Our 2019 Children’s Books of the Year stand out from an increasingly troubling crowd
A big hit in the summer of 1963 was Allan Sherman’s novelty song Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp). Here is the gist: It’s raining; Joe Spivey has developed poison ivy; Leonard Skinner got ptomaine poisoning after dinner; the counselors hate the waiters; the lake has alligators; the head coach wants no sissies—he’s quoting from Ulysses; they’re convening a search party for the missing Jeffery Hardy.
Worst of all, moans this most unhappy camper in his missive home, “I’ve been here one whole day.”
The trouble with the trials God sends into our lives is that He never tells us in advance how long they’re going to last. The danger therefore is to bail out of the testing just before you have a victory: It was a six-month trial and you gave up on the 29th day of the fifth month.
Waiting is not cancer, but it’s hard in its own way. One rarely waits to a John Williams soundtrack, which would at least ennoble the monotony. One goes to the office. One does the laundry. One gets no pat on the back and no sign in the sky that anything is coming or will ever be different or better. “Where is the promise of his coming? … [A]ll things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4).
Abraham, who lived 4,000 years ago, is still revered above most men who ever walked the earth. Yet what did he do? Did he conquer a continent like Genghis Khan? Did he end slavery in America like Abraham Lincoln? Did he climb Mount Everest like Edmund Hillary? Nothing of the sort. He waited.
Twenty-five years he waited. Unglamorous years of eating sand and believing for a son. Just think of the daily talking to yourself you’d have to do under these conditions to keep waiting for something humanly implausible based only on a word you heard way back when. Abraham is one of the greatest men in history for simply believing God for a long, long time.
Abraham is one of the greatest men in history for simply believing God for a long, long time.
No guesswork on why Joseph’s great: “His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him” (Psalm 105:18-19). How did the word of the Lord test him? By giving him a daily choice between it and appearances. By my rough calculation, Joseph had about 4,745 successive chances (13 years of days) to choose trusting God’s word and faithfulness over bailing out of his teenage vision of the bowing sheaves and stars.
Waiting was the secret sauce in Moses’ life too. You’re still too proud and self-reliant, Moses. Go herd goats in obscurity in Midian for 40 years. The waiting will do something to you. Next time you’re in Egypt you won’t be so hot-headed as before; you’ll be “the meekest man on earth” if you let waiting have its way. And you are to “let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect” (James 1:4).
What trial does God have you in? Is your job a drag? Is your husband mean? Is your health subpar? What if there’s a different job around the corner, which you don’t see yet? What if your mean husband is about to be converted by some guy at work, which God foresees but you do not? What if when you wake up sick each morning and you make a choice to praise the Lord, He notes it in His book and it accrues with interest (Philippians 4:17; Revelation 2:7; 20:12)?
Waiting is the laboratory of the godly character. We have it all backward when we think our best times are our happy and successful times. It’s just the opposite. I have nothing against happiness and success, but nobody ever learned much by them.
The sun came out at camp, and our young camper changed his mind about his bailing-out idea. He starts a different tune before he ends his letter to the folks back home: “Wait a minute, it’s stopped hailing / Guys are swimming, guys are sailing / Playing baseball, gee that’s bettah / Muddah, Faddah, kindly disregard this letter.”