There is a story of a man who noticed the great patience that a mother was displaying with her crying daughter at the grocery store. At each outburst, the mom continued to respond calmly, “Don’t be upset, Sophie. We’ll be home soon.” “It’s OK, Sophie. We’re almost done, then you’ll get a break.” “Just be patient a little longer, Sophie. It will be over soon.” The man finally said to her, “I am so impressed with how calmly and patiently you responded to your daughter! How old is Sophie?” The woman replied, “Oh no, you’ve misunderstood. My daughter’s name is Ashley. My name is Sophie.” I guess talking to yourself could be one strategy for patience.
How do you feel about waiting? Are you like me? Do you enjoy a nice long wait? (insert wink here). How about at the doctor’s office? On the beltway? At the DMV? The airport? In the Starbucks line?
There are casual kinds of waiting like those above, but then there are other, more serious forms. The single person who desires to be married, waiting for a spouse. The childless couple who wants to start a family, waiting for a child. The person stuck in a job they hate, waiting for work that is meaningful and significant. The person struggling with depression, waiting for a morning when they might feel happy. The person who’s ill and who’s hoping and waiting to get better. The spouse that’s in a hurting marriage, waiting for things to change.
As they should, believers look to a loving Father in heaven for the delivery of each of these answers. In other words, in waiting for needs to be met, they wait upon God to meet them.
The Bible is replete with admonishments to wait on the Lord. These verses (and many more) speak of the promise that God responds to those who wait on him:
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” Lamentations 3:25
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” Psalm 37:7
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” Psalm 130:5-6
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7
Renowned Christian author Louis Smeads said, “Waiting is the hardest work of hope.” Indeed it is! The conviction of these writers needs to be ours. In our serious waiting, we need to watch in hope, wait in hope, and pray in hope.
Here’s what we learn about waiting from the Scripture:
WAITING IS A NECESSARY AND IMPORTANT PART OF FAITH.
When we’re in seasons of waiting, we think something’s wrong with God. We might even think we’re in sin. Yet, we see from the Bible that waiting is often God’s plan for us and is therefore an intentional and purposeful part of faith. God has something to do, something to achieve in our waiting. Therefore, waiting means cooperating with the processes of growth.
In the Apostle James’s illustration of patience speaking of waiting for the coming of the Lord, he says:
“See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:7-8
A farmer without patience is in the wrong vocation! He has to wait for rain. Who knows when it will come? Then, he has to wait for the development of crop. It’s a seed, then a sprout, then a plant, then a crop to harvest. The farmer doesn’t fight against that process with fretting and frustration. He understands there are seasons of growth, but also seasons when it seems that nothing is happening. The farmer also knows that ultimately he has no control. That he is only a steward doing his part, waiting for God to do His.
This analogy of the seed is a beautiful picture of God’s process in just about every dimension of life. If we could just embrace the truth that the best things in life are not instant and easy!
WAITING MEANS LEAVING ROOM FOR GOD TO ACT IN HIS WAY, IN HIS TIME, AND ACCORDING TO HIS SOVEREIGN PLAN.
Nothing captures the essence of faith like waiting. The two are almost synonymous. Why? Because waiting is about letting go of control— and that is very disconcerting for many of us. It is essentially about cooperating with what the Father is seeking to do, rather than fight against it.
- To Act In His Way. Often God works in a way outside of our thinking and by letting go of control, we leave room in our hearts for God not only to answer our prayers but to meet those needs in his way — which may mean not meeting the need as we see He should. When we’ve pre-decided how God will answer prayer, we set ourselves up for disappointment when God has another way. Take note of Paul’s request for God to remove the thorn in his flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
- In His Time. God works according to his timetable and by letting go of control, we leave room in our hearts for him to answer our prayers in the timing that he deems best.
- According to His Sovereign Plan. This might be news to you, but there are other things that God seeks to achieve that are beyond you. People tend to interpret life in the context of their immediate needs and desires, but God has more on his mind than just you or me. He also has things to achieve in others and in our world. Maybe he’s using our waiting, our circumstances, as a way of helping, comforting, or encouraging another… or even bringing them to faith?
WHAT GOD DOES WHILE WE’RE WAITING MAY BE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS WHAT WE’RE WAITING FOR.
In God’s economy, there is great value to periods of waiting. Yet, all we see is the external and superficial, i.e., all we focus on is the waiting part. We do not see the invisible work that God is doing behind the waiting. Going back to the farmer illustration: it’s hard to see the seed for the dirt. Yet something is happening beneath the dirt… and it is good.
Truth: God is working during our waiting! God is doing something now!
While we’re waiting on God, we’re not waiting to obey Him. By waiting, we are obeying him! Find satisfaction in that obedience. Where you are right now is the time for faith and rejoicing; not at the end of your waiting. In between the promise and the fulfillment of it, he’s given other promises and other commands to heed. Let’s obey them while waiting and stay focused on those forms of obedience.
I am one of the most impatient people I know, but I have learned: people and circumstances don’t make you impatient. They reveal that you are impatient. Maybe God’s trying to teach us that one thing we don’t like to admit? That we want control! Maybe he’s trying to reveal our impatience without blaming it on others or life’s circumstances? Maybe part of the reason for waiting is to make us the person He wants us to be and build in us fruit that represents the Holy Spirit’s presence within us: love, joy, peace, patience… (Galatians 5:22-23).
While we’re waiting on God, maybe God’s waiting on us? He’s waiting on us to grow, to mature and to be able to actually steward what it is we’re waiting for in the first place.
Waiting *makes* me leave room in my heart for God to act in His way, in His time, and according to His sovereign will, rather than according to what I think. Waiting reminds me that I am not in control and trains me to be ok with that. It teaches me contentment when I don’t get my way. I don’t know about you, but I need that.