Waiting can be difficult. It reminds us that we're not in control. But instead of being discouraged during the wait, we should be a participant in what God is doing in us and through us during the wait. Last week we looked at four of those reasons, and today we'll add three more to that list.
Let your waiting strengthen your faith
As I think about waiting, I often remember what's said of Abraham in Romans 4:18-21. The passage tells us that as he waited, Abraham was strengthened in his faith. That's not what we would expect, is it?
We tend to think that, having been given a promise from God, a person might well begin to wait with vibrant faith. But as the wait drags on it seems that faith would gradually weaken. So why did Abraham's faith on the whole grow stronger and stronger? Because of what he did as he waited.
During his wait, Abraham became a student of the character and power of God, and the more he saw God for who he was, the stronger his faith became. He meditated on the glory of God, not on the difficulty of his situation.
There are three ways in which, like Abraham, you can let your waiting strengthen your faith:
1. You can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know God better through spending time in his Word, thus developing a deeper sense of his character, wisdom, power, and plan.
2. You can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know yourself better. As you wait, and as your heart is revealed, you have the precious opportunity to become a student of your own heart. What sins, weaknesses, and struggles has God revealed during the wait? Where has waiting exposed the lies and false gods that make waiting difficult?
3. You can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know others better, as their hearts are similarly revealed. This can offer you precious opportunities for even more effective ministry to those in your care.
Determine to grow stronger, more effective, and more full of faith as you wait. It is, after all, a key part of God's intention.
Count your blessings
Vital to productive waiting is a commitment to resist the grumbling and complaining that often kidnap us all. To fight this tendency, learn to number your blessings as you wait.
I once heard a missionary leader tell a story of how he was dreading an extremely long road trip. Then the thought came to him that this time of being imprisoned behind the wheel of his car was in fact an opportunity.
He decided that as he drove he would thank God for every little detail of blessing and grace he could recall, beginning with his earliest memory. As he drove hour after hour, he recounted to God year after year and decade after decade of blessing upon blessing.
By the end of his journey, he still hadn't come up to the present day. As a result, rather than ending his trip exhausted and bored, he ended it excited and changed. He saw his life through new eyes, with the presence and provision of God in his life taking on a clarity and comprehensiveness he had never before glimpsed.
By contrast, waiting often becomes for us an exercise in reminding ourselves of what we don't have. How much better, how much more fruitful, how much more joyful, to take waiting as an opportunity to recount the many, many good things in our lives that we have been given - things we could have never earned, achieved, or deserved.
Long for eternity
There is one other thing waiting is meant to do: God intends that waiting would make me long for home. When I consider this, I'm often reminded of camping. I suspect the whole purpose of camping is to make you thankful for home.
When you camp, everything is more difficult than it would be at home. In the beginning, that can be fun. But three or four days in, you begin to get tired of having to make a fire, having to search for drinkable water, and having to fish for supper. You quietly (or not so quietly) begin to long for home.
Waiting is meant to remind you that you live between the "already" and the "not yet." Yes, there are many, many things for which to be thankful in this life, but this place isn't your final home. You're in a temporary dwelling in a temporary location.
In the life and ministry you experience here, there's one aspect or another that can remind you this isn't home. The hardships of your present life and ministry speak clearly: this isn't the final destination. Waiting is meant to produce in you a God-honoring dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Waiting is meant to make you hungry, to produce in you a longing. For what? To be home - home with your Lord forever, home where sin is no more, home in a world that has been made completely new. As you wait, keep telling yourself: this is not my final destination.
Right here, right now, in your personal life or ministry, there is some way, perhaps many ways, in which God is calling you to wait. How well are you waiting? Here are a few reflection questions for personal use or a small group:
- What are some things that you're waiting for?
- Has your waiting produced in you a faith that's stronger? Or weaker?
- Has the manner of your waiting drawn you closer to God? Or further away?
- Has your approach to waiting helped remind you of all the blessings you have been showered with? Or has it tempted you to continually rehearse your list of unmet wants?
- Has your waiting served to teach you truths about yourself? Or has it only made you more blind about yourself and angry about your circumstances?
- Has the way you wait enabled you to reach out and minister to others better? Or has it simply drawn you deeper into the claustrophobic drama of your own waiting?
In each case, it's your choice. Take hold of the grace that God makes available. All of these outcomes are contingent on whether you choose God or self, fruitfulness or futility, his powerful grace or your own feeble will.
Always remember that God is never separate from your wait. He is the Lord of waiting. He is the liberal giver of grace for the wait. Because your wait isn't outside of his plan, but a vital and necessary part of it, he's with you in your wait.
And remember...God isn't so much after the success of your life or ministry - he's after you. So as you wait, tell yourself again and again: waiting isn't just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.