So much of our precious time here on Earth is spent waiting – in lines, for a paycheck, at the doctor’s office, in traffic, for decisions to be made, for medical test results – waiting, waiting, waiting. You may have heard some of the statistics on how much time Americans spend waiting. For example, the average American commuter spends an average of 38 hours per year in traffic (Werbach, “The American Commuter Spends 38 Hours a Year Stuck in Traffic”), and Americans as a whole spend 37 billion hours per year waiting in lines (Stone, “Why Waiting is Torture”). Sometimes we can bypass waiting, e.g. by flying first class, getting an express pass at Disneyland, buying movie tickets in advance, taking the carpool lane on the freeway, and DVR’ing our favorite TV shows so we don’t have to wait through commercials. But ultimately there is nothing any of us can do to avoid waiting for someone or something.
In addition to the unavoidable waiting that we do every day, there is also the larger, perhaps more grueling and agonizing waiting that we must do when we’re living with unresolved problems and/or trying to make decisions. So many people I know are in a holding pattern right now, and they are eagerly awaiting God’s direction regarding employment, finances, wayward children, health problems, and so on. We recently put our house on the market, and we are waiting to see if it will sell as well as what our next step after selling should be. I have applied to three graduate schools in pursuit of a Master’s degree in ministry/theology. Though I have been praying about this for months, I am still waiting for God’s clear direction as to which school I should attend and whether I should even go back to school during this particular season of my life.
My Bible’s dictionary/concordance defines “wait” as “to stay, serve, or attend to; to patiently anticipate” (Zondervan NIV Life Application Study Bible, page 2365). With perhaps the exception of the verb “stay”, the actions described in this definition clearly illustrate that waiting is not something we do passively while doing nothing. Most of us find some useful way to pass the time while we’re waiting: We read the newspaper or a book (hopefully not while sitting in traffic!), talk on the phone, study, check our email, listen to music or talk radio, etc. We don’t generally just sit there while we wait. In the same way, while we wait for God’s answers to our prayers, His direction regarding impending decisions and for His will to be revealed in our lives, we can be making good use of the present moment. We can remain faithful and diligent with our current responsibilities, submitting all thoughts of doubt and uncertainty back to God (2 Corinthians 10:5).
There is never a wrong or inappropriate time to love God, and worshiping the Lord is certainly one of the best ways to spend our time while we’re waiting. Take time to just be in relationship with Him and enjoy His fellowship. Though I consciously set apart quiet time to be with the Lord each day, I need God’s help to make my time with Him about HIM and not just about getting answers to my questions or a quicker response to my prayers. When I can’t get my mind to turn off so I can enjoy being in the Lord’s presence, Scripture reminds me that I can calm the inner storm by worshiping Him not only for what He’s already done and for what He is going to do but also for who He is – faithful, dependable, holy, trustworthy, just, merciful and praiseworthy:
Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.
We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, LORD,
even as we put our hope in you.
(New International Version, Psalm 33:1-5, 20-22. This Psalm is so uplifting that I encourage you to read it in its entirety.)
Serving others is another purposeful way to wait on the Lord. When I’m serving others, I’m too busy to think about myself and my own worries and concerns. Sometimes when I help out in my son’s first grade classroom or in his Sunday school class, I think I’m too busy or that I have other important business that I need to attend to. But when I’m focused on those sweet kids (well, most of them are sweet!), it’s actually a nice break from my own head and I leave with renewed awe at the Lord’s precious creation.
As I wait for God to reveal His plan, I have the opportunity to use my time telling others about Him. I strive to give Him glory even in my difficulties. And though I don’t consider myself an “evangelist” as compared to others in whom I recognize the gift of evangelism, I can still pray for courage and boldness in sharing what Jesus has done for me. Writing this blog is an example of one way I’m trying to encourage others with the Good News as I wait for God’s responses to so many unanswered questions in my life.
Though waiting for God’s help isn’t easy or comfortable, waiting on Him is beneficial for us. David was blessed as a result of his patient waiting on the Lord. When David “waited patiently on the Lord”, the Lord “turned to [him] and heard [his] cry. He lifted [him] out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set [his] feet on a rock and gave [him] a firm place to stand. He put a new song in [his] mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:1-4).
The fact is when we believed in Jesus and put our faith and trust in Him as our Savior, we knowingly or unknowingly signed up for the process of sanctification. This painstaking process requires the strengthening of our faith and our growth into the image and likeness of Christ. How can our faith be developed unless we go through periods of uncertainty during which faith is required? I definitely do not enjoy the uncomfortable waiting periods and uncertainty in my life. At the same time, I have joyful hope for what is to come both in this life and in the next.
Regardless of whatever short-term situation I’m waiting on or through, ultimately I am waiting to one day be united with Christ. The Apostle Paul explains my anticipation for Christ’s kingdom much more eloquently than I ever could:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:18-25).
The Israelites had to wait over 400 years after their last prophet had spoken to hear from God again. This period marks the separation between the Old and New Testaments. Though God was silent during this time, He was still at work creating the perfect religious and political environment for his Son’s work. And “when the time set had fully come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). When God appears silent in our waiting, we can rest assured that He is actively moving to create the right setting for His plan to unfold in our lives.
Warriors, as we wait for marching orders from our Commander in Chief, let us take comfort in the promise that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
New International Version. [Colorado Springs]: Biblica, 2011.
BibleGateway.com. Web. 22 December 2014.
Stone, Alex. “Why Waiting is Torture”. The New York Times, 18 August 2012. Web. 19
Werbach, Adam. “The American Commuter Spends 38 Hours a Year Stuck in Traffic”.
The Atlantic, 06 February 2013. Web. 19 December 2014.
Zondervan NIV Life Application Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. Print.