“The waiting is the hardest part. Every day you see one more card. You take it on faith; you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part.” As with so many songwriters, Tom Petty captured in this popular refrain what is true of humanity. Especially in a culture where people want instant gratification, the prospect of waiting for something desired or longed for is a painful thought. For many it is hard to wait patiently at a traffic light for just a minute. How much more difficult it is then for all of us to wait years, if not decades for something deeply meaningful to us to come to pass. Such burdens are carried by those who wish to be surgeons who seemingly are in training for ever, even into their late 30s before they are licensed in their field. Often the realization of things of value like training for a vocation requires waiting on the order of many years, and if this is true of temporal things, how much more is it the case with spiritual things.
With people of faith, many times it happens that a vision of one’s purpose in life is given at a young age. Sometimes it is just an inner knowledge of the work that one is called to do by God, though it can also be a mystical revelation like a dream or vision revealing the future to him. Once we are aware of our calling and reason for entering into life, it usually becomes an intense desire within us to work toward that end. Though unlike going to school to train for a secular profession, the road to what God has revealed to the individual doesn’t necessarily follow a certain and sure course. More often than not, the vision of the future appears fantastic and from a human perspective unrealistic in the grand scheme of things. So many times what has been promised by God in a revelation is incredible from the vantage point of our day to day grind that it doesn’t seem possible, and yet the imprint of the vision that is made on the heart creates a great longing.
We can think of the Blessed Virgin Mary in this regard remembering her experiences at the birth of her Son. When the child was born in a humble stable, shepherds came to the Holy Family to inform them of what they were told by the angels concerning the child. The angels had said, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Undoubtedly Mary had to pinch herself to know that she wasn’t hallucinating. She was given astounding news as she had been at the Annunciation, but the idea that her Son would be king and savior of mankind surely must have seemed like a surreal prediction. After all, her child had been born in an obscure setting far from any fanfare unlike a person of great importance.
Luke tells us that, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” That is to say she internalized the message and it made a mark on her with an expectation of great things in the future. We may at first glance consider the gospel writer’s remark as an indication that Mary cheerfully reflected on these predictions from time to time as the years went by with great joy, and yet it might have been just the opposite. The words that were told her might have become more of a burden to her as the years unfolded and she and her family continued to live ordinary humdrum lives in the sleepy village of Nazareth. In the three decades leading up to the start of Christ’s ministry, the Blessed Mother was no doubt wistful about the things she had heard long ago. With a great yearning to see such prophecies come to pass, she was certainly plagued by the stark ordinariness of life to wonder if what was said to her so long ago was real or not. And so arises a tension within the person of faith who is challenged to believe something incredible in the face of cold hard reality. And this is often the case that for many years he must cling to such promises where there are few if any indications that such a thing should ever transpire. Unquestionably this state of affairs was a source of pain for Mary as the anticipation of future events gnawed at her heart without an inkling of how they should ever be. The prophet Simeon told her in the temple that “a sword will pierce your own soul too,” and in the thirty years that she was waiting to see her Son begin his ministry it certainly must have been a great weight upon her.
We can look back before Mary’s time to other characters in the Bible who shared the same kind of struggle with waiting that the Blessed Virgin did, and we remember first among them Abraham. The man who was called the “friend of God” was instructed to leave his family in Mesopotamia and enter into the land of Canaan. At 75 years old, God promised, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you.” How fantastic those words must have been to him seeing that he was old and his wife Sarah was not far behind him at 65. Yet he was familiar with the voice of God and couldn’t help but be impacted by the message no matter how ridiculous it seemed.
After some years had passed and the couple grew older still, Abraham lamented that his entire estate would pass to his servant as long as he remained childless, and God assured him saying, “This man will not be your heir but a son coming from your own body will be your heir. Look up to the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them, so shall your offspring be.”
Yet despite hearing the word of the Lord on a few occasions predicting the same thing, the dragging on of years was too much particularly for his wife Sarah to bear and so at his wife’s suggestion Abraham took matters into his own hands and conceived a child with her maidservant Hagar when he was 86 years old. But this was not exactly what God had intended, and as a consequence there was ultimately trouble within the household of Abraham for this maneuver which conveys to us an important lesson. If ever we should receive a revelation of the future from God, we should never try to force the situation and attempt to make it come to pass in our power. In the pain of waiting for the promise to be realized we may wish to make of it a self-fulfilling prophecy and help things along according to the way we think that things should transpire. But yielding to this kind of temptation is presumptuous and leads only to trouble.
