wondering. In the same ten minutes of prayer, I can start off venting, in sadness or frustration, “Jesus, how long are you going to keep me in suspense?!?” and still hear God, sense God guiding me in other aspects of my life. In this promise, I don’t receive an answer to the question “how long will you keep me waiting?” but I receive a promise that I’m still going to be one of God’s “sheep,” while I’m in suspense. I’ll not be abandoned, forgotten, ignored, put in a corner, or left-behind. God will be speaking to me, guiding me–even as I wait.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”
Blessed John Henry Newman explained that “ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” Be honest with God. If you need to come to the Lord in prayer ten times a day to say, “Jesus, how long are you going to keep me in suspense about ________?” it’s okay. Those questions of prayer aren’t going to take you out of Jesus’ hand. Maybe Jesus gives us eternal life because in earthly time it indeed would take an eternity to answer all of our questions of longing, suffering, and frustration. Know that no matter how long–weeks, months, years, decades–you say to Jesus in honesty, “how long are you going to keep me in suspense?”–Jesus will not let you, his precious and beloved “sheep” perish. Waiting is not the same as perishing.
“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.”
A final reiteration of the three promises that are truly one. God the Father, the Creator of the universe is “greater than all,” over all things. Even outside of time. What we are in suspense about, God our Loving Father is not only aware of, but preparing us for. He’s speaking to us, guiding us through other people, through the words of Scripture, through the counsel of others…so that when the answer to our question, “Jesus, how long are you going to keep me in suspense?” comes–we’ll be ready.
As we listen to these promises, they are clear. Jesus has told us the biggest, most cosmic truths, plainly. But the details? Well, those are another story. As long as we’re human, I think the aspects of suspense, of wondering and guessing, are always going to captivate us. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Share it with Jesus. Be honest about what’s keeping you in suspense. Yet never lose sight of the big picture–of the promises made good through the Cross–these promises will last through eternity, where we’ll never be waiting again!