Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart. Wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14).
In this hurry-up world, waiting for anything can cause us to lose our tempers, tongues, and good senses more frequently than we care to admit. I don’t know anyone who enjoys waiting in line. We don’t like waiting at stoplights. We don’t like waiting for dinner. We don’t even like waiting for good things – like for fish to bite. We want what we want now!
Why is it so hard to wait? Perhaps we misunderstand what waiting is all about. Is waiting on the Lord the same thing as twiddling my thumbs? Should I clear my mind of everything? I have learned the answer to both of these questions is NO. Waiting has nothing to do with twiddling my thumbs in boredom. Waiting is not passive. It is an activity. It is quiet, active stillness. Waiting is a directed, purposeful expectancy. It is a definite directing of our attention toward God, waiting for His intervention in our circumstances and waiting for further instructions.
One way we will know God’s instructions is through His Word. I am aware of the tendency of some to take Scripture out of context to make it fit their particular need. That is not what I’m suggesting. Rather, those who earnestly seek God’s leading will be tuned to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Scripture was not made for us to prove our point, but to speak God’s truth to our spirits.
Another way we will know God’s instructions is through the changing of our circumstances. Not all change in circumstances is instruction from the Lord, so as we study Scripture the Holy Spirit will give us discernment to know the difference. Sometimes, we are so close to the experience we want to believe God has ordered the change in our lives – particularly if the change is for the better. We are wise to listen to what the Spirit says to us through God’s Word and the counsel of godly friends.
God is rich in mercy. He always has a specific reason for telling us to wait. Our responsibility is to trust Him. A lack of trust is perhaps the root cause behind our decisions to jump ahead in disobedience. What arrogance to think we can work things out better than God can. If you have ever wondered if it wise to wait, a closer look at the subject will answer your questions.
First, it is wise to wait because God gives clear direction when we are willing to wait. Remember, we don’t operate like the world operates. We live in the now generation. Instant gratification defines society. But we, as believers, live differently. We belong to a different family. We live in Light, not darkness. We don’t take our cues from the world. We take them from God. He will give clear direction, whether it is guidance for making a move, changing a career, choosing a mate, or something else. Much to the distress of many, however, He seldom does it quickly. We must wait until He is ready to give direction.
The world will think you are foolish for waiting. “Take the bull by the horns,” they’ll say. “What are you waiting for? It looks to me like you’re just wasting time and sitting around!” That kind of shame has prompted many well-meaning believers, including myself, to make rash decisions. Satan uses that tactic to take our eyes off God’s direction and causes us to jump ahead of Him.
God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Psalm 32:8). We must wait until He is ready to give us counsel. I know it’s hard. I struggle at times in my life with waiting. I find the longer God takes to give direction the more He has to teach me. When things aren’t going smoothly, I have to trust His love for me and not complain. I can’t step in front of God and not get in trouble. Once in the thick of the battle, no matter how dark the clouds, how heavy the fog, how hot the fire, and how fierce the fight, we need to wait on God’s instruction. Once we make it through and His direction becomes evident, we will be able to look back at our struggles as times He was able to teach us most effectively.
Second, it is wise to wait because God uses that waiting time to get us in step with His timing. I have come to recognize the importance of being in step with God’s timing. I have a sense of peace. When I run ahead of Him, I have no sense of calm. Instead of peace, I am constantly trying to figure out how to make my decisions work. But when I am in His timing, I don’t have to worry about making it work. God wouldn’t have me do something if He had not already figured out how to see me through.
Delayed timing, from our perspective, is perfect timing from God’s point of view. Most of the time, our decisions affect others’ lives. In God’s timing, He perfectly meshes it all together. When what we decide to do affects another person, being in God’s will is doubly important because we have more than our lives at stake.
Third, it is wise to wait because God uses the time of waiting to prepare us for the answer. For example, God may say to a young man, “Yes, you may marry her, but you need to wait.” Sometimes, God does the same thing in business deals or purchases: “Yes, this is My plan for you, but you need to wait.” It’s so unnatural to wait, but the wise person does what is best, not what feels good at the moment. As a parent, I don’t give my children everything they ask for. Sometimes, I know the timing isn’t right. How much more our heavenly Father knows what is best for His children!
Fourth, it is wise to wait because God strengthens our faith when we wait. You might want to say, “God, I’ve learned as much faith as I care to. You can act now.” But when we realize God is more interested in our character than in our comfort, waiting becomes a lot more attractive.
Fifth, it is wise to wait because God gets our attention and sifts our motives when we wait. While you are waiting and praying for the promotion at work, you have time to think through your motives. Why do you really want that promotion? Do you want it to get more money or so others will think you are powerful? Could it be you want the promotion so you have a greater platform to serve the Lord? If you allow God to sift through your motives the truth will surface – whether good or bad. It’s amazing what we learn about ourselves through this waiting period.
