The Concordia Publishing House Podcast

Waiting with Sharla Fritz

July 24, 2020 Elizabeth Pittman Season 1 Episode 7
The Concordia Publishing House Podcast
Waiting with Sharla Fritz
Chapters
The Concordia Publishing House Podcast
Waiting with Sharla Fritz
Jul 24, 2020 Season 1 Episode 7
Elizabeth Pittman

Thanks to Covid-19, 2020 has become endless days of waiting. Waiting for the curve to flatten, waiting to see friends and family, waiting for news about what school will look like in the fall, waiting for good news, waiting for a return to what used to be considered “normal.” 

How can we use this season of waiting to draw closer to Jesus? 

That’s what we’ll be talking about today with Sharla Fritz. 

Sharla is an author, speakers, musician, and retreat leader, and a confirmed chocoholic. She is the author of several books, including Waiting: A Bible Study on Patience, Hope, and Trust.

Show Notes Transcript

Thanks to Covid-19, 2020 has become endless days of waiting. Waiting for the curve to flatten, waiting to see friends and family, waiting for news about what school will look like in the fall, waiting for good news, waiting for a return to what used to be considered “normal.” 

How can we use this season of waiting to draw closer to Jesus? 

That’s what we’ll be talking about today with Sharla Fritz. 

Sharla is an author, speakers, musician, and retreat leader, and a confirmed chocoholic. She is the author of several books, including Waiting: A Bible Study on Patience, Hope, and Trust.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Welcome to the Concordia Publishing House Podcast, where we consider everything in the light of Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I'm your host, Elizabeth Pittman.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Thanks to COVID-19, the year 2020 has become endless days of waiting. Waiting for the curve to flatten, waiting to see our friends and our family, waiting for news about what school might look like this fall, waiting for good news, and waiting for a return to what used to be considered normal. How can we use this season of waiting to draw closer to Jesus? That's what we'll be talking about today with our guests, Sharla Fritz. Sharla is an author, speaker, musician and retreat leader, and she's a confirmed chocoholic. She's the author of several books, including Waiting: A Bible Study on Patience, Hope, and Trust. Hi Sharla.

Sharla Fritz:

Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for having me.

Elizabeth Pittman:

We're glad to have you here. How's everything going in your neck of the woods?

Sharla Fritz:

We are all doing well. Our family is doing well. We are still waiting for my daughter to... And her family they have been working in China for the past, almost 10 years, and now they are wanting to come home, but they're still kind of stuck there, but we are waiting and hoping they'll be able to come home soon.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Oh, my goodness. I think there's waiting for everything these days, it seems like-

Sharla Fritz:

Yes.

Elizabeth Pittman:

... so your Bible study Waiting, has become the perfect book to pick up during this season of social distancing and quarantine. I know I've had several friends reach out to me who have worked through the study and they've been so thrilled at how perfect it's been. Did you ever think that you would have a Bible study that would be perfect for quarantine?

Sharla Fritz:

Never, ever. I never thought I would experience quarantine. I will never experience a pandemic. And I'm just surprised that... Well, the theme of the book Waiting, part of the theme is that God's timing is always perfect and so this book coming out a couple of years ago was ordained by God to be available to people during this time, because God often makes people wait. We see that in the scriptures so often. I think I've Abraham and Sarah who waited decades for a child. I think of Joseph who became an important leader in Egypt, but not before waiting years in prison. I think of the Israelites who waited and waited in Egypt for 400 years before they could leave for the promised land. And all these stories in scripture can help us through this waiting time that we find ourselves in. What do we do when we're waiting?

Elizabeth Pittman:

And whether we like it or not, we have been given a lengthy lesson in waiting-

Sharla Fritz:

Yes.

Elizabeth Pittman:

... not 400 years. Thankfully, not 400 years, but in our world where everything is so immediate and so on demand to all of a sudden, have everything forced into a period of slowing down and waiting. How can we cope with that?

