When we face situations of difficulty and danger we always have a choice: Should I stay or should I go? If someone is pointing a javelin at you, like Saul was at David, there’s a pretty good case for running to the hills! But we all know that there are times when...
Waiting is a common pattern in my life. Waiting for graduation, for work, for a boyfriend, for a trip, for an idea, for the next big thing. And I find this terribly inconvenient. I am a full-throttle go-getter who wants to move from thing to thing with speed and efficiency, and waiting feels like a massive speed bump that kills my momentum and drive.
No, I am not a fan of waiting.
Yet I should be, because waiting is not a pattern unique to me. Every Christian’s life is woven with spiritual, mental, and physical waiting. Waiting for God to provide, guide, move, heal, direct, answer, reveal. To lead us to the mysterious “Next Thing”—the next step, person, place, or plan. But added to the difficulty of waiting is a deep desire for control and comfort, which makes us want to earnestly prepare for the “nexts.”
Faithful preparation is not bad, but how can we do that when we’re not even sure what we’re preparing for? How do we live in the tension between waiting and preparation for the season ahead?
Why God Makes Us Wait
First, we need to recognize why God calls us to wait. He does it for his glory and to make us more like Jesus, whose whole life could be called a waiting game. He waited for his disciples, he waited for the crowds, he waited for his parents, he waited for crucifixion, he waited for glorification, and he is waiting to return. His life, death, and resurrection are pictures of faithful waiting. He is our example when waiting seems so horribly hard and contentment feels just out of reach.
Yet he is much more than our example; he is our hope. When waiting saps you of joy and you feel empty, overwhelmed, and afraid, Jesus is the brother and friend who will give you the strength you need. God’s radical love for you, as shown through his Son’s sacrifice, means he’s not going to leave you on your own, and his wisdom means he knows waiting is best for you. His empowering grace will help you persevere through the waiting, and will abound when you don’t wait well.
And so we need to learn to wait—I need to learn to wait—and recognize how God is working through the waiting.
God Works Through Waiting
God doesn’t make us wait out of capricious malice but in loving wisdom, and he is working through our waiting. How?
To increase our trust. First and most foundationally, he uses waiting to increase our trust in him and loosen our perceived control. Waiting reminds us we’re at the mercy (literally) of God’s timing, and we have no power to change that. As humans, we crave control, yet waiting pulls that from our grasp. Waiting pries our fingers from the ledge and confronts us with an uncomfortable question: “Will we give up on ourselves and trust God wholly?”
To crucify our idols. Second, God uses waiting to crucify our idol of efficiency. We live in an accomplishment-driven culture where value is measured and marked by productivity. How much you get done defines your worth, and we can be guilty of making that an idol. But waiting destroys that. We can’t always maximize efficiency if we’re waiting on God—and that’s okay. Are we putting our worth in our plans and productivity, or in God (Galatians 6:9)?
Humility and Patience
As our eyes are taken off ourselves and our idols, waiting changes us. God uses waiting to make us more humble. As waiting reveals our spectacular lack of control, it exposes our weakness and vulnerability. God is in charge, and we are not. Therefore, we have no reason for pride or boasting. Instead, we should embrace our weakness in the form of humility and approach God with a proper view of ourselves (Psalm 8:3-4).
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Along with making us more humble, God uses waiting to make us more patient. I used to think I was a patient person, but waiting revealed just how impatient I was. I despise delayed gratification; I don’t want to be left wondering and guessing. I want what I want, and I want it now.
But waiting is like a seat belt that buckles me into being patient, a forced lesson in patience. I have no choice; I have to be patient. I can either ungratefully fight it or contentedly embrace it. Patience says we are faithfully trusting in the Lord’s timing, not our own: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).
What To Do While You’re Waiting
Realizing why God makes us wait, and what he’s doing through the waiting, is the start of trusting him in this tension between waiting and preparation for the season ahead.
Then, as we wait we focus on living faithfully in the present. It’s easy to let waiting distract us or pressure us to false-start before God says, “Go,” but that’s not what we’re called to. God uses waiting to test, teach, and train us for what lies ahead. We need these periods to sanctify us. And by living faithfully in the midst of them, God will use these years to transform us.
That’s how he’s always worked for his people:
- Abraham and Sarah waited for a son (so did Rachel and Hannah).
- Joseph waited for a promotion.
- Moses waited to lead the Israelites out of slavery.
- Joshua waited for the Promised Land.
- Ruth waited for a husband.
- David waited to become king.
- Elijah waited for rain.
- Job waited for suffering to end.
- Paul waited for release from prison.
In those times of waiting, these people were called to serve their families and those around them; learn about and listen expectantly to God; pray without ceasing; not grumble or complain; and fulfill the ordinary work God called them to. It wasn’t glamorous, showy, or especially exciting, but it was preparing them for what lay ahead.
In God’s wisdom, he knew Abraham and Sarah needed decades to learn that God was enough, that he deserves their trust. He knew Joseph needed years of languishing in prison and cycling through suffering to learn humility and forgiveness. He knew Moses needed 40 years as a country shepherd before he could shepherd God’s people, just like Joshua needed his 40 years assisting Moses to learn leadership and courage.
God knows what we need, and if he wants us to wait, it’s always for our good. Our calling is simply faithfulness.
And if we trust in him, we know that he will direct our steps and point us to our next destination. He will say, “Go,” when we need to go—but not before then. That is the lesson this “go-getter” is learning. I am waiting, and I am trusting, and I am changing, and ultimately I am growing more like Jesus.