Apparently God forgave Abraham for veering off course a little, for at 100 years old he finally sired a son through his wife Sarah who was then 90. A full 25 years had passed between the initial promise and its fulfillment which certainly must have seemed like forever to Abraham. Yet from God’s perspective, the fulfillment of the prophecy came at just the right time.
A few generations later, the struggle of waiting was evident in the life of the patriarch Joseph who was the second youngest of twelve brothers. As a child with mystical ability, he had dreams about the future which he perhaps unwisely shared with his siblings. He told them about his vision of the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowing down to him, an obvious allusion to his father, mother, and brothers paying homage to Joseph. He also related to them how he saw all of the brothers binding sheaves of grain, and suddenly Joseph’s sheaf stood upright and the other sheaves gathered around to bow down to it, a dream with the same meaning as the other.
At 17 years old, Joseph was undoubtedly impressed with these grandiose revelations and perhaps thought that such things were to transpire in the near future. Little did he know that his path would be a hard one before ever such dreams were realized. Of course his brothers resented his obnoxious stories and were jealous of him. Ultimately they sold him as a slave in Egypt. Finding himself a servant in the house of a wealthy Egyptian, certainly the young man must have wondered about the veracity of his dreams, for under the current circumstances he couldn’t be further away from their realization.
Things went from bad to worse for Joseph when he was unjustly imprisoned for allegedly making sexual advances on his master’s wife. There in a dungeon deep in the heart of Egypt, he surely must have asked himself whether what he had seen clearly and in such a vivid supernatural experience was really true. When years have passed without a sign of anything coming to fruition that has been revealed to us, we naturally grow wistful about it. But when we are in a situation which seems to be diametrically opposed to what we have seen in a dream or vision, we cannot help but ask serious questions. We may wonder if we misinterpreted what was shown to us so long ago. Or possibly we could entertain the idea that we completely imagined what we saw revealed to us. And in the worst case, we could submit to the idea that we were deceived by the forces of darkness. The temptation to despair is great in such a situation, for we feel forced to choose between sticking with our belief in the revelation despite our circumstances or abandoning it in favor of the sobering reality that surrounds us. It is a tough choice, and either way there is pain that we cannot escape.
We don’t know how many years Joseph was in prison, but it was at least two. In that dark and dank place he clearly could not conceive how he could ever rule over his brothers as the visions predicted let alone how he would be able to get out of prison and become a free man. And that is indeed the test of faith, whether we will believe God to direct the traffic of our lives to the predicted end despite there being no realistic path to that place from our limited perspective. Will we believe that our visions will come to pass in a way known only to God and in a way which we have not at all expected? That was the challenge for Joseph in the shackles of his prison cell and for anyone who finds himself in a position of waiting for God for long periods of time.
Ultimately, Joseph’s liberation from prison happened very unexpectedly and undoubtedly in a way that he would not have anticipated. When it became known in prison that Joseph could interpret dreams, this news eventually filtered out and came to the court of Pharaoh himself who at a certain time was greatly in need of one who could give the meaning of his own troubling dreams. When Joseph revealed the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams he became instrumental in saving Egypt from a severe famine and was elevated to the second highest position in Egypt. Within a very short time, Joseph’s status changed from malefactor slave to governor of Egypt, and I am sure he was astounded at the reversal of his fortunes in a manner that was too good to be true. Even more so was he greatly surprised to see the fulfillment of the vision that was shown to him 13 years earlier come to pass. For when his brothers came from the land of Canaan seeking grain in the midst of famine, they bowed low to him just as his dreams so long ago predicted.
Several hundred years after the time of Joseph, we have another story that depicts the struggle of one who also saw a long delay in the fulfillment of a divine promise. After Saul had failed God in a big way, the Lord rejected him as king and sought out another better candidate to fill the position. The prophet Samuel came to the house of Jesse and there anointed his youngest son David, a mere shepherd boy as the next king of Israel.