Sharla Fritz:

Well, I think the first thing that we have to do is realize that God, you can use these waiting times. I always like to say that wait is a four-letter word that should never be used and I hate it, but it does seem that God seems to love it. And he can use those times to draw us closer to him. When my life is going according to plan, I have to admit that sometimes I don't spend a lot of time in prayer or I take him for granted, but when I'm waiting for something, then I am much more likely to go to him and plead with him, draw closer to him. And so I think he often uses those times like this, because it draws our attention to him. Other things kind of fall away. And so, we naturally go to the Lord. So he uses these times when we feel stuck, because that's when we're more likely to approach him.

Elizabeth Pittman:

So when we are stuck and we're finding these times that we have no choice but to be stuck, it seems that we've been given an opportunity for some faith building exercises or some faith building time. What are some things that we can do to retrain our thinking so that we're not grumbling about waiting, but we're using that time in a proactive manner to dig into the word and focus on our hope?

Sharla Fritz:

Oh, excellent question. I think of... Well, in the book, first chapter is about Sarah and she is kind of the lesson in what not to do while waiting. So she is always taking things into her own hands. She and Abraham were waiting for a child and it didn't happen and it didn't happen and finally she said, "Well, God promised Abraham a child, but maybe he intended for Abraham to have the child with someone else." And so she said, "Here, take Hagar my maid and have a child with her." But this just fell apart. That whole scenario caused so many problems over her life over centuries. Then the last chapter of the book talks about the 10 virgins, the parable of 10 virgins who waited for the bridegroom to come. So they were waiting for the bridegroom. Weddings were usually in the evening. And so they had their lamps so that they could go through the streets, dark streets at night to the wedding celebration, but the bridegroom was delayed.

Sharla Fritz:

They had to wait longer than they expected. And when the bridegroom finally came, their lamps were growing dim. Five of those virgins had some oil, extra oil with them. And so they just simply added the extra oil and they were set, but the other five, were unprepared and they had to go and buy more oil. The oil symbolizes the means of grace that fuel our faith. And so I think while we are waiting, even if we're doing it right now in this trying time of quarantine or while we're waiting for other things like marriage, we're waiting for a baby, for a family, whatever we're waiting for, what we can do is use the means of grace to fuel our faith, because what God wants to work in our hearts through this time of waiting is trust in him. But we can't, we can't just manufacture faith on our own. So we need the Holy spirit to work that in our lives, through the means of grace. I'd like to read just a little bit from that chapter, if that's okay?

Elizabeth Pittman:

Sure thing.

Sharla Fritz:

Yeah. So I see myself in the foolish virgins when I try to weight in my own strength, but when I assume extra oil is not needed, I am more likely to listen to the words of fear or stand too long with impatience and discouragement, or spend too much time with disappointment and doubt. And they all try to extinguish my flame of faith or at least keep me too occupied to go to the source of grace, to fuel my trust. But I want to be more like the wise virgins who understood that waiting is hard, who realize that it doesn't take much for faith to sputter and die out. Who recognized that the longer the waiting period is, the more we need the oil of God's grace. I want to wait well like them, prepared for the long haul. You too, let's all strive to go to the source often, reaching for the word to fuel our hope and strength. Let's attend the Lord's supper to feed our souls.

Sharla Fritz:

Well, I think that is the key. We need the means of grace to fuel our faith and then we can learn to trust.

Elizabeth Pittman:

When we know that in our [inaudible 00:09:19], it can be difficult for us to follow through with it in our day-to-day life. Why is it so hard for us to keep our focus on that and wait on the Lord every day?

Sharla Fritz:

Probably because it's our natural inclination to try to do things on our own. Especially maybe in our current culture, we are taught to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and make our daily to do lists and we try to do everything on our own. And it's not in our nature to trust God and let go. We want to do it on our own. I know on the least that's my tendency. I like to be like Sarah, and do those do it yourself projects. I like to have that feeling of accomplishment.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Is Sarah then the woman that you most identify with, or is there another one of the women that you profiled that you resonate with more deeply?

