When we encounter adversity, we naturally want to get through it as quickly as possible. When we get knocked down, we want to get back up and get on with it as quickly as possible!
But, often, it simply takes time, sometimes a long time, to get through seasons of adversity!
It’s easy to lose the sense of time in the stories of the Bible. In stories, adversity lasted days, years, or even generations!
Noah is a good example. It took Noah as many as 120 years to build the ark. Once the torrential rains came, I’m sure those 40 days and nights on a huge boat with thousands of frightened and restless animals couldn’t come to an end soon enough (not to mention the time it took waiting for the floods to recede)!
Later, the Israelites lived as slaves in Egypt for 400 years. Moses got involved but ended up spending 40 years as a fugitive. After his encounter with God at a burning bush, it took quite some time for Pharoah to be convinced to let God’s people go. The ten plagues didn’t all happen overnight. It was a lengthy ordeal!
Once the Israelites were set free from captivity in Egypt, they certainly didn’t enter the Promised Land overnight. Instead, they spent about 40 years wandering, and complaining, in the wilderness before finally entering the Promised Land!
Nearly the entire book of Job is a story of waiting for a resolution.
Recently, while reading through the prophets, I noticed that on multiple occasions, God gave the prophets a message for the people but withheld the explanation until some time later. Once, God asked Isaiah to go naked and barefoot for three years (Isaiah 20.3). Another time, Ezekiel spent a number of days lay on his left side to make a point. These were not quick, bite-sized messages!
This also struck me again recently in the book of Acts. Paul’s imprisonments must have been long, drawn out affairs. In Acts 24, Paul stands trial before Felix. The passage begins with the phrase, “Five days later” (Acts 24.1). It continues, “After several days, Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and summoned Paul. He listened to him talk about faith in Christ Jesus” (Acts 24.24). Felix sent Paul away, saying, “Go away for now! When I have time, I’ll send for you” (Acts 24.25).
The story continues, “When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. Since Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison” (Acts 24.27). Paul was forced to wait. “After several days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea to welcome Festus.” (Acts 25.13). This was not a speedy trial!
Finally, Paul was on his way to stand trial in Rome. But even the trip was a drawn out affair. Acts 27.7 says, “After many days of slow and difficult sailing, we arrived off the coast of Cnidus.”
The ship eventually wrecked and the story includes many references to time …
- “Much time had been lost”
- “On the third day”
- “When neither the sun nor the moon appeared for many days”
- “For a long time no one had eaten”
- “On the fourteenth night, we were being carried across the Adriatic Sea”
- “This is the fourteenth day you’ve lived in suspense”
After the shipwreck, the passengers were forced to wait before continuing their journey. Finally, Acts 28.11 says, “After three months we put out to sea.”
It often takes time to get through the valleys!
We must remember that our sense of time is far different from God’s. Peter reminds us “that with the Lord a single day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a single day” (2 Peter 3.8).
People of faith are often left to ask, “How long?” Psalm 13 asks that very question four times in the first two verses …
How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I be left to my own wits, agony filling my heart? Daily? How long will my enemy keep defeating me? (Psalm 13.1-2, CEB)
It takes time and patience to get through the seasons of adversity!