As a species, we do not enjoy waiting. The term “waiting room” evokes images of tense, bored, uneasy strangers drinking bad coffee, waiting in silence for some dreaded news. We dislike waiting in lines, waiting for our food to be cooked, waiting for our colds to go away.
In response to this, clever entrepreneurs are forever inventing new ways of reducing our waiting times and pandering to our need for speed: faster internet, faster food, faster cars, faster remedies for ailments of all kinds.
The result: we are more anxious, more busy, and more unhappy with each passing year.
It’s no surprise to me that playing in to our desire for instant gratification leads to no lasting satisfaction, because waiting is invariably a part of the world that God created. In the cold of winter, we have no choice but to wait for spring. The time of harvest can only come after the planting, weeding, and waiting of summer.
Anyone who has ever lost patience and pulled an unripe apple off the tree knows firsthand the price of being too hasty. All things have been appointed a time to begin, a time to grow, and a time to be fruitful. This is an inescapable reality of our world, regardless of how inventive we get with altering our environments or distracting our minds.
“Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.” ~ Psalm 123:2
So when it comes to our minds and hearts, this truth carries still. We were designed with waiting in mind; it is part of the discipline of surrendering our will to His, of trusting Him even when He works outside of our expectations. And because waiting is a part of the world God created, it will inevitably be a part of our relationship with him.
“Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.” ~ Psalm 25:5
The word “wait” is found over a hundred times in the Bible, and the concept of waiting on the Lord is consistently woven into it from Genesis to Revelation. Even when God offers a standing promise, there is invariably a wait of some kind in store before the promise is realized.
- Noah worked on his boat for a century before the rain began to fall.
- Moses had to wander with the faithless Israelites in the desert for 40 years.
- Prophets foretold the coming Messiah for hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth;
…and 2000 years later we are waiting again for His return. The world has no patience for this kind of thing; and even though God’s Word assures us that waiting is part of His plan, it can be hard to stand by while the world races ahead without us.
“Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.” ~ Proverbs 20:22
But there is something that happens during the waiting that is of inestimable value to God. We learn that He is always with us, even when we can’t see Him; not as a Sunday School maxim, but in a way that is real and meaningful to each individual. We learn that waiting actually won’t kill us, that there is strength and peace and growth during the slow times, though we most often don’t realize this until hindsight lends its perspective.
There is a quality to waiting that is very much a part of God’s nature; and no other method can help us to recognize, appreciate, and cultivate that quality in our own lives.
“And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” ~ Isaiah 30:18
Another often overlooked quality of waiting is in how it relates to prayer. In church we are taught to pray for our needs and wants. We know that faith is an important factor (Matthew 9:29, 13:58), as well as persistence (Luke 18:4-6), but we’ve all learned that wanting something really badly or asking repetitively is not a sure-fire way of getting what we’ve requested.
What is often not taught these days is that once the prayer has been made, the next step is simply to wait. God may answer “Yes,” or He may answer “No;” but He rarely answers in a hurry.
Sometimes the answer is found in the wait itself; the desire or need may fade or change as you wait on God, and a new provision you could not have anticipated may arise – just in time to meet a need you didn’t know you had! Sometimes it simply takes a while to be sure we are hearing God’s voice.
God promises that He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:4-6), and He often does so with a quiet voice (I Kings 19:11-13, Isaiah 30:21). How can we hear that voice if we’re so busy clamoring for attention, or distracting ourselves from the problems?
“Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.” ~ Micah 7:7
And then there are the times in life where it seems God is not hearing us. Troubles come, and our ever-loving Father seems nowhere to be found. The pressures and fears of life build and build until we reach our breaking point – and keep on building! We hear no directions, we feel no peace, and our souls grow weary of watching and waiting for a salvation that never reaches us, even when perfect opportunities for release tantalize and taunt us like mirages in the desert.
All of God’s children experience them, to some degree or another. Deserts are the ultimate lesson in waiting, because the waiting is the entire point. No amount of hoping, praying, enduring, or trying on our part will shorten the duration; it will only end when God’s will in us is accomplished. And the purpose of the desert is to take us beyond ourselves, to dry up our every resource and and strength within ourselves, to root out every bit of pride and self-sufficiency until we are left with none but Him.
Our stubbornness in this area cannot be underestimated; when faced with adversity, we will hold on to the hope that we can “get through it” for an unbelievably long time. God is more than willing to wait us out, because He knows we cannot truly grow in Him so long as we are trusting in ourselves. Time for Him is a useful tool through which we learn lessons that cannot be learned effectively otherwise.
“Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.” ~ Psalm 37:34
Since waiting is such an essential element of our walk with God, it is no surprise that the Bible is full of the subject. What amazes me is how much encouragement it seeks to instill in us. Over and over we are told that waiting is a good thing, that it is rewarded by a patient Father who sees all we go through and is conscientious enough not to forget our pains and struggles.
He knows we do not like to wait, and He delights in making it a fruitful blessing. He is a master at turning the evil designs of the enemy into an opportunity for eventual victory for His children and glory for Himself. And no one is better at exacting justice than He (Romans 12:19). In all of this, the glory is given to God, not to our own stick-to-it attitude; and we are once again blessed in being the vehicle through which God’s glory is recognized.
Waiting is a wonderful thing!
“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” ~ Isaiah 64:4
Nothing impresses me more than the book of Lamentations. To understand the conquering of Jerusalem and the captivity of Israel is not hard to imagine in a post-9/11 world: the degradation and humiliation would be similar to having one’s home nation overrun and decimated by enemies.
The few brief chapters of Lamentations captures the agony of such a defeat, as well as the bitterness of knowing that they are being treated according to their faithlessness towards God.
But, interspersed through the wailing voice of loss, there are passages that remind us of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and patience. While He is not above using a rod to chastise His children, He is also willing and eager to heal and restore. God never allows evil to come into our lives without also planning ahead for the blessing and richness He will restore to us when His purpose is fulfilled. All we have to do is trust; and leave room for waiting.
“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” ~ Psalm 27:14
~ contributed by Joelle Heilemann
Other references in regards to waiting:
Genesis 49:18; Psalm 25:3; Psalm 25:5; Psalm 25:21; Psalm 33:20; Psalm 37:7; Psalm 37:9; Psalm 37:34; Psalm 39:7; Psalm 40:1; Psalm 52:9; Psalm 59:9; Psalm 62:1; Psalm 62:5; Psalm 69:3; Psalm 104:27; Psalm 130:5-6; Proverbs 20:22; Proverbs 27:18; Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 26:8; Isaiah 33:2; Isaiah 40:31; Isaiah 49:23; Hosea 12:6; Habakkuk 2:3; Zephaniah 3:8; Luke 8:40; Luke 12:36; Acts 1:4; Romans 8:19; Romans 8:23; Romans 8:25; Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:5; James 5:7