Honestly, it’s been tough to wait on the Lord lately.
Life has just felt pretty…
…crappy (eloquent language, I know).
Now let me just say that, in the grand scheme of things, my life is pretty much cupcakes and bounce houses. In a world filled with Boko Haram, school shootings, cancer, and a thousand other heart-wrenching tragedies, my life is pretty cushy.
Nevertheless, it still feels…hard.
For the last three months, we’ve had a least one child sick and home from school almost every day. Jen has been dealing with significant health issues. On top of that, my old nemesis depression has been dogging my footsteps, making me feel like I wake up under a dark cloud.
It’s been hard to wait on the Lord to bring relief. Rest. Peace. Joy.
And I know I’m not alone. All of us have something we’re waiting on the Lord to do.
To bring a spouse.
To give life a barren womb.
To save a wandering child.
To repair a once-treasured, now shattered relationship.
We know God is faithful. We know that he’s good and he loves us. But it’s so excruciatingly hard to wait on the Lord to act. To move. To deliver. To rescue.
Thankfully, Scripture itself is a story of waiting.
Abraham waited for a son, Joseph waited for deliverance, David waited to be made king, Israel waited for a Messiah, and we all wait for the return of the serpent crusher.
You might say that the entire narrative of scripture is one of waiting.
God’s word has much to say about how we wait on the Lord. Biblical waiting isn’t passive, like waiting for a train to arrive. It’s an active, aggressive sort of waiting. Biblical waiting is, and this sounds like an oxymoron, full of action. Scriptures calls us to fill our waiting moments with specific, God-glorifying activities.
So how do we wait on the Lord in a way that honors him, fills us with hope, and gives us strength to carry on even when we feel like we’re in the dark?
Here are four ways.
#1 – We Wait On The Lord In Faith
There are two types of waiting.
The first type is unsure, fearful waiting. We’re not sure if God is going come through, as if he’s some sort of unreliable parent who forgets to pick up his kids at soccer practice.
We hope God delivers us…
…but what if he doesn’t?
What if God leaves us hanging? What if he fails to come through at the most crucial time?
This kind of waiting is displeasing and dishonoring to God. When our waiting is pocked with doubt and unbelief, it smears God’s character, making him look like a deadbeat deity who can’t be trusted.
The second type is waiting on the Lord in strong faith. We’ve run all the numbers, calculated the odds, and can’t figure out how God is going to come through for us. From a human perspective, it looks like it’s lights out for us.
Nevertheless, we trust him because we know his character. We know that he’s infinitely good and loving, and that he will deliver us, even if that deliverance isn’t the kind we expected.
Proverbs 3:5-6 spells it out clearly:
When life is in shambles, one of our greatest temptations is to lean on our own understanding. To try to figure everything out. To play out every scenario in our heads and determine which one is most likely.
We become like divine weathermen, trying to map out which way God’s providence will blow, or divine poker players, counting the cards and calculating which will most likely come up next.
But when we wait on the Lord in faith, we make a conscious effort to reject our own understanding. Our understanding is extraordinarily limited.
I mean, seriously, think about it…
We’re aware of about 1/1,000,000,000th of what is happening in every circumstance. I’m only aware of what I can perceive with my senses.
God knows everything that’s happening in our lives and HE knows exactly what he will do. While I’m waiting for the Lord, God is doing thousands of good things on my behalf.
I love how John Piper puts it:
God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.
Waiting that honors God is characterized by faith in his character.
#2 – We Wait On The Lord Loudly
Have you ever noticed that when David had to wait on God to deliver him, he was very loud about it?
For example, in Psalm 35:17 he says:
David waited on God in faith, but he certainly wasn’t quiet, meek, and mild while he was waiting. He was constantly crying out to the Lord for deliverance. At times, you could even mistake the intensity of his requests for irreverence. He questioned God, pestered him, pleaded with him, and begged him. David was never passive when he had to wait on the Lord. He was loud and aggressive in his waiting.
Why? Because David knew that God was good, faithful, and kind. He knew that God loved to give good gifts, including deliverance, to his children. And so, like any child, he asked for that deliverance repeatedly and loudly.
Jesus reinforced this truth with the parable of the persistent widow. She pestered and harassed the unrighteous judge until he couldn’t take it any longer. If even a corrupt judge will respond to persistent requests, how much more will our loving God?
Waiting that honors God is characterized by persistent pleas for deliverance.
#3 – We Wait On The Lord Patiently
When it comes to waiting, I am the world’s least patient person. They could make a reality show out my impatience. When traffic gets congested, I transform into Jeff Gordon, cutting left, zagging right, anything to make forward progress.
If a YouTube video buffers for more than 3.2 seconds, I’m gone. Heck, I even watch some YouTube videos on 2x speed (IT’S A SICKNESS, OKAY?!!).
When it comes to having to wait on God to deliver me…
…again, not so patient.
To quote Queen, “I want it all and I want it now.”
And, of course, God always gives me what I want, when I want it, because I know what’s best for me.
Except that I don’t, and if God did give me everything I wanted right when I asked for it, I would probably be dead or living in a van down by the river (See: Matt Foley, motivational speaker).
Psalm 84:11 is a sharp reminder of how God operates:
If something is good for me, God will give it to me at the appropriate time. He’s not going to hold back a single blessing from me, and he’s going to give them to me when I’ll get the most goodness from them and he’ll get the most glory.
It was good for David to be king of Israel, but first, he had to hide in the desert caves.
It was good for Abraham to have a son, but first there needed to be no doubt that both him and Sarah were completely barren.
It will be glorious when Christ returns, but first, the full number of people must be saved.
