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Waiting on God

In my personal time with the Lord, I’ve been studying about waiting on God. I can think of a lot of circumstances for which we must wait: a change in career, a longed-for spouse or child, building a house, selling a house, emotional and physical healing, necessary finances, and more. When I feel like God is not on my timetable, I’m often tempted to run ahead and take my own course of action. But in studying the Scriptures, I’ve seen that this lack of discipline can have horrendous consequences.

And I’ve seen in my own life that an impatient heart beats uncomfortably and makes me—and people around me—pretty miserable. I’ve sensed that God has led me to a season of waiting. I’m not sure what this season will birth, but I’m learning so many rich things in the process.

Here are a few of my lessons on waiting:

1. Rest in God. Be still.

Lamentations 3:26 says, “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (NRSV). Waiting quietly runs against the grain of my I-can-do-it, watch-me-now mentality. Yet I long for stillness of heart and mind. Sometimes a season of waiting brings that gift. Counselor Helen Luke cautions that without significant times to be still, we “extinguish the possibility of growth and walk backwards.” Here’s the paradox: we achieve our deepest progress standing still.

Not only do we make progress in standing still, but we also receive gifts that come only in the dark of the unknown and the hidden. God promises in Isaiah 45:3, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places.” I don’t want to miss a single treasure or any amount of riches by failing to wait on God. God has something special for us in every season.

2. Resist the temptation to get ahead of God.

The Scriptures are replete with examples of people who did not wait on God but took things into their own hands and then suffered the consequences.

God promises Sarah a son, despite her old age (Gen. 16). But when Sarah’s circumstances stretched beyond her faith, she offered her handmaiden to her husband.

The Israelites also got ahead of God. While in the desert—a defined place of waiting—they “did not wait for his counsel” and “put their God to the test” (Ps. 106:13-14). The result? God “sent a wasting disease upon them” (v. 15).  Eugene Peterson translates that passage in The Message as “[God] gave them exactly what they asked for—but along with it, they got an empty heart.”

Getting ahead of God is a lonely place to be. It breaks our fellowship with God, and, as Sarah and the Israelites experienced, it affects more than just ourselves. Whether or not I obey God affects people around me and even future generations. Now that’s sobering!

3. Remember God’s promises while you wait.

Blessed are all who wait for him (Isa. 30:18).

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).

[God] acts on behalf of those who wait for him (Isa. 64:4).

Those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land (Ps. 37:9).

The Lord is good to those who wait for him (Lam. 3:25).

I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me (Micah 7:7).

4. Redeem the time.

If I’m going to be in a season of waiting, then I want to make the most of it. I don’t want to miss what God has for me by fretting feverishly. Saying yes to  God always brings joy in the end, so I want to choose joy by faith.

God never wastes anything when we submit to him. God can make something beautiful out of ashes, something joyful from mourning, and something praiseworthy from despair (Isa. 61:3). And I realize that God will grow me in the process if I stick close to him. I love how The Message translates Romans 8:24-25:

Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

5. Recognize Jesus’ example.

Author Sue Monk Kidd makes an interesting observation about Jesus’ life: “One day while I was reading in the gospels, it occurred to me that when important times of transition came for Jesus, he entered enclosures of waiting—the wilderness, a garden, the tomb. Jesus’ life was a balanced rhythm of waiting on God and expressing the fruits of that waiting” (When the Heart Waits, HarperSanFrancisco, reprint, 1992).

I desire to find that “balanced rhythm” and to express the fruits of this season. God’s promised fruit recorded in Galatians 5:22 includes the gift of patience and exhorts us to “keep in step with the Spirit.” Only by Jesus’ Spirit can we expect to endure a season of waiting and birth patience. Only by fixing our eyes on Jesus as our example can we keep from losing heart.

What Others Have Said

”We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and wet, in the thunder and lightning, in the cold and the dark. Wait, and he will come. He never comes to those who do not wait… When he comes, go with him, but go slowly, fall a little behind; when he quickens his pace, be sure of it before you quicken yours. But when he slackens, slacken at once and do not be slow only, but silent, very silent, for he is God.”
—F.V. Faber

“We rest in what God is. I believe that this alone is true faith. Any faith that must be supported by the evidence of the senses is not real faith. God constantly encourages us to trust him in the dark.

It is heartening to learn how many of God’s mighty deeds were done in secret, away from the prying eyes of men or angels. When God created the heavens and the earth, darkness was upon the face of the deep. When the eternal Son became flesh, he was carried for a time in the darkness of the sweet virgin’s womb. When he died for the life of the world, it was in darkness, seen by no one at the last. When he arose from the dead, it was “very early in the morning.” No one saw him rise. It is as if God were saying, “What I am is all that need matter to you, for there lie your hope and your peace. I will do what I will do, and it will all come to light at last, but how I do it is my secret. Trust me, and be not afraid.”
—A.W. Tozer

“Second only to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher and trainer in godliness, maturity and genuine spirituality most of us ever encounter.”
—Richard Hendrix

For Discussion

  1. Judy Nelson writes: “When I feel like God is not on my timetable, I’m often tempted to run ahead and take my own course of action.” Share with the group some times when you’ve actually gone ahead and done that.
  2. What exactly does “waiting on the Lord” mean? What kinds of things might we wait for? What are you waiting for?
  3. Can you give examples from Scripture (passages or stories you remember) that mention patient waiting on the Lord?
  4. How can we make the most of the “seasons of waiting” in our lives? Can you give concrete examples?
  5. Does our culture promote or interfere with our waiting on God? How?
  6. Can we become more patient? How would we do that? Should we pray something like: “Lord give me patience…and please make it fast?”
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