Initially it seemed as if the boy was rapidly moving toward assuming this lofty position. When the Philistine Goliath continued to taunt the Israelite army every day for one to meet him in a one on one contest, every one was scared to face the giant. But when young David learned of the defiance of this enemy, in great faith he faced him with a mere slingshot and slew the giant. Naturally he became famous overnight throughout the entire nation for this bold and brave act which endeared him to King Saul’s household as well. In not too long a time the shepherd boy became the king’s son-in-law and became very close to Saul.
It might have appeared that events were moving in David’s favor toward succeeding the king, but then a sudden change in disposition on the part of Saul derailed what David must have assumed to be the logical path to his own kingship. When the crowds began to praise David’s success in war over Saul’s, the king became insanely jealous and from that day onward sought to kill his son-in-law whom he perceived as a threat to his throne. David became a fugitive running for his life, hiding in caves, and skipping from town to town, even leaving the country for extended periods of time to escape the sword of Saul which was in hot pursuit. So many of the psalms depict David’s distress in this period which was by no means short. For approximately 15 years, David was running from the king until finally Saul died in battle against the Philistines. And then the people of Judah made David king who was their local hero and one of their own.
Such long-term waiting for the realization of a divine message was not uncommon to the servants of God, particularly the prophets. Many of them continued to offer the same tidings of gloom and doom in the advent of the nation’s destruction, and they did this for decades on end often without seeing the fulfillment of the prophecy in their lifetime. The likes of Isaiah made predictions for 50 years far in advance of the Jewish Exile and one of his later successors Jeremiah prophesied for 40 years before he became an eyewitness to the carnage that the Babylonians brought to the nation.
The life of the prophets was often very hard with persecution and imprisonment dotting their careers and this was certainly the case with the last of the great Old Testament prophets John the Baptist who was imprisoned by Herod Antipas. John had criticized him for marrying his brother’s wife while his brother was still living, a clear violation of the Mosaic Law.
We have an interesting narrative from the gospel of Matthew which on the surface might make us scratch our heads about John the Baptist. We are told that while incarcerated, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” We may wonder how Jesus’ own cousin, the one who baptized him in the Jordan and declared him to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” could ask such a question. Didn’t he know better than anyone else that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah? Perhaps the answer to this question is tied in with the story of Joseph that was considered earlier who was also imprisoned.
More than just about any trial that can come to a servant of God is incarceration, for the isolation and the confinement of his cell cuts him off from a tangible link to his purpose and calling on earth. In the solitude of this place, he is bombarded by disturbing thoughts, and he wonders if he in fact has been crazy all along in his belief in the supernatural experiences of the past and the spiritual realities that have been near and dear to his heart. He begins to ask if God ever really spoke to him, and if so, how is it that he is cut off from the world in this forsaken place. When all around is dark and dismal, it is the hardest trial to believe what one has seen and heard from God long ago.
The long gnawing years of prison can dull one’s memories and make him question whether what he experienced in the past was ever really valid. So it seems that the great prophet John the Baptist was even second guessing himself. The one who knew the Son of God personally couldn’t help but ask for confirmation that he was who he once thought him to be.
Some might be critical of John not understanding the drain of imprisonment and its effect on the soul, but Jesus was not in the least insulted by the prophet’s inquiry, for he knew how incarceration could weary a person of faith. Rather than berate John, he praised him saying, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.”
As we all know very well, imprisonment of people of faith was not something limited to the times of the Bible. Even until the present day, the servants of God are persecuted and incarcerated sometimes for very long periods of time. Along these lines, the story of a heroic American priest named Walter Ciszek illustrates very well the unpredictable hand of God directing the steps of one’s life. If anyone in modern times had a struggle to believe the call of God on his life it was Fr. Ciszek who spent a total of 23 years in Russia, 15 of which were in the prison system.
Fr. Ciszek was born in Pennsylvania to Polish parents and as a teenager felt the calling to the priesthood. He eventually joined the Jesuits where he learned that the Pope was looking for men who would be willing to go to Russia and serve as priests to the “sheep without a shepherd” for at that time in the 1930s, the communist nation had persecuted the church and there were few priests left to serve. Upon being informed of this petition, he immediately knew God was calling him to serve in Russia, and so he was sent to Rome to finish his studies and learn to say the Old Russian Mass.