How do we wait? First, we wait actively. We wait where we are, doing what God says to do, until God intervenes or tells us to do something different. It is probably not a good idea to quit your job until God has led you to another one. Most of the time, God is not going to say, “Do nothing and shut down your life until further notice.”
Second, we wait patiently: “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). We are willing to endure until He works. Waiting patiently is always easier when we’re resting in Him.
Third, we wait silently: “My soul silently waits for God” (Psalm 62:1). Remember Paul’s amazing conversion on the Damascus Road? Wouldn’t the natural tendency be for him to want to get to Jerusalem and give his dynamic testimony as fast as he could? Instead of going to Jerusalem, Paul went to the Arabian desert, so he could spend time alone with God.
Fourth, we wait expectantly. This is a period of time in which we sharpen our discernment and learn to look for evidence of God working. We live in anticipation of what He is going to do.
Fifth, we wait courageously because we are standing on the Word of God: “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His Word I do hope” (Psalm 130:5). Waiting courageously is not the absence of fear, but a calmness and stability in the midst of fear, and inner sense of leaning on the arms of a perfect heavenly Father. We wait courageously claiming the promises from God’s Word that He loves us and will do what is best for us. Just because He doesn’t work as quickly as we think He should is no proof of His indifference to our needs.
What are the consequences of not waiting? When we fail to wait, we get out of God’s will. Even if you do the right thing at the wrong time, it is disobedience. Running ahead of God is not obedience. When we fail to wait, we not only get out of God’s will, but delay God’s planned blessing in our lives. If God is waiting so that He can stretch our faith and we run ahead, He may have to wait longer to make sure we have learned the lesson. We only lengthen the training time!
Failing to wait also brings confusion into our lives. We feel no sense of direction because we are going so hurriedly, and we don’t take time to reflect on where we are headed. We speed through important intersections in our lives and refuse any four-way stops. This is especially disastrous because some decisions are lifetime decisions.
Some of life’s greatest lessons are learned while we wait. Some of life’s hardest classrooms are waiting rooms. There are vast rewards in waiting. God graciously uses the long pauses in our lives if we let Him. Here are six more rewards of waiting:
We discover God’s will and purpose in whatever we’re concerned about: “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him” (Lamentations 3:25). God is not stringing us out to tantalize us. He is not saying, as do earthly parents, “We’ll see about that.” No. He is working all things together for our good and His glory.
We receive supernatural physical energy and strength: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31). During our waiting on God, He supplies us with energy for the short term and the long term. Impatience will make us weary and worn, but actively waiting on God will energize us.
We win battles: “The Lord favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His loving kindness” (Psalm 147:11). How wonderful it is to have the Lord favor us and be on our side! Most of the time, we’re defeated because we do it our way, in our hurried time. Contrary to what it might look like on the surface, waiting for God will ensure our victory.
We receive answers to our prayers: “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1). One reason we don’t see more answers to prayers is that we want the answers on our schedule and not His. We have become such an indulgent society that thinks it’s unfair to put off personal gratification. God knows just the right timing.
We see the fulfillment of our faith: “They shall not be ashamed who wait for Me” (Isaiah 49:23). We won’t be embarrassed when others encourage us to forge ahead instead of waiting on the Lord. I know it’s easy to say, “Suppose is doesn’t work out, God?” He will not let us down.
We see God working on our behalf: “God acts for the one who waits for Him” (Isaiah 64:4). Isn’t that a wonderful promise? While we actively wait, He actively works. Every single day we have the greatest Mediator working on our behalf when things go wrong and when they go right!
We need to transform our thinking about waiting. The only way we can do this is to understand why God asks us to wait and learn to trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense. Waiting is one of the more difficult things in the Christian life. Waiting is valuable. It is not wasted time. God gives instructions through times of actively waiting. He may change our circumstances while we wait. He keeps us in step with Himself and prepares us for answers. He uses the time to sift our motives and strengthen our faith. He wants us to wait patiently, silently, expectantly, and courageously as we trust His Word. When we choose to wait, God rewards us by allowing us to discover His will and renews us with physical energy. He enables us to win battles and receive answers to prayer. He fulfills our faith while working on our behalf.
With all the advantages of waiting, why do we so often rush ahead as if we don’t have a trustworthy Father? We need to hit the pause button in our lives and take ourselves out of the fast-forward mode. God will amaze us at what He is doing.
When we plant a garden, we put seeds under the soil, add water, and then wait. After several days of sun and rain the seeds begin to grow, and we finally see evidence of what we planted. Suppose we become impatient and dig up the seeds because nothing is happening? We would ruin our garden. That is exactly how we live our lives at times.
God sends sunshine and rain, yet we don’t want to see what He is growing in us. We get impatient and want to dig up what the Vinedresser is bringing forth (John 15:1). In the process, we ruin the fruit He is developing in our lives. Some fruit takes a long time to mature. The One who wants to bring it forth in our lives knows exactly how long we need to wait. Waiting is not wasted time. It brings forth the most luscious fruit of all!
* Read more in my book, Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living.