The faith of my mother, Jacqueline, was unshakable. She passed away on Jan. 2, 2010, at 79, just 12 days after the passing of my wife's mother, Ruth, at 94. Both had waited decades for some of their prayers to be answered.
It was a hot and humid afternoon in Paraguay. I was working on a sermon, and my wife was getting her bags ready to travel to Brazil to spend Christmas with her family, using a ticket we had purchased months before. We were both somewhat worried about our mothers who were not well.
The phone rang and Iracema answered. A few minutes later, ashen-faced and crying, she told me that her dear mother had suddenly passed away. Her words to me were the heart-wrenching question: "Why could she not have waited for me just one more day?" The next day she went to her mother's funeral. Within two weeks, I went to my mother's funeral.
In the 34 words of these two verses, several things stand out: The word "Lord" appears three times, "I" twice and "wait" twice. There are also three commands: "Wait, be strong and take heart."
Folks, the Lord is good, and we experience his goodness, even when we do not see all our prayers answered this side of the Jordan. This story has a nice ending. Ruth's brother Dalgio, a rebellious sinner most of his life, was baptized at age 80, less than a week after her passing. She had prayed for him for 70 years and his parents for about 40 years until they died. Sometimes answers to our prayers come to us posthumously! Even then we are in the land of the living, for "he that believeth in me shall never die," Jesus said.
Tim and Iracema Kunkel serve as International Mission Board missionaries to Paraguay.
This 2011 Advent devotion originally appeared in the November 17 issue of Word&Way.