No one likes to wait, especially in our present culture where we measure everything on the basis of response time. Most everything comes to us instantly, whether it is food or information. If something is not happening, then we attempt to make it happen! "Do something ...even if it’s wrong!", people often say.
Waiting is part of what it means to be human. If we were super human or super heroes, and it was entirely in our heads to know and decide, and entirely in our hands to possess, we would all have our cake and eat it too! Everything would come to us easy and on time (that is according to our sense of timing)! There would be no waiting! The problem is, we are not super humans or super heroes. As humans, we have limitations. Unlike our God, we lack the ability to see into the future. Being human, we cannot know the hearts of people, as we seldom truly don't know our own hearts!
Because we lack the ability to control all people and situations, we often find ourselves held captive by the decisions of others. As a result, we are left to wait. Who do we trust? What is best for us? How will this situation work out? Paul Tillich in his book The Shaking of the Foundations wrote: "The condition of man's relation to God is first of all one of not having, not seeing, not knowing, and not grasping." God knows all things, sees all things, controls all things, understands all things, discerns all things, and possesses all things. The problem is, God has purposed to keep us constantly waiting. Why? So that we will be ever dependent upon Him!
What are you waiting on? Are you single and waiting on that special someone to walk into your life? Perhaps you have met that special someone and are waiting for him or her to make a commitment. Are you without a job, desperate for a job, or tired of the job you presently hold, and are waiting for a better job to present itself? Are you waiting for the economy to rebound, the market to return to its bullish state? Are you waiting for your children to grow up and leave home? Perhaps you are waiting for a prodigal, rebellious child to grow up and return home, at least to a right relationship with God. These situations and a thousand more, present themselves every year, every month, every day of our lives. We will always be waiting on someone or some situation. That's life!
Although it is not often listed as such, Waiting is a Christian discipline. Why? We are not naturally wired or inclined to wait. Babies are not born patient. A hungry baby demands to be fed, changed, and entertained, now! Children have no concept of time, no sense of tomorrow, and no patience to wait. Fishing is a good measure of our ability to wait. It is the exceptional child who has the patience to fish! Waiting comes with maturity! Waiting is something we must work at and develop over time. Even when we grow to adulthood, waiting remains a problem!
A woman, who was waiting in the check-out line at a local grocery store, was fuming. She came to purchase a new broom, along with some cleaning supplies, and was in a hurry! The line was not moving fast enough to please her, and she was letting everyone feel her frustration by her body language and loud sighs! When the cashier called for a price check, which delayed her turn at the counter even longer, the woman remarked indignantly, "Well, I'll be lucky to get out of here and home before Christmas!" Picking up on her comment, the clerk replied to the woman, "Don't worry, ma'am. With that wind kicking up out there, and that brand new broom you have there, you'll be home in no time." Are you a good waiter? Do you know how to wait on the Lord? Before you answer that question, here are a few things waiting is not!
Waiting is not passivity or inactivity. Waiting is not killing time! In God's book, waiting is never wasted time! When we are inactive or passive in our spiritual lives, we tend to drift in our commitment! Waiting is frequently a condition of high expectancy, infusing life with great energy, purpose, and love. Joseph was forced to wait on the Lord, but while he waited, he got busy doing what he could! His good attitude and work ethic resulted in promotion along the way! Observing this quality in Joseph, someone said, "When your dream seems to be placed on hold, get busy and help others with their dreams!"
Certainly God is not inactive when we are waiting. When you are waiting on God, most often He is working behind the scenes to put all the "missing pieces" in our lives in place, before He fulfills our desires or request.
Waiting is not to be associated with boredom and complacency. Actually waiting is closely related to hope. Hope has been described as creative waiting! Hope is anything but boring or complacent. Hope is filled with expectation! It anticipates! To live in hope is to live in the power of the future without yet possessing it. In Psalm 130:6 the psalmist says, "My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning."
Waiting is not characterized by fretting and worrying. Waiting is as much an attitude as it is an activity. God never recommends worrying! Why? It is worthless! It is activity that is not centred upon Him! To wait is to trust, to rest in God's promises and provision. Psalm 37:1 begins, "Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity." Verse 7 continues, "Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. 9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth." Elizabeth Elliott expressed the attitude of waiting when she wrote: "I know not what the future holds; What in one hour may be; But I can wait while it unfolds, And trust implicitly."
When you find yourself in God's waiting room, here are three words to remember and consider.
First, when you find yourself waiting, look. Look where? Look to God! The psalmist begins in Psalm 130:5a, "I wait for the LORD." We must learn to patiently wait on the Lord. Our expectations must be directed toward God, and no one else! Psalm 62:5-7 says, "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defence; I shall not be moved. 7 In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God."
Sometimes we are fooled into thinking that we are waiting on some person, some individual. It is especially frustrating when we view that person or individual we are waiting on as negligent, insensitive, or incompetent! When we look to others, when we place our expectations on mere men, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
The psalmist would remind us that God and only God is the One in control of all individuals, all institutions, and all situations. Proverbs 21:1 reminds us, "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will." When we wait upon the Lord, we are encouraged and renewed.
Isaiah 40:28-31 says, "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding. 29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
Second, when you find yourself waiting, be willing to Learn. In Cantonese, a Chinese dialect, the word for wait sounds like the word for class. Making a pun on this word, some senior citizens in Hong Kong identify themselves as "third-class citizens," which also means "people of three waits." They wait for their children to return home from work late at night. They wait for the morning sun to dispel their sleepless nights. And with a sigh of resignation, they wait for death.