God doesn’t serve up undercooked blessings. When the time is right, he delivers the full course meal.
Until then, we’re called to wait on the Lord patiently.
#4 – We Wait On The Lord Dependently
The Apostle Paul knew a thing or twenty about waiting. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, he wrote about his thorn in the flesh:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
This thorn in the flesh was no joke. Paul was no pansy. He had been tossed in prison, almost stoned to death, beaten with rods, pursued by people who wanted to kill him, and shipwrecked, all for the sake of the gospel.
And yet, this thorn was so bad that Paul pleaded with God three times to take it away. Whatever the thorn was – blindness, persecution, demonic attack – it was made Paul feel desperate for deliverance.
There’s no indication in scripture that God ever removed the thorn, but what we do know is that while Paul was waiting for deliverance he depended mightily on the sufficient grace of God.
Paul’s thorn forced him to throw his entire weight on God’s sustaining grace and power. That was the only way he could survive.
The same is true for us. The only way we can survive in our waiting is to throw ourselves fully on God. We are completely and totally dependent on him.
If we don’t wait dependently on the Lord, we end up bitter, dried up, and hopeless. The only way to survive the long dark is to cling to Christ, the true light.
We wait for the Lord dependently, relying on his power and not our own.
3 Glorious Benefits of Waiting On God
Waiting on God is so hard for me. I have a finely tuned timeline for how my life is supposed to go. When God doesn’t meet my milestones, everything feels out of whack. I feel restless, impatient, irritated, bored. I want things to be fixed, resolved, repaired, moving forward. And I want these things now.
Waiting on God isn’t fun. I don’t like waiting for him to relieve suffering. Waiting for God to give me guidance is frustrating. Trusting him to fix problems in his timeline grates against my desire for total control.
But it’s good to wait. Really good.
Why is waiting on God so good for me? Here are 3 beautiful reasons.
#1 – Waiting On God Forces Me To Admit I’m Not In Control
I hate feeling like I’m not in control of my life.
I AM THE CAPTAIN OF MY SOUL! I CHART MY OWN COURSE!
Except I don’t. God is the one who directs my path. He is the one who shepherds me to green pastures and still waters. He is the one who has planned my days and knows the hairs on my head. The universe is wildly out of my control.
Waiting on God forces me to acknowledge that I am not the Sovereign One. That I’m not able to live apart from God. That I can’t just make things happen. That I’m under the very good rule and reign of God, and that he is directing my steps.
And let’s be honest. It’s a really good thing I’m not in control of my life. If I was responsible for pioneering my path, I would quickly run myself into the ground and probably end up dead and apostate. I would be like the, “Don’t drive angry,” scene in Groundhog Day.
When I can say, “God, I admit that I’m not in control and I submit to your plans for my life,” that’s a wonderful, Spirit-created thing.
#2 – Waiting On God Deepens My Trust In God
Waiting for God to work brings me face to face with one, hugely important question: Do I believe that God is good?
That question is at the heart of waiting. Who do I believe has the better plans, God or me? Whose timeline brings about the most good for me and the most glory for God? Who is wiser?
If you ask me these questions, I’ll always give you the right answer. But when you put the gun of waiting to my head, I start to vacillate.
“Maybe my way is better. Why is God moving so slowly? It’s obvious that the best thing for him to do now is to fix this.”
God allows me to wait because he wants to demonstrate his wisdom. He wants to teach me that his way is always the best. That I should trust in the Lord with all my heart and stop relying on my faulty, fickle, usually deluded understanding.
God wants me to trust him, and he’ll often make me wait to prove that he knows what he’s doing.
#3 – Waiting On God Teaches Me Faithful Obedience
As I read through Scripture, I see that God almost always makes his people wait. Joseph sat for 13 years in a dank prison. Moses waited until he was 80 to begin leading the people of Israel. Abraham didn’t have Isaac until he was in his 90’s. Israel waited in the dry, arid desert. Paul sat in prison, waiting to go to Rome.
And most importantly, God’s people waited for the Messiah.
Why does God make his people wait? Because he teaches them faithful obedience in the midst of waiting. He teaches them to obey him, even when they don’t understand why.
It’s easy to obey God when I know what he’s doing. When I can see where things are headed. When my headlights shine ahead on the road.
But most of the time, I have zero clue what God is up to. I’m driving blind (I’m resisting the urge to sing Jesus Take The Wheel). I don’t know where I’m headed or how long I’ll be on the road. Occasionally my headlights will blink on, briefly revealing where I’m headed, but then they go out again, leaving me in the dark.
God wants me to learn to obey him even when I don’t have all the answers. To step out on the water even though the storm is raging. To faithfully put one foot in front of the other, confident that he’s guiding my steps.
I don’t like the term, “Blind faith,” because it implies a faith devoid of reason. But most of the time, following God really does require absolute, blind trust in God and his promises. When I don’t have this faith, I try to jerk the steering wheel away from God, sending my life careening off the road.
Don’t Just Stand There, Get Waiting!
There are few things harder than waiting for God to deliver us. But it’s crucial to remember that even when it feels like absolutely nothing is happening, God is working.
I’m reminded of the scene in the C.S. Lewis book Voyage of the Dawn Treader when the ship sails into an inky black cloud. They encounter a man who tells them that they’re in a place where their nightmares come true.
Just when things seem to be at their worst, Lucy calls out to Aslan, asking him to deliver them. Suddenly, a brilliant, shining albatross flies over the ship and around Lucy, who is standing in the crows nest. It leads them out of the darkness and back into the light.
Lewis then writes:
But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.
You may be in the dark, and it may seem as though it’s never going to end.
But take courage, dear heart.