By 1940, he and another priest were able to gain entrance into the country as hired laborers, and for a year they worked as lumberjacks in the Urals. But initially they were obliged to conceal their identity and so no one knew among whom they lived and worked that they were priests. Secretly they would go out into the forest where they would take turns celebrating the Mass on a tree stump far away from the sight of anyone. Though they couldn’t reveal who they really were, they nonetheless managed to have a number of clandestine religious conversations with the locals and found faith to still be present among many.
Unfortunately, after only a year, the two men were arrested by the KGB as spies. And after a fairly difficult first year in the country, at this point Fr. Ciszek’s woes were only just beginning. From 1941 to 1946 he languished in Soviet prisons around Moscow for the most part in solitary confinement. During this time, he contended with the loneliness of prison life as well as chronic hunger for the inmates were never fed enough to be satisfied. To keep his sanity alone in his cell for nearly 23 hours a day, he would pray the Mass from memory as well as the Rosary and many other prayers to occupy the hours. Fortunately for him, for a good stretch the librarian of the Lubianka prison where he was incarcerated gave him reading material and he devoured about one book per day.
Fr. Ciszek underwent years of interrogations. Despite telling the whole truth about his spiritual motives to enter the country, the KGB decided that he was a Vatican spy. They just could not appreciate that anyone could really desire to work for God, and ultimately this led to his conviction of espionage and condemnation to serve 9 more years in Siberian labor camps. If being in prison wasn’t hard enough physically and emotionally, it was about to get significantly worse for this priest.
In the summer of 1946, Fr. Ciszek arrived in a region within the Arctic Circle which was rich in coal and other ore. The prisoners were put to hard labor mining the region as well as constructing camps and cities. Now he not only had to contend with chronic hunger for the rations were just as meager as in prison, but excessively hard physical labor and fierce cold. Constantly cold, hungry, and exhausted the men worked under the heavy hand of the guards who forced them to go ten hours straight without even a break. Though the conditions were oppressive and only those with a strong constitution could possibly survive them, it was then that after five years of solitary confinement, Fr. Ciszek’s mission was beginning.
In the camp where he was first assigned there was another priest and he facilitated Fr. Ciszek to say Mass for the first time in five years. Secretly in the corner of the barracks and after hours, he offered up the Holy Sacrifice with a whiskey glass for a chalice and the back of a gold watch for a paten. Though they could not obtain regular wine, they were able to get raisins which were pressed to make a crude wine of sorts.
Surreptitiously the few priest-prisoners in the camp began to serve the community. Pretending to take a walk through the snow with a man, they would hear his confession as they sauntered and give him Communion. And so a clandestine parish began to take form high within the tundra of the Arctic Circle.
By the early 1950s, this parish was able to come more out into the open, for near the death of Stalin, prisoners everywhere began to revolt demanding better conditions. As the Soviet Constitution allowed for freedom of religion, the men began to assert that right and soon Fr. Ciszek was saying Mass for many people in the barracks. By 1955, he miraculously survived 9 years of hard labor and was freed to live in the city of Norilsk that he and the other prisoners had built. The city had become the home of many former prisoners as well as freemen who came to work in the factories and ore refining plants.
Though the police could not arrest the priests for openly practicing religion and serving the people, they could nonetheless harass them and threaten them for doing so. As a result by the late 1950s, Fr. Ciszek was the only priest left in the city, and found himself saying Mass everyday and several times a day on Sunday for hundreds of people. The demands of Easter 1958 kept him awake around the clock from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. The Vigil Mass on Saturday night lasted until 3:00 A.M., but because of the crowds he couldn’t distribute Communion until after Mass was over. For the next six hours he found himself serving Communion to the throng that had gathered.
That summer Fr. Ciszek was himself ordered to leave the city by the police and for the next few years worked as an auto-mechanic in a city in Central Asia no longer with a public ministry. Finally in 1963 he was able to return to America as part of a deal in which two Russian spies were given up by the U.S. in exchange for him.
The story of Fr. Ciszek is certainly a remarkable one and as such it communicates to us a number of spiritual lessons. Like the narratives of the biblical characters which we have sketched, it reiterates the fact that it can often be years or decades before what has been placed in the heart of a person of faith is realized. But perhaps unique to this modern story of faith is an equally important message and that is that what we have conceived to be the fulfillment of our mission will not necessarily be so. If God speaks to us about our vocation or about something he plans to do in the future, we immediately imagine what that might look like. We then perhaps consciously or subconsciously expect the promise to come to pass in a certain way, and if we are not open-minded enough to see other possibilities, we may miss what God is doing or in the worst case be resentful or angry that it didn’t happen the way we expected.
