Recently one of my grandchildren told me they can’t wait for Christmas. As we counted how many days it was until that special day, I was reminded that waiting is a theme in virtually all of our lives. From an early age we are made to wait and hope for things that are either uncertain or at a distance from becoming reality. Teens eagerly wait to drive so they can have more freedom. Students wait anxiously to finish school so they can get on with the rest of their lives with a job. We wait to meet “Mr. (or Miss) Right”, buy a house, have children. We wait for loved ones to give their lives to Christ, a broken marriage to be healed, or good health to return. But even when one season of waiting comes to an end, we can be pretty certain that another will take eventually take its place; and some waiting never ends at all.
What in your life are you waiting for?
The Bible talks a lot of about waiting. Waiting implies longing or hoping for something. It requires waiting in a state in which you expect or hope that something will happen soon.
Personally, I struggle with waiting for things that seem contrary to what makes sense to me. And yet, it seems clear from Scripture that God considers waiting a discipline that we all need to practice and learn from. While few people I know enjoy the waiting process itself, as I study God’s Word and look over the course of my own life, I can’t deny that good fruit often comes forth during and, even as a result of, long seasons of waiting.
What God Does While We Wait
Long periods of waiting without seeing any happy ending is sight is never something we welcome in our lives but, at times, we wonder how any good can come from them at all. We question why God would withhold a good desire from us; like marriage, a baby, relief from depression, or healing from a devastating illness. Deep down we may be uncertain as to whether he is really listening to our prayers and, if he is yet doesn’t answer as we hope, if He really cares about our suffering.
But God does hear (Psalm 40:1) and He settled any question concerning His love for His people by dying on the cross to save us from our sin which deserves His eternal wrath. Indeed, the only reason God ever says no, or wait, to his children is so He can give us the very thing we would ask for if we saw the glory He is preparing for us. In fact, waiting serves God’s great purpose for those who persevere in faith in the following ways.
Waiting trains us to be patient
Along with the fact that we are impatient by nature, we live in a day and time when we expect (and often receive) instant gratification. We are prone to get impatient if we have to sit in traffic or wait too long in the grocery line. So when God delays the answers to our most heartfelt prayers, we are tempted to question his care for us.
The root of impatience is pride and, since God opposes the proud, it shouldn’t surprise us that he uses waiting as a tool to develop a more patient spirit in us.
Waiting reveals our idols
There are things in life we subtly believe we can’t live without, things that have taken up residence on the throne of our lives. Because God knows that competing loves have the power to destroy us, in His mercy, He takes away or withholds what may seem good to us but would keep us from our greater love, Jesus Christ.
Paul gave thanks for the Thessalonians when they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for HIs Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come,” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). We can trust that God’s refusals are, ultimately, always His mercies.
Waiting humbles us
When life doesn’t go according to our plan, it reminds us that we are neither in control nor as self-sufficient as we’d like to think we are. John Newton said, “Every day self-sufficiency and self righteousness must be dethroned.” And so God leads us to wilderness seasons to humble us and remind us that He alone is worthy to be on the throne of our lives.
The Israelites found themselves in the middle of a wilderness right after they had witnessed a miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Deuteronomy 8 tells us that God tested them to reveal what was in their hearts; “And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know….that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
Sometimes God lets us hunger for things we want (or even think we need) to teach us that our true hunger and need is Him. The truth is that we are not in control of anything and that our spirit of self-sufficiency only serves to deceive us, keeping us from leaning into the all-sufficient Christ. Since God draws near and gives grace to the humble, waiting that cultivates submission to God’s plan (when it’s different from our own) can serve as an instrument of God’s grace.
Waiting realigns our expectations
By nature, we often have unrealistic expectations of what life will bring. We may assume that we’ll enjoy good health, reach the goals we’ve set, and see many of our dreams come true. When our expectations are not met we can become disappointed or even angry. Single women don’t always meet Mr. Right. Married women find their husbands are a far cry from Prince Charming or discover they are infertile. Loved ones die and hearts are broken.
As we wait for healing, fulfillment of dreams, a mate, or our hearts to heal, God works to realign our hopes from expecting much of this world to expecting much of Christ.
“Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart,” (Psalm 37:4.) In other words, God gives us new desires that satisfy us more deeply and joyfully than the things we naturally expect will bring us fulfillment in this life.
Waiting teaches us to trust and depend on Christ alone
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6.
It’s easy to say we trust God and depend on Christ for our every need. That is until the thing(s) we have depended on are taken away and we’re left with nothing but a sense of utter weakness. Yet, even while we begin to pray more earnestly, we often still look to the world (and our own wisdom) to provide what will help us feel strong and in control again.
But God doesn’t want us to feel strong. He wants us to feel our weakness. He doesn’t want us to depend on people or his gifts to fill the longings only He can satisfy. He wants us to look to Him to meet our needs. Often He does that by allowing whatever we’ve put our trust in to be proven insufficient, so that we might find our sufficiency in Christ alone. Seasons of waiting teach us to trust the Lord ‘s wisdom rather than on our own understanding. Only when everything we think we need is stripped away, do we come to realize that Christ is truly all we need.
Waiting strengthens us to run our race with endurance
Isaiah 40:31 says; “Those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; …they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” While we grow weary of waiting, God’s Word says it builds endurance in us. Waiting teaches us to keep persevering even when we don’t see where God is taking us. Romans 5 says; “…endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Which leads to our last point.
Waiting reminds us of the joy to come
It was “for the joy that was set before Him that Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame,” (Hebrews 12:2). God calls us to remember the future joy that will be ours in abundance when we meet Him face to face. Waiting reminds us that this world is not our home; we are pilgrims on our way to our final and glorious dwelling place with the One who loves us and gave His life for us. Christ is coming soon and so we wait patiently for our blessed hope, striving to walk by faith while living upright and godly lives through the power of the gospel.
Jesus is also Waiting
Hebrews 10:13 encourages us that we’re not alone in our waiting. Our Savior, Jesus Christ is “waiting until His enemies should be made a footstool for His feet.” Jesus’ enemies wage war against us now but, one day, every enemy of God’s Kingdom will be vanquished, Christ will return, and all waiting be over! Then we will rejoice over the great things God did in and through the seemingly long years of waiting that cultivated greater intimacy with Him.
“It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation” Isaiah 25:9.
Waiting for something that we believe would make our lives better, relieve suffering, or bring us joy is difficult. But we can take heart in the words of our Lord who says: “‘Surely I am coming soon’. Come Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” Revelation 22:20-21.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you,