Waiting is everyone's portion, regardless of our age or station in life! One thing is certain, God's waiting room is a classroom! While sometimes being in God's waiting room has to do with timing, more often than not, it is all about teaching! We think we are waiting on God or waiting on someone else, when in truth God is waiting on us to learn a particular lesson, or to develop a particular character trait!
Psalm 130:5 continues, "I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait." What is your soul? Your soul is the seat of your being. It is composed of your mind, emotions, and will! When we are placed in situations where we are out of control and are forced to wait, we can be sure that God is teaching us something. Waiting is an opportunity to learn! Learn what?
We learn about ourselves. Waiting situations are tests, and tests measure us! How much faith and confidence in God do you possess? How well do you know God? How deep is your relationship with God? Are you a selfish and shallow person? Are you patient or impatient? Waiting will expose it!
We learn obedience. Waiting on the Lord is a commandment to be followed for every Christian. Psalms 27:14 says, "Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD."
Waiting on the Lord is a matter of obedience.
In I Samuel 13, the first king of Israel, King Saul was commanded to wait upon Samuel to arrive and make the necessary sacrifices before encountering the Philistines. Saul waited for a period of time, but when Samuel had not arrived, he took it upon himself to offer the sacrifices. When Samuel arrived, he rebuked the king and informed him that he had been rejected by God!
Notice verses 13-14. "And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which He commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought Him a man after His own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee." The story of king Saul teaches us that we must be willing to do what God tells us to do, even when it is hard! When you are forced to wait, don't fret! Don't panic! Don't take matters into your own hands! Remain faithful each and every day to simply do what is in front of you!
We learn patience. Waiting and patience plays a central role in the Scriptures in shaping and developing people. Abraham and Sarah were promised a baby, and then were forced to patiently wait. Joseph was given a dream of promotion, and then plunged into the role of a slave to wait upon others! For a while at least, Joseph's dream became a nightmare! Before his promotion in Egypt, he was subjected to a life of lies and betrayal! David was chosen and anointed as the next king of Israel, and was promptly forced to live as a fugitive in the desert for ten years!
If you think about it, Patience is all about surrendering our control. This is so difficult for us! Instead of waiting, we are tempted to manipulate the circumstances or personalities in the situation, in order to get what we want, when we want it. Waiting demands patience! It demands that we give God the keys to our lives! This can be scary! What if God doesn't share my perspective, my sense of timing, my desires?
Third, when you find yourself waiting, Listen. Psalm 130:5 concludes, "....and in His word (speech, utterance, voice) do I hope." Listen to who? Listen for God's voice! How?
God will speak to your heart through His Word. God speaks to us through His Word, and we can be sure that His leadership will never be inconsistent with the Bible.
God will speak to your heart through His Holy Spirit. God often speaks to us in that "still small voice."
God will speak to your heart through people. Godly counsel from people such as our parents or mentors in the faith, are a part of God's voice and direction in our lives.
God will speak to your heart through circumstances. Sometimes a situation we are in can shout at us! I am reminded of Jacob in the house of Laban recorded in Genesis 31. No one in the family would talk to Jacob. All of his "in-laws" had an attitude towards him, because they were all jealous of him. It was in that situation that God spoke to Jacob and told him to go back to Bethel. When Jacob shared the news with his wives Rachel and Leah, for once in their marriage, they agreed! God knows both how to open and close doors! Have you ever experienced God slamming a door in your face? Sometimes God will allow us to push open a door He has not opened, but once through the door we discover it is not what we thought or desired!
We've all heard the story of the man who was lost at sea, leaving a wife behind. The husband is not dead, but is stranded far away from civilization, or locked in some foreign prison. It is his thoughts of his wife that keep him alive! Meanwhile back home, he is presumed dead, but his wife never gives up hope. She diligently, patiently waits, keeping her thoughts and love for her husband alive in her heart! Years later, there is a knock on her door, and who is it but her husband, who was finally able to make his way home. They embrace and everyone feels good because they both remained faithful in the face of terrible adversity.
The story of the movie, Castaway, followed a different line. Lost at sea, Tom Hanks' wife played by Helen Hunt, waited for a while, but in the end, she listened and followed the advice of her friends. She moved on and married someone else. Of course he eventually did find his way home, only to discover that no one was waiting for him. Watching that movie, we are trapped between conflicting feelings and emotions. On one hand, we understand this wife's hopeless situation and the need to move on. And yet at the same time, we are very unsettled by the fact that if she had only waited longer, her faith would have been rewarded. Romans 8:24- 25 says, "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."
If you do not know what to do, then do nothing! Wait on the Lord until you are sure you know what to do! When you are in the dark, wait for God's light. When you are weak, wait for God's strength. When you have lost your way, wait for God's direction. When you are overcome with sorrow, wait for God's comfort. When you are in the midst of trials and trouble, wait for God's deliverance! God protects and preserves us as we wait upon Him! The Lord gives us His very best, when we wait on Him. Psalm 37:9 says, "For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth."
One day praise God, the waiting will be over! Isaiah 25:9 reads, "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
What are you to do while waiting? While you are waiting, get busy and do the things that are clearly every Christian's responsibility. Dwell close to God. Give your best right now! Don't wait till you think everything is perfect. Who knows, you might just catch God's eye and He might speed things up! Give your all to Him now!