A phrase heard often by those of us who have spent time in the military is “hurry up and wait.” Thinking back on my days in the army, I can recall countless times of quickly gathering up combat gear for a mission, or speed marching to a particular location only to find out upon arrival that all action had come to a grinding halt. Then we would wait…and wait…and wait. I hated that.
I don’t enjoy waiting. I’ll bet you don’t either. You arrive at a “fast food” restaurant and anxiously take your place in the line that is moving at a snail’s pace. You have to wait. You race to make it on time to the pediatrician’s office only to hear that he’s running an hour behind. So you wait. The potential employer who interviewed you said he’d call back soon, yet the phone hasn’t rung once in a week and a half. More waiting. Your parents tell you that as a teenager that you’re not quite ready for certain privileges, but they will come in due time. You fear “due time” to be somewhere around age thirty-five.
There’s something about waiting that cuts against the grain of our very nature. It’s almost an innate right to have our wants and needs met immediately. The seedbed for our impatience, however, is not outside of us. Rather, it is deep within our hearts. Waiting is often viewed as a passive activity that produces nothing other than boredom and inefficiency. It’s seen as a waste of time, and we don’t appreciate the inconvenience.
However, God has a much different view of waiting. The theme of waiting is found throughout the Bible. Abraham waited for almost two decades before his promised son Isaac arrived. The Hebrews were enslaved to the Egyptians for 430 years. While there was great rejoicing over the birth of Christ, 30 years pass before we read about Jesus beginning His ministry that would change the world.
In fact, God uses waiting to bring about changes in our lives. Though He delays a particular outcome, His hand is at work in our lives, constantly shaping and molding our character. He is in the process of perfecting us and making us holy. God sees waiting as a good thing, and we should too. Here are two things I see him doing in my life whenever I have to wait. Perhaps you can identify with the following:
Humility – As Paul Tripp would say, “I love myself and have a wonderful plan for my life.” When God makes me wait, I am reminded that I am not the epicenter of the known world. As a believer, my life is not about insuring that my agenda is regularly fulfilled. The Gospel has produced a dramatic change in my life. Galatians 2:20 explains, “I’ve been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.” The prophet Isaiah declares that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Often, when I have to wait, my pride is revealed. I muse that sooner is better than later. Then the Spirit reminds me that God has a plan for my life that is infinitely better than anything I could ever devise. I once again acknowledge that He is the source of my life, providing peace and wisdom. God uses waiting to produce a deeper humility in my character.
Faith – Hebrews 13:1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” While I am waiting on God, I look around and find it difficult to see anything He’s doing—at least nothing that will fix my problem. It’s as if Elvis has left the building, and God has left my situation. That may be true about Elvis, but it is not true about God. He hasn’t gone anywhere. On the contrary, Scripture states emphatically that God will never leave us or forsake us. He’s always with us. There are times, though, when we don’t perceive his presence. This is when knowledge of God’s Word becomes vital for spiritual stamina. Paul said we walk by faith and not by sight. Waiting confronts us with the heart-searching question, “Where do you place your trust?” The essential issue is not “Do you feel?” but rather “Do you believe?" Waiting forces me to grab hold of God’s Word and the promises contained therein. Sometimes I have to go back to particular Scriptures several times a day to drive home the point. God uses waiting to strengthen my faith, making it less susceptible to the negative effects of my fluctuating emotions.
God is always working for His glory and our good. While waiting can be difficult, we can take comfort in the fact that this, too, is part of His plan for our lives. At just the right time He will bring relief, blessing and fruitfulness. David writes, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure.” Isaiah 40:31 promises, “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.” God uses waiting to reveal Himself to us in ways that deepen our trust in Him.
If you’re waiting on God for something right now, don’t be passive. This isn’t a waste of time in your spiritual journey; it’s a time to grow. Turn into God, stay in His Word, and keep praying. You will find that the Spirit is actually strengthening your faith and increasing your love for God. He’s in the process of a making you a more effective disciple!
For His Glory Alone,