No one likes to wait. But we wait in traffic, in car pool 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, or for Jesus to return.
Waiting is not just something we have to do while we get what we want. Waiting is the process of becoming what God wants us to be. What God does in us while we wait is as important as what it is we are waiting for. Waiting, biblical waiting, is not a passive waiting around for something to happen that will allow us to escape our troubles. Waiting does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It is not a way to evade unpleasant reality.
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.
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.
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.
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 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. I’ve heard it said that 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 reminds me that I am not God. As a man, I want to fix things. I want to fix my problems, my relationships, my conflicts, my career, and my church. Fixing and controlling situations and people is like trying to expedite the rising of the sun. From time to time I have to be reminded that I am not God (Aren’t you glad?). My job is to be a watchman. I need to have a watchman’s attitude: a confident and alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do.
Waiting on the Lord allows God to do his work.
Not only do I want to do God’s work, but also, I want to speed up his process. 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. As a pastor, I want to speed up the growth process of my church and its ministries. I see much that we could do and should be doing. I see many unmet needs. I see the hurts of people. I drive though neighborhoods and am bombarded at the thought of many people spending eternity without Christ. I have a vision from God to reach those people. And I want it to be a reality now. And I question God, “Why not now? Why not bring it to pass today?”
God’s timing is best. In the Old Testament book of Habakkuk, Habakkuk, the prophet was having similar questions. Using the watchtower motif, hear the dialogue between the prophet and God: “I will climb my watchtower now, and wait to see what answer God will give to my complaint. And the Lord said to me, ‘Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell others. But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!’” (Hab. 2:1-3 LB).
God is working. 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. Those who wait will never be put to shame. We will never be disappointed.
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 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). The time will come when those who wait on the Lord will soar.
God is the great mover. We are to push, to work. And if we wait, in patient trust, remembering that God is in control doing his work increasing our strength, we will experience the move of God on our lives.
In a dream, God told a man to go outside and push against a huge boulder in his front yard. So every morning for the next few weeks, the man went outside 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.