Life has felt pretty crappy lately.
Now let me just say that, in the grand scheme of things, my life is pretty much cupcakes and bounce houses. In a world filled with Boko Haram, school shootings, cancer, and a thousand other heart-wrenching tragedies, my life is pretty cushy.
Nevertheless, it still feels…hard.
For the last three months, we’ve had a least one child sick and home from school almost every day. On top of that, my old nemesis depression has been dogging my footsteps, making me feel like I wake up under a dark cloud.
It’s been hard to wait for the Lord to bring relief. Rest. Peace. Joy.
And I know I’m not alone. All of us have something we’re waiting for the Lord to do.
To bring a spouse.
To give life a barren womb.
To save a wandering child.
To repair a once-treasured, now shattered relationship.
We know God is faithful. We know that he’s good and he loves us. But it’s so excruciatingly hard to wait for the Lord to act. To move. To deliver. To rescue.
Thankfully, Scripture itself is a story of waiting. Abraham waited for a son, Joseph waited for deliverance, David waited to be made king, Israel waited for a Messiah, and we all wait for the return of the serpent crusher.
God’s word has much to say about how we wait. Biblical waiting isn’t passive, like waiting for a train to arrive. It’s an active, aggressive sort of waiting.
So how do we wait for the Lord in a way that honors him, fills us with hope, and gives us strength to carry on even when we feel like we’re in the dark?
Here are four ways.
#1 – We Wait For The Lord In Faith
There are two types of waiting.
The first type is unsure, fearful waiting. We’re not sure if God is going come through, as if he’s some sort of unreliable parent who forgets to pick up his kids at soccer practice.
We hope God delivers us…
…but what if he doesn’t?
This kind of waiting is displeasing and dishonoring to God.
The second type is waiting in strong faith. We’ve run all the numbers, calculated the odds, and can’t figure out how God is going to come through for us.
Nevertheless, we trust him because we know his character. We know that he’s infinitely good and loving, and that he will deliver us, even if that deliverance isn’t the kind we expected.
Proverbs 3:5-6 spells it out clearly:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
When life is in shambles, one of our greatest temptations is to lean on our own understanding. To try to figure everything out. To play out every scenario in our heads and determine which one is most likely.
We become like divine weathermen, trying to map out which way God’s providence will blow.
But when we wait for the Lord in faith, we make a conscious effort to reject our own understanding. Our understanding is extraordinarily limited.
I mean, seriously, think about it…
We’re aware of about 1/1,000,000,000th of what is happening in every circumstance.
God knows everything that’s happening in our lives and HE knows exactly what he will do.
Waiting that honors God is characterized by faith in his character.
#2 – We Wait For The Lord Loudly
Have you ever noticed that when David was waiting for the Lord to deliver, he was very loud about it?
For example, in Psalm 35:17 he says:
How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions!
David waited in faith, but he certainly wasn’t quiet, meek, and mild while he was waiting. He was constantly crying out to the Lord for deliverance. At times, you could even mistake the intensity of his requests for irreverence.
But David knew that God was good, faithful, and kind. He knew that God loved to give good gifts, including deliverance, to his children. And so, like any child, he asked for that deliverance repeatedly and loudly.
Jesus reinforced this truth with the parable of the persistent widow. She pestered and harassed the unrighteous judge until he couldn’t take it any longer. If even a corrupt judge will respond to persistent requests, how much more will our loving God?
Waiting that honors God is characterized by persistent pleas for deliverance.
#3 – We Wait For The Lord Patiently
When it comes to waiting, I am the world’s least patient person. They could make a reality show about my impatience. When traffic gets congested, I transform into Jeff Gordon, cutting left, zagging right, anything to make forward progress.
If a YouTube video buffers for more than 3.2 seconds, I’m gone. Heck, I even watch some YouTube videos on 2x speed (IT’S A SICKNESS, OKAY?!!).
When it comes to waiting for God to deliver me…
…again, not so patient.
To quote Queen, “I want it all and I want it now.”
And, of course, God always gives me what I want, when I want it, because I know what’s best for me.
Except that I don’t, and if God did give me everything I wanted right when I asked for it, I would probably be dead or living in a van down by the river (See: Matt Foley, motivational speaker).
Psalm 84:11 is a sharp reminder of how God operates:
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
If something is good for me, God will give it to me at the appropriate time. He’s not going to hold back a single blessing from me, and he’s going to give them to me when I’ll get the most goodness from them and he’ll get the most glory.
It was good for David to be king of Israel, but first, he had to hide in the desert caves.
It was good for Abraham to have a son, but first there needed to be no doubt that both him and Sarah were completely barren.
It will be glorious when Christ returns, but first, the full number of people must be saved.
God doesn’t serve up undercooked blessings. When the time is right, he delivers the full course meal.
Until then, we’re called to wait for the Lord patiently.
#4 – We Wait For The Lord Dependently
The Apostle Paul knew a thing or twenty about waiting. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, he wrote about his thorn in the flesh:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
This thorn in the flesh was no joke. Paul was no pansy. He had been tossed in prison, almost stoned to death, beaten with rods, pursued by people who wanted to kill him, and shipwrecked, all for the sake of the gospel.
And yet, this thorn was so bad that Paul pleaded with God three times to take it away. Whatever the thorn was — blindness, persecution, demonic attack — it made Paul feel desperate for deliverance.
There’s no indication in scripture that God ever removed the thorn, but what we do know is that while Paul was waiting for deliverance he depended mightily on the sustaining grace of God.
Paul’s thorn forced him to throw his entire weight on God’s sustaining grace and power. That was the only way he could survive.
The same is true for us. The only way we can survive in our waiting is to throw ourselves fully on God. We are completely and totally dependent on him.
If we don’t wait dependently on the Lord, we end up bitter, dried up, and hopeless. The only way to survive the long dark is to cling to Christ, the true light.
We wait for the Lord dependently, relying on his power and not our own.
Don’t Just Stand There, Get Waiting!
There are few things harder than waiting for God to deliver us. But it’s crucial to remember that even when it feels like absolutely nothing is happening, God is working.
I’m reminded of the scene in the C.S. Lewis book “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” when the ship sails into an inky black cloud. They encounter a man who tells them that they’re in a place where their nightmares come true.
Just when things seem to be at their worst, Lucy calls out to Aslan, asking him to deliver them. Suddenly, a brilliant, shining albatross flies over the ship and around Lucy, who is standing in the crows nest. It leads them out of the darkness and back into the light.
Lewis then writes:
But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.
You may be in the dark, and it may seem as though it’s never going to end.
But take courage, dear heart.