Spiritual Growth - Living a Life of Faith

Waiting on God’s Timing – Are You Birthing an Ishmael?

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Waiting on God’s timing, especially when we are experiencing difficult times, is not often an easy thing to do. It can be very tempting to take matters into our own hands, not always as a blatant act of disobedience, but sometimes out of fear. We wonder if God hears us and so we act!

We may not question whether or not God CAN do something in our lives but we may doubt if He WILL do it. Sarai wondered that very thing when she was waiting for a child. Like her are you birthing an Ishmael?

A pocket watch on old European looking documents with a text overlay that says "Waiting on God's Timing - Are you Birthing an Ishmael?"

Waiting on God’s Timing – Child of Promise

Sarai had been wanting a child for a long time! She yearned to give her husband Abram a son. But it appeared to her, in her old age, that it was just not to be.


In her desperation, in this intense desire to give Abram this child of promise, she gives her Egyptian servant Hagar to Abram to act as a surrogate of sorts, so that she may have a child through her.


Sarai and Hagar

Genesis 16:1-4 tells us:

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.” NIV


God had made a covenant with Abram in Genesis 15: 5-6:

“He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” NIV


Despite this covenant, Sarai, his wife, did not trust God to bring it to pass through her. Again, it is necessarily that Sarai doubted God’s ability to bring this to pass through her. She doubted His willingness.


But, she was his wife! Nowhere had God commanded Abram to take another! And yet instead of waiting on God’s timing, she doubted it would come to pass, so she took matters into her own hands.


She put her own desire ahead of God’s plan.


Abram, in his own act of disobedience reminiscent of Adam, did not reject his wife’s plea. He willingly listened to his wife and went in to Hagar and, by him, she conceived a son, Ishmael.


The Bible tells us, in Romans 9:8, that Ishmael was not the son of promise but the child of the flesh.

“In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” NIV


Waiting on God’s Timing – Patience is Not My Virtue

We have all heard the saying, “patience is a virtue” but it is not my virtue.


I have a difficult struggle with patience (as anyone who is around me at Christmas time can attest to) and waiting on God’s timing has never been my strong suit.


I can relate to Sarai (then re-named Sarah by God).


Sometimes when things happen (or don’t happen) that threaten to derail MY plans, I feel like I have to step in and take action.


Now, while I am absolutely certain that I would NEVER make an offer to my husband like Sarai made to Abram (then re-named Abraham by God), I can most definitely understand where my dear ancestor was coming from. 


She wanted a child more than anything and in her limited vision it wasn’t happening. 


The promises of God were there, but, let’s be honest, she felt she had more power to make it happen than God did.



Waiting on God’s Timing – Lack of Trust in God

At the end of the day, it all boiled down to Sarah’s lack of trust. To her, waiting on God’s timing came with a fear that time was getting away from her and her ability to play a role in giving Abraham these descendants God spoke of was fading.


She may have believed that God would make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the sand in the seas but she did not believe enough to think He could do it without her own intervention.


I am guilty of this at times. 


Sarah likely didn’t doubt God’s promise. She just doubted it would happen through her.


We are all guilty of putting God in the boxes of our own design. We have a mental picture of how we think God should work and, when that doesn’t happen, we are tempted to jump in rather than waiting on God’s timing and trusting that it is perfect timing.


In doing so, we are birthing an Ishmael in our own lives and then asking God to bless it!


We are bringing about a situation or a relationship that yes, God CAN bless and redeem in spite of our disbelief and disobedience, but it is not His perfect plan for us.  

Proverbs 3:5 says:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” ESV

Cotton in a white vase with Proverbs 3:5 quoted

Waiting on God’s Timing Means We Lean on Him and Not Our Own Understanding

Sarah was leaning on her own understanding. She saw things from HER perspective, instead of trusting in God’s plan.


In doing so, she ended up despising the very thing she brought upon herself.


Our own efforts are never as good for us as God’s provision will be.


In the end, God did as He promised. He brought about a great nation and used Sarah in her old age to do so.


Have you ever taken matters into your own hands instead of waiting on God’s timing when things didn’t move as quickly as you liked? Share in the comments how God redeemed that for you!



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  1. Amen! I needed this post today! Sometimes I feel like I’m just making each day Instead of really trusting in His timing & enjoying the wait.

  2. Wonderful reminder, Diane. Like how you said, “We are all guilty of putting God in the boxes of our own design. We have a mental picture of how we think God should work and, when that doesn’t happen, we are tempted to jump in rather than waiting on God’s timing and trusting that it is perfect timing.”

    I’ve written on this story with Sarai before and including it as part of a chapter in the book I’m working on. Impatient in the wait, we often take things into our own hands instead of placing them in the able hands of God. 🙂

  3. “We are creating our own Ishmael and then asking God to bless it!” Oh yes, this is me way too many times. Being patient does not come easy to me. Sitting around waiting for God to move can be excruciating yet the best practice. Good news is we have a forgiving God and we can learn to be patient. I am sure I will always be a work in progress, however I am moving forward in trusting God. Great post! Shared it with my friends.