When Fr. Ciszek entered Russia, it seems likely that he anticipated serving small communities of faith as an itinerant priest moving from town to town. It probably never occurred to him that he would be an effective chaplain to Siberian prisoners in the frozen Arctic Circle. Nor did he anticipate that he would eventually become the sole clergy in a growing Siberian city and be called upon to serve thousands of people who needed his spiritual help. Nonetheless, in the end Fr. Ciszek fulfilled the mission for which he was called though it was hardly what he expected it to be. Ultimately the plan of God unfolded in a way he had not predicted which importantly communicates to us that what comes to pass in the end may be very different from what we originally thought and yet it will be exactly what God had in mind in the first place.
The story of this heroic priest also deals with other questions we may have about waiting for God to move. It is clear that often it is many years or decades that elapse in the servant of God’s life before he realizes the purpose for which he has been called. Naturally we may wonder why such an interlude is necessary and what it could possibly be accomplishing besides pain in the one who looks forward to the fulfillment of the vision.
For most people who enter into religious life whether it be the priesthood or brother/sisterhood, there is a time of training which is known as a period of formation in which the candidate acquires those skills or virtues needed to do the job. We can think of this idea of formation as applying generically to all the servants of God who are called to a particular mission whatever it might be. And so often it is the case that the long years that one waits for God are a time of preparation for the soul to be able to carry out that mission. We alluded to David the shepherd boy earlier, and while we may rightly be impressed with how he valiantly took on the giant Goliath with a slingshot, it is important to note that he would have never ventured to do that without years of preparation beforehand. We are told that as a shepherd, he had on occasion killed both a lion and a bear in defense of the sheep, and so it wasn’t really too much of an extension for him to kill the giant who was just like another aggressive beast he had dealt with before.
When we think of the five years that Fr. Ciszek spent in near solitary confinement in the Russian prison system, we can also interpret it as a period of formation that prepared him for getting shipped off to Siberia. In those years in which he was half-starved and in isolation, great virtues were being forged within his soul that would be needed to survive ten years in the Arctic Circle. The pain of his Lubianka prison cell inculcated within him the patience, the longsuffering, and the faith needed to weather the years ahead so that he could ultimately serve in the capacity that God was planning for him. Without the mental and physical drain of incarceration, it is likely that he would not have been able to survive the brutal conditions of the north as indeed many succumbed within the Gulag labor camps. As a general rule, God uses those souls in a very big way who have been beaten on the hardest in those years of preparation before their mission begins.
Now we have talked a good deal about the hardships and struggles of various servants of God as they waited to fulfill their destinies, but we haven’t touched on how they managed to endure these trials without falling apart. In the midst of such testing, there is often a great temptation to yield to the triple cocktail of anger, depression, and despair. These ugly feelings are always calling to us when things are difficult, and it can take a tremendous effort to resist being consumed by them.
Of course it goes without saying that maintaining a strong link to God through prayer is essential to weather the storms of life. The connection that we have to heaven needs to be continually nourished lest like a plant without water it quickly withers and dies. Fr. Ciszek seemed to remember this while incarcerated in Moscow, for he prayed for hours on end in the isolation of his cell those prayers that he knew by heart particularly the Mass, the greatest of all prayers.
And when he wasn’t praying, he was occupying his mind in other ways playing mental games just to stimulate his brain and keep from going insane. He would recite whatever poetry he could remember from his school days and would then preach extemporaneous sermons to the four walls of his cells. Sometimes he would also make up silly anecdotes to get himself laughing, stories about Stalin visiting the peasants of the country telling them to work harder so they wouldn’t be hungry. Though Fr. Ciszek may represent an extreme case of deprivation, his story communicates to us the need to keep always busy, for as the old saying goes, “idleness is the devil’s workshop.” If we are to guard ourselves particularly from depression, it is important to remain active, especially trying to help other people, doing good in whatever way that we can. In doing so, we draw our attention off ourselves and onto others and escape the deadly tentacles of the Evil One.