Sharla Fritz:

Well, I resonate with all of them in some way or another, all the way through the book. I learned so much as I did the research for each woman. But I think the woman that I most identify with is Hannah. She also waited for a baby and I had some waiting for children too. It didn't happen easily. But then, the big thing with me was with Hannah, she not only waited for a child, but then she gave that child back. And so it was so... I've experienced that too with my daughter being in China. We were very close, always still are. We're just not close in proximity, but as she was growing up, I really treasured our relationship. And when she grew up and got married and then moved to China, it was a total shock to me. And it was very hard at first because that was not in my plan and yet it was God's plan for her life that she go there.

Sharla Fritz:

And it took me a long time before I could accept that. And I think one of the lessons that God taught me in that kind of waiting is that, sometimes he puts these periods of waiting in our lives to wean us from demanding our own way in life. Because really he has a much better plan than we could ever come up with and yet I always want to have my own way. I want to have my plan. And so it takes some waiting before sometimes I let go and really discover that God has a better plan.

Elizabeth Pittman:

That's the trick, isn't it? To be able to step out of ourselves and focus on understanding what God's plan for us is. So, as a mother, how did you teach your children about waiting when they were growing up?

Sharla Fritz:

Well, I was thinking about that. I think one of the things that we did, like on car trips, we sang a lot of songs. We listened to a lot of books on tape because there's a lot of waiting when we're in the car. I taught them how to wait during Advent through Advent reads. And we did this little thing at Christmas time, besides the Advent wreath and Advent devotions is we had stockings and we'd let them open up one little stocking gift every night. So that helped them to wait for the big presents of Christmas. We did a lot of Bible stories and teaching them about Jesus and memory verses, but waiting is hard for everyone.

Elizabeth Pittman:

It really is. I remember when I was growing up, every now and then I would come in with an I'm bored to my parents. And not quite waiting, but in a way being bored is waiting for something exciting to come your way. And my dad would often say, "You'll have to learn to be bored." And at the time I was like, "Oh, come on. Really?" And now I've caught myself saying the same thing to my sons. And it really is. It takes some patience to learn how to wait well, if you're hoping for something or there's not an immediate entertainment or solution coming your way. You have to be able to take a deep breath and be patient. And that's tough sometimes.

Sharla Fritz:

Yes. That being bored is a lesson that I think we in modern society, we don't do that well, because we're so used to being entertained constantly. But being bored is actually a really good thing because science has shown that sometimes our brains don't actually come up with new ideas until we are bored for a while and we experience a little bit of stillness. So maybe that is also why God sometimes puts us in these situations where we have to wait, we have to be still. He teaches us new things during that time. New things that we might not think of when our lives are moving at the speed of a 747. We can't learn some things until we have slowed down.

Elizabeth Pittman:

So how can we lean into that while we have these stretches of waiting to help us prepare for the time when what we've been waiting for finally arrives?

Sharla Fritz:

I go to the chapter on Esther because Esther she had a period of waiting too, and you might not think of Esther immediately as waiting, but her first period of waiting was when she was chosen to be part of the harem of the king. And she had a year of preparation before she actually met the king. There were all kinds of beauty treatments that she went through and this prepared her for meeting the king. So I think in the book, I use the acronym of PRAY as four steps of things that we can do while we're waiting. So that first one is P for prepare. She had to prepare to meet the king. So, she trusted the king's adviser, the man who was in charge of the harem. She trusted him for advice on what she could do to prepare. So we can go to God and ask him, how can I prepare for what is coming next?

Sharla Fritz:

So, some of the things can be practical things like maybe you see that in this climate, this uncertain economic climate that you might need to hone up on some job skills to prepare for the changes in your workplace or what might happen with your career. Maybe it's more like spiritual preparation and asking God, what's the next book I should read? What is the next book in the Bible I should study that will help me to prepare for life after this? Then the R is to rest in God's providence. In the whole book of Esther, God's name is not mentioned at all, but he is working behind the scenes the whole time. And I think this is so reassuring for all of us. If we can do that, rest in God's providence, we can't understand what is happening.

