To One Long Waiting

Everywhere I look around me, I see loved ones waiting: waiting on a diagnosis, waiting on a foster care placement, waiting to hear back from a job interview, waiting on a potential spouse, waiting for the conception or birth of a child. This should not surprise me, as waiting is a common denominator of human existence. But waiting is hard.

Waiting reveals our hearts faster than an x-ray reveals bones. Waiting exposes impatience and entitlement while exacerbating worry and anxiety. I need not elaborate on the negative side of waiting. We know it well not only from short stints waiting in the grocery line but also from the depths of our being. I do, however, want to remind us of the good work God seeks to do in us as we wait.

Waiting Produces Weight

From time to time, I sub in elementary school classrooms (mostly to remember how amazing teachers are and to realize again that I did not miss my calling). Nearly every teacher has some form of a reward jar where marbles get moved for good classroom choices. The class gets to watch as the jar slowly fills up. A couple marbles a day works towards a wonderful reward.

The Scriptures say something similar about suffering (and waiting is a form of suffering).

“So we do not lose heart…For light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

I love Elisabeth Elliot’s simple definition of suffering, “Wanting what you don’t have or having what you don’t want.” While we wait and wrestle for what we want but do not have (be it peace, provision, or people), God is producing eternal weights for us. Marble by marble, waiting day by waiting day, God is doing weighty work in us and for us. We are learning to lean into and live into eternal time rather than our fleeting time on earth.

Waiting Invites Us to Wonder

Long waiting forces us to admit our limitations. We are limited in power, in wisdom, in strength, and in perspective. The longer we wait, the more we begin to see our smallness and inability. When we wait, God exposes our equation-thinking and seeks to replace it with the better story He is writing. We want equations (when I do A and B happens, God will give C), but God writes stories. And He writes the very best stories.

Bad stories are predictable. We can see where the train is headed before it even leaves the station. The best stories, on the other hand, involve complex conflicts with a thousand possible permutations. They keep us hooked to see which way the conflict will be resolved. We hate the tension, but the tension drives the story and keeps us wondering and engaged.

In a similar way, waiting forces us to wonder, “God, what on earth are you up to?” Waiting keeps us on the edge of our seat, eyes and heart wide-open, saying, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130: 5-6).

I love how G.K. Chesterton captures this reality in one of his essays from a collection called In Defense of Sanity:

“Life is always a novel… our existence is still a story. In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written, ‘To be continued in our next’.”

Waiting forces our eyes up in wonder, reminding us that the One holding the pen and writing our stories does so with a love-scarred hand.

Waiting Teaches Us to Worship

While we live in the limbo of waiting, God has time to refine our desires, longings, and affections. As we wait, God is weaning us from an inordinate hunger for the gifts and increasing our hunger for the presence of the Giver. As we wait for many things, God reminds us of the one thing needful. As we ask for many things that he may or may not give, God strengthens our deepest desire to ask one thing of the Lord: “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27: 4-5).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were able to say, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…But if not, be it known to you, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3: 16-18). As we wait, God is making us ready to say a similar, “My God could provide the thing upon which I am waiting; but even if He doesn’t, He is still worthy of all my worship.”

Friends, as you wait, God is doing some of his very best work! Do not lose heart (Galatians 6: 9). There will be a day when we will say with the prophet Isaiah, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25: 9).

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