(An excerpt from a recent sermon I gave.)
I will probably get in trouble for this, but I read a quote on Pinterest recently that said, “Ladies, if a man says he will fix it, he will. There is no need to remind him every 6 months about it.” Now, I am not saying that my husband is anything but prompt when I ask him to fix something around the house, but watch out for the one switch in the downstairs bathroom that turns on the very loud and needing to be replaced exhaust fan. But it hasn’t been six months yet, so I don’t need to remind him.
In all seriousness, waiting is not a strong point for any of us, and some of us are a little worse at it than others, especially when we are waiting for God to work in a particular area of our lives that we want to see changed.
And yet, much of our lives are spent waiting. And much of what I see in scripture is people waiting.
Many Psalms speak to this idea of waiting.
- Psalm 25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
- Psalm 25:21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
- Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
- Psalm 31:24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.
- Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield.
- Psalm 37:7 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.
- Psalm 37:9 For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
- Psalm 37:34 Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on the destruction of the wicked.
- Psalm 38:15 But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
- Psalm 39:7 “And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.
- Psalm 40:1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
- Psalm 62:1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
- Psalm 62:5 For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.
- Psalm 69:3 I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
- Psalm 130:5-6 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
Why we have to wait may be due to a number of reasons:
- We may have something that we need to learn – trust, patience, to see with God’s eyes, to hear His will above our own, to come to the end of us and lean fully on Him, to be fully committed to His work, or a variety of other things. I liken this to making bread. We wait for bread to rise because the yeast has to do its work. If you mixed up bread and didn’t wait for the yeast to rise, the bread would fail and wouldn’t be suitable for the purpose that it was intended – eating. But when you wait for the yeast to do its work, and wait for the heat of the oven to complete the work, the end result is delicious, warm, soft, bread that is ready to eat. We are like bread; we need the time for God to be working in our lives, like yeast, filling us up with Him. We need the heat of struggle to grow and become the people who He has created us to be. And at the right time, which is determined by God, we will be ready for what the Lord has called us to or promised us that He would accomplish in our lives.
- We may have stepped outside of His will and that means waiting a bit longer to get to the finish line – kind of like the Israelites. When they built the golden calf and began worshipping created things rather than the creator, they brought upon themselves a period of waiting that wasn’t in God’s perfect plan for them. An entire generation missed out on the promise of God because of their sin.
- God may want to make sure that He is glorified and there is no way to explain the fulfillment except that it was God. The perfect example of this is Isaac being born to an old man and a barren woman. This would also be true of the Israelites Exodus from Egypt. They couldn’t have escaped without the very powerful hand of God bringing them out of slavery and into freedom.
- We may not be ready yet to hear/see/do what the Lord has for us and there needs to be more time for learning and listening. Let’s be honest, we don’t spend each day in expectation of seeing God’s hand at work in little ways, much less miraculous ways. And when we don’t live with that sense of expectation, we are likely to miss God’s handiwork. Often we need to cultivate an attitude of expectation so that we are ready to see and participate in His work.
- One of the hardest reasons that we have for waiting is just our inability to understand God’s timing. In Isaiah 55:8-9, God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Psalm 90:4 says, “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.” God’s timing doesn’t always make sense to us because it is not the same as our timing; it is on a different plane. God’s reasons for waiting involve a bigger picture that we are not able to see. We can’t assume we know what timing is best because we can’t know the whole story.
- God may want to use us as examples to others who are waiting on Him.
- Other people who are a key part of the fulfillment of His promises may not yet be ready.
- Satan’s interference sometimes can cause an answer to be delayed, like in Daniel. God sent an answer right away, but it was delayed because it was blocked in the spiritual realm.
Nine years ago I felt the Lord call me to pastoral ministry. In the years since then, I have been waiting for Him to bring it to pass. One of the scriptures that He used early on for me was Luke 1:45, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” My job for the last nine years has been simply to believe and follow where the Lord leads. Not to push ahead. Not to make something happen. Simply to believe that He will bring His word about in my life and do the things that He leads me to do along the way. I have gotten frustrated at times. I haven’t liked how certain things have played out. But I have never doubted what I heard from the Lord nine years ago. And then two months ago He made a big move – and not one that I would have anticipated or chosen. The fulfillment isn’t complete, but it is coming. I don’t know how many more years I will be waiting, but I do know that God is faithful.
So what is the most important thing when it comes to waiting? I think that the most important thing is to remember that when God speaks it comes to pass. God’s promises never fail. Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Think about it, when God said, “Let there be light,” what happened? There was light. God’s word comes to pass! His word doesn’t return to Him empty or void. When he speaks it, it is finished, it is done. “You see the one who called us is faithful, and He will do whatever it takes to sanctify us to fulfill our callings…Remember, huge things are going on out there that we just don’t understand.” God is faithful.
I have a friend who has been struggling with an illness for nearly 20 months now. It is debilitating to the point that some days she just can’t get out of bed. She has had a vibrant ministry among children, and for the first 14 months of her illness, had to let go of almost all responsibility for that ministry. Early on, she knows she heard the Lord tell her that He was going to heal her, and yet, while she is slowly improving, it hasn’t been an instantaneous healing. But she also knows that God’s word does not return to Him void. When He speaks, it is done, even when we don’t see the immediate fulfillment. Does she have days where she struggles? Absolutely! But she hasn’t given up hope because our God is trustworthy and does not lie.
We must persevere in our times of waiting. We must not give up hope. We must not try to make it happen on our own or in our time. We must trust that the God who created us knows us best and will bring things about in His timing, and we must be willing to wait.
What are you waiting for today? A new job? A child to return to faith in Christ? A revival of the Lord’s people? A family situation to be resolved? A broken heart to be mended? A friendship to be restored? A marriage to be renewed? Healing in your body? A prayer from deep in your heart to be answered? Something else I haven’t mentioned? Have you been anxious, thinking the Lord needs to act a little faster, or differently? Have you been frustrated with the lack of movement? Have you been trying to push things along, thinking maybe God needs your help?
I don’t ask these questions to shame you or make you feel bad, but to help you seek the face of the One who can bring you to a place of trust in Him during your time of waiting.
Waiting is hard when we simply see it from our point of view. But when we change our perspective and see it as part of God’s larger plan, we can wait with joy, with patience and with anticipation of what the Lord is at work doing in the situation now to bring about His perfect will.
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” I Thessalonians 5:23-24