Have you ever had to wait for something?
If there is one thing I have struggled with in my walk with God, my own personal mountain that I have compassed long enough, it is waiting. My flesh hates waiting. You know how some people are sore losers? Well, left to my own devices, I’m a “sore waiter”, so to speak. Telling me to wait is like insulting me. I prefer to try things and fail a hundred times in the meantime. Waiting makes me feel inactive, unproductive, and most of all, especially when it comes to God, it involves not knowing. If someone is working on a project for me, I can ask when they expect to be done. If I order something on Amazon, like I often do, I can track my package and know for sure what day it will get to my door if all goes well.
But God does not give us tracking numbers, and for years I allowed this to frustrate me to no end. I wanted prophecies to be specific, to the day. I wanted immediate answers to prayers. I have learnt that with Him, I either wait it out from a position of rest, or frustrate myself trying my own methods, and end up failing, still not having shrunk the time-period for the end I expect. God does all things so beautifully, but it’s funny how I find it difficult to see this at the beginning of a season. Hindsight is always 20/20. How heartbreaking it is to see something work out perfectly and hear Jesus ask, “Why did you doubt?”
I’m trying to learn to wait. I’m learning that it hardly ever means just doing nothing. Perhaps one reason why I have had such a struggle with being a “waiter” is for a long time I thought it meant something akin to eating locusts and honey and going into some wilderness to let my hair grow out into dreadlocks. But waiting on God is not boring, and it is crucial because it indicates that I am so trusting in God, so rested in Him, that I have that meek and quiet spirit that is in His sight of great price. Nobody grows without having to wait.
But how do I wait on God? What can a Christian do to make the waiting period a fruitful one – as indeed it should be?
1) We stop doing.
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10.)
Action does not necessarily mean progress. Sometimes, because we want to solve things on our own, we will come up with our own methods and attempt to implement them: Going to prophets to seek a word, signing up for strange programs or on questionable websites to meet new people, nagging the husband to try and get him to change, or even just worrying… sometimes just worrying feels better than waiting. But it’s sinful to act when we are supposed to wait. I learnt the hard way that “doing” can unravel every thread of progress that waiting has begun to weave. Human solutions, especially in this day and age, are myriad. Doing indicates anxiety, yet God says rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him. Doing is waiting impatiently – it is like praying and then trying to “help” God answer us.
2) We start preparing.
“Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it.” (Joshua 1:11.)
When God says that He will do something, faith begins to prepare for it. I often say that if you truly believe God will give you a car, then the first thing you need to do is get your driver’s license. If you truly believe you are somebody’s wife, then you begin to learn and practice things that pertain to wifehood. If you know you are going to be a mother, you start to babysit for your friends. One of my favorite stories (blatant book pitch alert!), which I have highlighted in They Fought, is about the daughters of a man named Zelophehad. When the Israelites were in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, Mzee Zelophehad passed on, leaving no sons. At a time when there was no law regarding women inheriting land, his five daughters went to Moses to ensure that they secured their inheritance in Canaan. What is so amazing about this story is these women had never stepped on Canaan’s soil. They had not even seen the place at this point in time. Their actions were based on God’s promise to take them to a land flowing with milk and honey. They so believed that God would give them this land that they decided to secure their portion so that their father’s name would not fade into oblivion. As a random addendum, isn’t it amazing, in the light of stories such as this one in the 1400s BC, that people say the Bible is a chauvinistic book?
3) We stand, watching.
“…Like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3.)
Perhaps no book demonstrates the principle of waiting as much as Habakkuk does. The book literally begins with the prophet asking, “How long…?” But he goes on to say, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am reproved. And the LORD answered me…” The prophet was seeking God about matters concerning the Israelites. But the principle is the same: If we do not watch, how will we see? While we are in the waiting season, the Lord says many things to us, and they are things we need to hear from Him. Many of these things can only be received by a heart that has embraced stillness.
4) We seek, listening.
“O God, you are my God; early will I seek you: my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” (Psalm 63:1.)
Doesn’t it sometimes feel like “a dry and thirsty land, where no water is,” when we’re waiting? During the waiting season, we must continue to seek God. We get to know more about not just what we are waiting for, but more about Him, too – and in so doing we also often discover more about ourselves. The waiting period is one that should be fruitful. Seeking Him is actually one way to receive what we are waiting for (Matthew 6:33). Of course we should not do it simply with that motive in mind. As we seek Him, we realize that there is nothing more important than HIM. We are reminded that He is with us in the wait. And that makes waiting more delightful. Nehemiah was told about the walls of Jerusalem in the month of Chislev, but did not tell the king about it until the month of Nisan, four months later. During those four months, he “wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4.) As we seek God, He gives us strategies with which to approach our situation.
5) We silence questioning.
