No one likes to wait. But we wait in traffic, in carpool lines, in holding patterns, in grocery stores, for the foursome ahead of us, for the doctor, for a spouse, for a baby, for retirement, for sermons to get over.
Waiting may be the hardest single thing we are called to do.
Waiting is not passive loitering for something to happen that will allow us to escape our troubles. Those who wait are those who work because they know their work is not in vain. The farmer can wait all summer for his harvest because he has done his work of sowing the seed and watering the plants. Those who wait on God can go about their assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and conclusions to their lives and the harvest to their toil. Waiting is the confident, disciplined, expectant, active, and sometimes painful clinging to God. It knows that we will reap a reward.
While you wait, remember . . .
Waiting on the Lord requires patient trust.
We live by the adage: Don’t just stand there, do something. While God often says to us: Don’t just do something, stand there.
We forget that the work God is doing in us while we wait is as essential as for whatever we are waiting. Waiting means that we give God the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he is doing.
Waiting is God’s way of seeing if we will trust him before we move forward. That trust is a patient trust. Whether it has to do with our relationships, our finances, our careers, our dreams, or our churches. We have to trust that God knows what he is doing.
Trapeze artists know that there is a special relationship between the flyer and catcher on the trapeze. As the flyer is swinging high above the crowd, the moment comes when he lets go of the trapeze, when he arcs out into the air. For that moment, which must feel like an eternity, the flyer is suspended in nothingness. It is too late to reach back for the trapeze. There is no going back now. However, it is too soon to be grasped by the one who will catch him. He cannot accelerate the catch. At that moment, his job is to be as still and motionless as he can.
The flyer must never try to catch the catcher. He must wait in absolute trust. The catcher will grasp him. But he must wait. His job is not to flail about in anxiety. In fact, if he does, it could kill him. His job is to be still. To wait.
Waiting on God is the in-between time, the time of panic when our lives seem frozen in midair for a month, a year, a decade. During those times we patiently trust in God.
Waiting on God reminds us that God is in control.
Sometimes people ask, “But what do I do while I’m waiting?” Good question. During those waiting times take on the active role of a watchman. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,” declared the Psalmist, “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning” (Psa. 130:5-6 NIV). In biblical times, watchmen vigilantly guarded the city. They watched for enemies who might attack at night, and they waited for the sun to come up. They were alert and obedient, ready to respond when needed. When called upon, they sprang into action. But on the other hand, watchmen didn’t make things happen. They didn’t control the rising of the sun. They couldn’t speed up the process of the dawning of a new day. A watchman knew the difference between his job and God’s job.
Waiting is good for people like me. It reminds me that I am not in charge. I’m the patient. I’m in the waiting room. In the real issues of life, I am not just waiting around—I am waiting on God. Therefore, I can trust his wisdom and his timing. The person who waits on God loses no time. I can wait with confidence. Because I am waiting for someone, and that someone is God.
Waiting on the Lord allows God the time to accomplish his work.
I understand that the father of the modern missionary movement, William Carey, waited seven years before his first convert in India. As did Adoniram Judson in Burma.
The Chinese bamboo tree is one of the most remarkable plants on earth. Once the gardener plants the seed, he will see nothing but a single shoot coming out of the bulb—for five full years! That little shoot, however, must have daily food and water. During all the time the gardener is caring for the plant, the exterior shoot will grow less than an inch.
At the end of five years, however, the Chinese bamboo will perform an incredible feat. It will grow an fantastic ninety feet tall in only ninety days! Now ask yourself this: When did the tree grow? During the first five years, or during those last ninety days?
The answer lies in the unseen part of the tree, the underground root system. During the first five years, the fibrous root structure spreads deep and wide in the earth, preparing to support the incredible heights the tree will eventually reach.
I want to believe that I am a lot like that Chinese bamboo tree. Maybe you are like it too. We are working and dreaming and persevering, yet we feel like God is taking forever to bring our plans into reality.
During those times, we wait patiently on the Lord. We know that deep down he is working—while it may be underneath, hidden deep in our character. In due time, God will reveal everything he’s grown in us.
From our perspective, waiting can seem useless and unproductive. Nothing appears to be happening. Spiritual growth seems to stand still. Personal advancement seems squelched. From God’s perspective, however, waiting deepens and widens our souls. It is often through these waiting times that God is preparing us and working in ways we do not see.
Waiting on God increases my strength.
Sometimes I struggle to remember that it’s good to wait for the Lord. It isn’t easy. It goes against the grain of our quick-fix society. But, there’s a hidden benefit in waiting. In times of waiting my soul is revived and my spirit is renewed. Isaiah wrote, “Those 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” (Isa. 40:31 NRSV).
Ornithologists say birds have three methods of flight. Flapping, gliding, and soaring. Only a few birds, like eagles, are capable of soaring. Eagles’ wings are so strong that they are capable of catching rising currents of warm air—thermal winds that go straight up from the earth—and without moving a feather they can soar to great heights. Eagles have been clocked at up to 80 m.p.h. without flapping at all. They just soar on invisible columns of air.
Isaiah said that for those who wait on the Lord, times would come when they will soar. And when it comes. Hold on. We will be soaring.
In a dream, God told a man to go outside and push against a massive boulder in his front yard. So every morning for the next few weeks, the man went out and strained against the rock. He pushed and groaned and prodded and shoved, but the rock never budged.
Finally, in a fit of exasperation, the man fell to his knees and lifted his eyes to heaven. “What were you thinking, Lord? he cried, wiping sweat from his brow. “You told me to push this rock, and I’ve been pushing it for weeks, yet it has not moved an inch!”
A voice from heaven rumbled among the clouds, then whispered in the man’s ear. “I told you to push the stone,” God said, “I didn’t tell you to move it. I’m the only one who can move it, and when you’re ready, I will. By the way, look at your hands.”
The man looked at his hands. They had grown callused and tough with the work, and his arms bulged with muscles. Though his efforts seemed fruitless, he had grown strong; and now he was beginning to grow wise.
It helps to remember that God is the great mover. We are to push, to work. And if we wait, in confident trust, remembering that God is in control doing his work increasing our strength, we will experience the move of God on our lives.