Sharla Fritz:

This was all a huge surprise to us, we would never suspect that we would have to go through this kind of pandemic, but God knew it all along. It's not a surprise to him. And he is working things behind the scene that we can't really fathom at the time. Maybe a few years down the road, we will see that he brought people to faith because they faced all of this uncertainty and they turned to him. Or maybe we'll just find that we have grown in faith because we have had to take a step back from our normal life. We've had to do things differently. So I think resting in God's providence and trusting that he is working even when we can't see it, that can help us as we're waiting. Then the A is to ask God for the next step. We can't know all of the steps. There's still so much uncertainty.

Sharla Fritz:

We don't know. The experts are still wondering what's going to happen with school in the fall, and should we wear masks? Should we not wear masks? And all of these things, but we can ask God for one step, just one small step to take. Maybe it is as simple as taking one of the waiting verses from scripture, looking one up from the book here. "But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life." That's Jude chapter 1:20-21. Maybe your next step is as simple as taking one of those waiting scriptures and writing it on a posted note and putting it by your computer or by your sink when you brush your teeth, just reminding yourself that God is there with you, waiting. Ask him for your next step.

Sharla Fritz:

And then Y is to yield to God's sovereignty. Oh, in the book of Esther, another waiting period that she had was when she actually chose to wait. She had to go to the king to ask for mercy for her people. And the king said, "What can I do for you, Esther?" And instead of just blurting it out right away, she said, "Why don't you come to dinner and I will tell you then?" And so, she chose to wait. And I always found that very surprising because I would have not had the patience to wait. Some of the commentaries that I read said that it was Middle Eastern custom, not to ask for a big favor right away, but to ask for a small one first. And so maybe she was using that custom. So she asked the king to come.

Sharla Fritz:

He came to dinner and with her arch-enemy, Haman, who was plotting to kill all the Jews. So, they're having dinner and after dinner, the king asks again, "So what is your request Esther?" And again, she chooses to wait. Now this one is even more surprising to me because now she's buttered him up with a good meal and everything and so it would seem that this is the perfect time to ask, but I think the Lord put it on her heart to wait. And so she said, "Come to dinner again tomorrow and then I'll tell you." And so much happened during that 24 hours that the king read the annals of what happened when Mordecai saved his life. And Haman had to parade Mordecai through the streets. And Mordecai is Esther's cousin. Haman, the arch-enemy had to parade Mordecai through the streets saying, "This is how the king honors."

Sharla Fritz:

And so, all these things happen in that little space of time between the two dinners. So when the king came back to dinner and Esther finally told her request, then the king knew about Mordecai, the Jew and what he had done for him. And so the timing was perfect there. So when we yield to God's sovereignty and realize... It's easier said than done, of course, but that he knows what is best that can also help us. So, those four steps prepare for what is coming, rest in God's providence, ask God for the next step and then yield to God's sovereignty. And those four things can help us during this long prolonged waiting time that we are in.

Elizabeth Pittman:

I think those are four very helpful steps to turn our focus from grumbling and complaining and help us to draw near to Jesus during these times. Thank you, Sharla for sharing that with us and helping us see how we can be Christ-focused during this time of waiting and whether it's continuing to wait during quarantine or in the smaller waiting moments of life, it's all very helpful. We've appreciated having you with us today. If our listeners would like to dig deeper into the topic of waiting and waiting well, visit cph.org\waiting. There, you'll find more information on Sharla's Bible study, and it's a great one. It's been very well received and we've been hearing a lot of great comments about it from groups across the country who have been using it in these last few months.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Thank you for joining us today, Sharla. We really appreciate it.

Sharla Fritz:

Thanks Elizabeth, it was great to talk with you and about God's word.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Till next time, everyone.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Concordia Publishing House Podcast. I pray that this time was valuable to your walk with Christ. We'd love to connect with listeners on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter @ConcordiaPub. Visit cph.org for more resources to grow deeper in the gospel.