“With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26.)
Sanballat and Tobiah will always be available to tell why the temple walls cannot be completed. As the years go by, the single woman wonders if she will ever be married, the married woman wonders if she will ever have children, the mother of five wonders if even one will be born again… and so on. If we look with our physical eyes, we will see many impossibles. The strategy in waiting is to see with our spiritual eyes, and to remember that even then, “Eye hath not seen…”
6) We serve, rejoicing.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:10-11.)
We serve: Not doing (point #1 above) does not mean not living or loving. If we allow it to, the waiting season can become one of self-pity and emotional turmoil. This does not have to be the case. One wonderful cure for selfishness is service. If we can find ways to use our time and gifts to glorify God, then that is one of the best ways to endure and persevere through the waiting period. Serving does not necessarily mean starting a bigshot ministry. Paying someone a compliment, refusing to jealously hold back love and help from those who are blessed in those areas in which we feel we lack, sharing our resources – these are all ways in which we can serve God while we wait on Him.
Rejoicing: Thankfulness is a valuable expression. We are all where we are by God’s grace. Even if what you are waiting for were never to arrive (but it will!), you are still blessed beyond measure.
7) We stride, expecting.
” I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12.)
A stride is a purposeful walk. While we prepare, seek, serve, we should do it with the type of unwavering confidence that Abraham had as he took Isaac up the mountain with no lamb, knowing somewhere within him that his son would be returned to him. When Hannah prayed in the temple and was told that she would have a son, we are told she got up, and her countenance was no longer sad. When we have confidence in God, we do not go through our days assuming God has forgotten us, reflecting on past sins that “must” be the cause for the delay, comparing ourselves with others who have what we desire. No way. We unabashedly, unashamedly continue to laugh, love, live, give and forgive. We have God, and He is more than anything we could ever desire. We have His Word, and it says He will come through. Refusing to question Him is one thing, and it is only half the attitude battle. In our quietness, we must also confidently trust Him. Should we falter and slide back into “doing” and trying to “help” God, we repent, pick ourselves up, and get back on track. Self-pity is the beginning of a vicious cycle.
8) We stay praising.
“Praise the LORD!” (Psalms 149, 150.)
There may be times when the wait seems too much to bear. We are human, after all. There may be times when we have waited beyond a period that seems reasonable. Discouragement may set in. It might be fatigue, from praying the same prayers over and over. It is then that we need to kick up our praise. Even as we pour out our hearts before God, we must acknowledge that He is worthy to be praised. Correct me if I’m wrong: there is not a single psalm where David solely laments and does not give God praise. He cries out to God, but always praises Him. In Psalm 13, for instance, he asks, “How long will You forget me, LORD? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” but he wraps it up saying, “I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”
9) We share, encouraging.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2.)
There is such a huge cloud of witnesses surrounding us (Hebrews 12:1). David waited. Hannah waited. Sarah, Elizabeth… many saints waited. We see even martyrs in Revelation 6:10 having to wait, crying out to God and asking how long it will be before they are avenged.
Someone dear to me once shared something profound: the enemy thrives in secrecy. This is so true. It is possible for a saint to be deceived, while waiting, that he or she is the only one going through a particular type of trial. But there is something strengthening about knowing that there are others out there who can empathize with our situations. The Bible tells us that no temptation has overcome us except such as is common to man. It also says there is nothing new under the sun. I once went through a trial that I thought was unique to me. Yup – out of the billions of people who have existed, I thought I was the only one who had ever experienced this. Just knowing that somebody else had been through it was very, very freeing. Sharing our trials – within reason – is helpful during the wait. Knowing others are praying for us encourages us to stay faithful.
10) We scribe, remembering.
“Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17:14.)
God’s words to Moses come to my mind as I reflect on this point. What did the LORD answer Habakkuk when He decided to stand and watch? He said, “Write the vision.” God tells us not to forget His benefits (Psalm 103:1). I’d say the entire Christian journey is a waiting period. We are all waiting for Christ’s return, aren’t we? In that one major wait, there will be many waits. Journaling through the waiting season is very helpful, as it is a reminder of the lessons that have been learned and can be applied to future situations. Going through our prayers and notes and realizing where God brought us from gives us the strength to fight the good fight, certain He will come through again and again.
As I go through the points above, I realize that there is one common thread: the key to a successful and stress-free waiting period is to take the focus and attention off ourselves and turn it to God and by extension to His children (1 John 4:20).
Are you waiting on God for something today? A job, spouse, child, healing, money, education… a phone call? Is there anything too hard for the LORD? Why is your soul cast down and disquieted within you? Hope in God, and trust Him – He is your Exceeding Great Reward; the Strength of your countenance and your God. When your answer comes, as it certainly will, Seize, it Celebrating.