On November 28, 2018, Chinese geneticist He Jiankui stood behind a podium at an international conference on human genome editing and quietly announced the birth of twin girls whose genes he had edited. The announcement sent ripples through the scientific community as it marked the first live birth of genetically modified babies.
The conference chair, Noble Prize winner David Baltimore, questioned the responsibility of Professor He's experiment. Bioethicist Alta Charo called his work "misguided, premature, unnecessary and largely useless." Professor He defended his actions, claiming the genetic modifications were to prevent the girls, whose father is HIV-positive, from contracting the disease. However, the past six months have shown that, by ignoring the collective warnings of the scientific community, He Jiankui has placed the girls in danger. His gene-mutation will likely have an unintended side-effect—shortening the twins' lifespan.
Because God took matters into His own hands, . . . we are not condemned to the sum of our bad choices.
While we might not be involved in actions as significant and consequential as modifying the human genome, we can relate to the Chinese scientist's impatience. He saw a problem and took matters into his own hands to fix it—without considering the consequences. Don't we do the same? When you face a problem, are you more likely to wait on God for a solution or try to fix it yourself?
TRUSTING GOD'S TIMING
In Psalm 27, David recounts the many problems he is facing: He is assailed by evildoers (v. 2), threatened by war (v. 3), forsaken by his family (v. 10), and attacked by false witnesses (v. 12). Yet, David's response is to cry out to God and trust that the Lord will deliver him. He concludes his Psalm with these words: "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (v. 14).
David understood waiting. As a young shepherd boy, he was anointed the next king of Israel and then thrust into the national spotlight with the defeat of Goliath (see 1 Sam. 16-17). However, David had to wait 15 years before he ascended the throne. During much of that time, he was on the run from the current, evil King Saul, living in the wilderness, taking refuge among foreign nations, and trying to survive. And yet, David waited for the Lord. Twice he had the opportunity to kill King Saul and take the crown by force. The first time, Saul wandered alone into the cave where David was hiding with his men (1 Sam. 24). David's followers considered Saul's presence God's provision of victory, but David refused to attack. The second time, David and one of his warriors, Abishai, snuck into Saul's camp and stole the king's spear and water jug from the tent where he was sleeping. Abishai begged David to allow him to use the spear against the sleeping Saul, but David refused (1 Sam. 26:6-12). He would not take matters into his own hands. Instead, he would wait for the Lord's timing.
How far we are from David's faith in the Lord's timing! Instead of waiting for the Lord, we take matters into our own hands. Believers who are tired of being "single and alone" rush into a relationship only to find themselves "married and alone." Marriages that could have survived and become symbols of God's redeeming power end prematurely because it is easier to "get out." Meaningful friendships are abandoned because differences are too difficult to resolve. We rush into a new job only to find that the security and "good life" it promised actually created more problems than it solved. The greener grass on the other side of the fence was just grass, and like all other grass, it withers and fades. Our attempts to take matters into our own hands don't solve our problems; they often make them worse.
Abraham learned this lesson. Instead of waiting for God's provision of Isaac, he bore Ishmael through Sarah's servant Hagar (Gen. 16). The result of their impatience was conflict in the home and a rejected son (Gen. 21:8-21). Waiting is difficult.
GRACE IN THE WAITING
So, how do we wait on the Lord?
First, we recognize that we aren't as smart as God. He alone was present at the foundation of the earth (Job 38:4). He alone sees when the lonely sparrow falls (Matt. 10:29). He alone knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10). Waiting on the Lord is deciding that God, in His sovereign wisdom, is better at making choices than we are. After all, if He knows the number of hairs on your head, does He not also know what is best for your life?
Second, we recognize that waiting is not a passive activity. David waited on the Lord by pouring out his heart in a psalm. Abraham waited by leaving his homeland and relocating to a foreign land. We wait on the Lord when we pray, worship, seek God in His Word, and respond with faith. Active waiting is waking up each day with the hope that God is true to His Word: "[T]hose who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles" (Isa. 40:31).
The Chinese geneticist He Jiankui trusted his own wisdom, tried to rise up on his own wings, and failed. We do the same when, instead of resting in God's sovereignty and responding with faith, we take matters into our own hands. The good news for those who place their faith in Christ is that God is gracious even when we fail to wait on Him. In spite of Abraham's failure with Hagar, God kept His promise and blessed him with offspring as numerous as the stars. In spite of our sin and careless choices, God keeps His promise to forgive all who come to Him in faith. Because God took matters into His own hands, sending His Son into the world and paying for our sins through Christ's death on the cross, we are not condemned to the sum of our bad choices. If God is faithful in this, will He not be faithful in other things as we wait on Him?