Waiting is not wasted time.
Often, though, it seems to be! I am waiting for the train. I am waiting for my appointment. I am waiting in a long queue. Sound familiar? Waiting can seem futile, so we look for something to do while we are waiting. This is why there are magazines in the doctor’s waiting room. We try to fill up the time with something useful while we are waiting.
Some of you are searching for a job, but what you are looking for has not opened up; you are waiting. Some of you are looking for that special person to be your life partner, but you haven’t found them; you are waiting. Couples long for a child, but nothing has happened; you are waiting. Others are longing to see a deep change in a person you love. You have prayed for it. But you are still waiting.
All of these instances can make waiting seem futile at best and frustratingly difficult at worst. But what if we were thinking about waiting in all the wrong ways? What if waiting was not wasted time, but valuable time in the life of the Christian?
We think of waiting as something we endure in order to get what we want. But God speaks about waiting as the way that we grow when we don’t have what we want. So waiting is not wasted time. In fact, waiting can be the greatest growth opportunity of your life.
I want to suggest three ways in which you can grow while you wait.
Grow in Patience
Patience is what you need when things have not worked out as you hoped.
Somewhere deep within every heart there is a dream of life as we would want it to be. Our culture is sold out in the pursuit of paradise now. I’ve been thinking about designing a sign that could be very useful for some of us. It would have just four words on it: “This is not paradise.”
There are a lot of places where you could put that sign. You might want to hang it over your front door at home. It would help because some of us are so intent on a perfect family life that we are reaching for what cannot be attained in this world, and it becomes crushing for everybody.
Some couples ought to put that sign on the door to your bedroom. It would take a great deal of pressure off you. Perhaps you need to put that over your desk at work. Or what about in your car? It will help you when you are in a traffic jam.
I’d be very happy to have the sign over the entrance to the church. This is not paradise. If you came here looking for a perfect Christian community, you won’t find it.
Friends, if you give yourself to the pursuit of paradise now, you will be disappointed. When that happens you will be angry with God because he has seemingly let you down. But this life is not paradise. And the sooner you discover that, the sooner you will be able to break free from the pursuit of an advertiser’s dream that will always elude you.
When God does not give what you eagerly desire, a door opens for spiritual growth. Embrace the pain. Love God in the disappointment. Detach yourself from the pursuit of paradise in this world, and set yourself apart for the Lord. Paul says, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” (Rom 8:24).
Embrace the disappointments of life as opportunities for spiritual growth.
Grow in Hope
As you embrace disappointment, ask yourself this: Do you honestly anticipate heaven? All that you can experience in the Christian life is only a taste of what Christ has in store for you. There is much, much more to come! This is why we are to grow in hope while we wait.
The Bible speaks about the Holy Spirit being like a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Think about when you bought your first house. How much was the deposit? How much was the mortgage? Though it may have seemed large at the time, the deposit was only a tiny fraction of what you had to pay. Similarly, all that you experience of God in this life – every good gift, every blessing, every pleasure – is only a tiny advance on what God has in store for you in heaven.
As you wait for eternity with God, use both the disappointments and the joys of your life to cultivate a healthy anticipation of what God has promised. Are you in pain or alone? Have you shed tears? Does this life seem empty to you? Wait upon the Lord: “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. For the old order of things has passed away” (Rev 21:4).
Grow in Worship
Waiting on God is equally a wonderful expression of worship.
My calling is to wait on God. Your calling is to wait on God. The purpose of our lives is to make ourselves wholly available to Jesus Christ, who has come into this world to die for our sins. But often, we forget this wonderful truth and make ourselves the center of attention. We want God to wait on us!
Jesus gives us the perfect model of what waiting on God looks like. He delights in the will of the Father, and He is ready to do it even when it involves a cross. He tells us plainly that if we follow Him, we should not expect a trouble-free life. Jesus is not offering us paradise now.
Saying ‘yes’ to Jesus in the disappointments of life will be the highest worship you can offer. We learn this from the story of Job who lost everything, and in the middle of his pain he worshipped. We learn it from Jesus who, in the agony of the cross and with His “why” unanswered, committed Himself into the hands of His Father.
Worshipping God through disappointment will be the greatest evidence that you love God for Himself and not just for His gifts. If all your dreams were fulfilled, and if all your prayers were answered, there would be no way of knowing if you loved God for Himself.
So I want you to think of the great disappointments and the great joys of your life. I want you to think about all the waiting you are doing right now, and how you are perceiving that waiting. I want you to hear God saying to you, “I want to make this waiting useful. I want to use it to grow you in my likeness – in patience, hope, and worship.”