Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

If you’re going to move from frustration to fulfillment, you’ve got to learn to trust the process

Lamb with knit hat held like a baby by shepherd
Photo by Rafael Cisneros Méndez on Unsplash; licensed under CC0.

August 7, 2022

First Reading
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Commentary on Genesis 15:1-6

In Genesis 15, Abram has not yet achieved the status of father of the faith. He has the label but has yet to achieve the lineage. He’s had some significant achievements but has not yet fulfilled his assignment. One author has suggested that at this point in his life, Abram was a man of good values, but not yet a man of good faith.

The text starts off by saying, “after these things … ” That phrase suggests that there is always a story behind the story. There are always previous practices that shape our present. There are things that happen, events that unfold, situations that occur, people we encounter, that shape what happens next in our lives. And we don’t always remember the who, what, when or how, but they become the filters through which we see life.

And so, God comes to Abram and says, “Fear not.” Now, to fully understand the text, you’ve got to get the context. The text opens with the statement, “After these things …” and God then says to Abram, “Fear not”, so the question must be raised, what are the “these things” that happened that might have caused Abram to fear?

In chapter 14, Abram has just been in a battle.  He has fought off a nation to rescue his nephew, Lot. And scholars suggest that perhaps Abram is afraid of his enemies coming back after him for revenge, and this time, he might not be able to withstand the onslaught. So, God assures Abram that He will protect him. He says to him, “Abram, do not be afraid. I am your shield, your exceeding great reward.” In other words, you don’t have to be afraid of anything or anybody, because as your shield, I stand between you and every enemy that would harm you. God says, I am your shield, but then God says, I am your exceeding great reward. In other words, what I will bless you with, will be far beyond anything you could have imagined.

Now, here’s the tension in the text. Abram has all of this. He’s gotten his nephew back. He’s been victorious in battle. He’s got this promise that God will be his shield and exceeding great reward. And even with all of this, Abram is still not settled. Something is missing. Abram knows that something else should be happening based on the promise that God made to him. Abram has all this stuff, but something is missing. God has increased him rapidly. God has promised to continue to bless him. God has promised to be his protector and provider. But notice Abram’s response to God, he says, “I’m grateful for all You’ve given and all You’ve done, but I don’t have the key thing that the promise is based on. I don’t have a child. How can I be the father of many, and I presently don’t have any?” In the Hebrew, Abram basically says to God, all that you’ve given, all that you’ve done, all that you’ve promised is fine, but none of it means anything if I don’t have someone to be the propagation of the promise. Abram says to God, “You promised a nation, but I don’t even have a namesake.” It’s not ingratitude. It’s not a poor attitude. It’s not entitlement. It’s frustration.

That’s what’s going on in the United States, where I live. The protesting, the marching, the rioting, Black Lives Matter, Pride Month, the John Lewis Voting Act, a living wage … it’s frustration. People are still waiting on what they were promised. The founding fathers said, we hold these truths to be self-evident that all persons were created equal … that we have been endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. People are frustrated because they’re waiting on what they were promised.  

Well, here’s what you need to know: God has a remedy for your frustration. If you’re going to move from frustration to fulfillment, you’ve got to learn to trust the process. Abram has grown impatient. Hear what he says: “God, all that you’re saying is good, but none of it changes the fact that I don’t have a child.” And watch this, his patience has led to amnesia. He’s clearly forgotten who he was and where he was when God picked him. He’s forgotten how far the Lord has brought him. He’s forgotten about the progress he’s made in this process.

There comes a place in the process where your trust is put on trial. And the reason for this is because if you’re going to move from frustration to fulfillment, you must develop an intentional liking of waiting. The prize isn’t always finally getting what you wanted, but rather what you learned while you waited. That’s what we learn from the text, because verse 6 says that Abram started to believe in the Lord. The inference in the Hebrew suggests that up until now, he’s been trying God, to see if God could really do what He said. But in verse 6, he’s gone from trying God to trusting God. In other words, he has evolved. He has grown. He has matured. And, that’s the portable portion of the pericope. The process isn’t just about what you do, but also about who you grow into.  

The process of waiting is not just about what you get in life, it’s about who you become in life. So, don’t get so focused on the destination that you miss the development. Trust the process!