While the servant of God is deep in the desert waiting for the day that God will bring to pass what has been shown to him, it is also essential to practice the discipline of rememberance. When there are no signs of anything that God has promised the person of faith, especially for long periods of time, it is so easy to disbelieve that thing which the soul longs and hopes for. The temptation is to think that what the soul is earnestly waiting for was only a dream or a figment of the imagination, and the soul would become inclined to think it was crazy for entertaining such unrealistic thoughts. It is then that one must tap deep into his spiritual reserves which means that he must call to mind his experiences of God from the past.
To survive the aridity of waiting, the soul must remember those times in the past when God was with it and helped it and did extraordinary things. It must recall those events in which God had promised it something and it did come to pass the way that was predicted. In this way the person of faith reminds himself that if he had had special encounters with God before, then there is no reason to believe that he wouldn’t have them again. If God had shown his strong hand in the past, then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect it again in the future.
The ancient Israelites seemed to understand the importance of spiritual rememberance and treasured the miraculous signs that were given to them along their journey. Rather than taking any chance that they or successive generations would forget the times that God showed up in a big way for them, they created memorials of the events that could serve as reminders of the times God came through for them at an important time.
When the patriarch Jacob had escaped from the wrath of his brother Esau, he had a dream in the place called Bethel. The dream was a spiritual one in which he saw a stairway to heaven with angels ascending and descending upon it. During the dream, God told him that his descendants would fill the land of Canaan where he lay, and when he awoke in the morning he was so moved by this vision of the night, that he took the stone he was sleeping on and erected it as a pillar and poured oil on it as a signpost that God had visited him there.
Like an altar, the people of Israel built such memorials for the generations to come that they might know about the work of God. When Joshua led the people across the Jordan into the Promised Land, the river dried up so that the Israelites were able to cross dry-shod. While the river was dammed up upstream of the people, Joshua told representatives of each of the twelve tribes to pick up a stone out of the river, and so they gathered the twelve stones together on the other shore as a monument to this momentous crossing when the descendants of Abraham returned to Canaan after over 400 years.
Some centuries later, the prophet Samuel did something similar when the Israelites were engaged in battle with the Philistines. We are told that God miraculously intervened in the battle by thundering from heaven such that the Philistines were thrown into a panic. Subsequently they were easily routed by the Israelites, so Samuel set up a stone and called it Ebenezer meaning “stone of help” because God had assisted his people in a great way.
In all of these vignettes, the purpose in creating a monument was to commemorate the extraordinary hand of God in the life of the nation. These occasions were special to the Israelites for they witnessed the power of God and wanted to keep it in memory. Indeed, building such altars to God is an important practice for by remembering the many times that he has been with us, our faith is increased. Faith is one of those virtues that can only be grown through experience, and it is the many times in our lives that we recall how God was with us through signs and circumstances that we have the courage to believe God for the next challenge that comes our way. We must build signposts to recall the times that God has visited us, for by cherishing those past events, we are strengthened to press on ahead into unfamiliar territory.
While in modern times, people of faith will not necessarily build stone monuments to remember the significant divine visitations in their lives, they will often keep a written record of their experiences, and looking back in such diaries or journals will see the hand of God leading them along the way, building a spiritual tapestry which will slowly but surely become visible as the years progress.
We have seen then that the servant of God has various tools at his disposal to weather the aridity of waiting for God. We have identified the importance of regular prayer to keep our link to the spiritual realms strong, and we have spoken about the importance of continuing to do good to others and avoid idleness. Of great significance we have emphasized the need to memorialize those times that God has been with us in the past through the discipline of rememberance, but we won’t fail to mention one last strategy to help us keep the faith in the barrenness of a spiritual desert.
We have the words of the prophets at our fingertips, those chronicles of the people of God of old who went before us and struggled no differently than we do today. They offer us stories of faith some of which we have shared, and it is a great help to us to read those narratives realizing that if God came through for them, he will also do the same for us in due time. We also do well to remember their encouraging words and in closing we cite the words of the prophet Habakkuk. As a contemporary of Jeremiah, he lived in a time of great wickedness in the nation of Judah and complained that God was standing idly by while so much evil was taking place. He sought to understand how divine punishment could be so slow in coming. The Lord gave him a response which was as relevant for him as it is for us today. Answering Habakkuk’s complaints, the Almighty replied, “For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. It if seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.”