I’ve said it before and I’ll say again. Waiting can really suck. There are few things less fun than waiting for an answer at the point where you honestly don’t care what the answer is any more. You just want one. Any answer will do. At least then you can move on.
But maybe we aren’t called to move on. Maybe we are always too quick to move on. Maybe the time table is stretched in such a way that moving on negates the time spent growing up and learning what we need for whatever is coming next. When we don’t learn that part, the next step becomes treacherous. I think we often see waiting as a plateau when really it is more like steps, like a spiritual stairmaster. I really hate stairmasters.
In a post on contentment by Gospel Coalition, I’m reminded of my call to contentment in whatever place I find myself in. The blogger writes, “Discontent evidences our fear of everything but God — it fears for safety, for financial solvency, for what others might think of us, for even ‘spiritual maturity.’ The content soul, however, fears God (Proverbs 19:23).” Contentment then is a place where we are learning to trust Him no matter what, knowing that He is taking His time because this is the part where we learn best, where we exercise our wait muscles. If we never had to wait, we wouldn’t really ever have to trust. Like when you are planning to meet someone at a certain time in a certain place, you wait because you trust they will be there. And based on the person, you know if she will be there on time, or a few minutes early or 20 minutes late. It’s based on what you know of that person and what your experience has been with her.
And in the same way, we base our wait on God – what we know of Him and what our experience has been so far. For some, the knowledge of God is fairly limited. They haven’t sought Him out, nor have they wrestled through the resources He has given us to know Him. Or they have become frustrated through experience, all of life’s disappointments, struggling to make sense of it all. When things don’t go the way they expect, they blame God and paint Him as the antagonist in the story, foiling us at every turn.
I was there. I thought of God as a trouble maker, trying to trip me up, kicking me when I was down, running me through the gauntlet. What I came to realize though, looking back, it was almost always tied to my refusal to wait and to be content. I was always trying to go outside His will, that which is perfect and best for me, trying to make my own destiny or take control of situations and people. When I was most frustrated or despairing, it was often related to my selfishness and sinful pride, wanting to do whatever I pleased whenever I pleased.
It occurred to me that I was in good company. Reading through the story of the Bible and the examples we are given throughout history of God’s people, I came to realize that so many of the characters were driven by the very same desires I was, and often got tangled up in the waiting game like I have been. Tired of waiting and growing impatient, they often set courses of action taking matters into their own hands – here, get my servant pregnant, or hey let’s make a golden calf, or I want that hottie on yonder bath tub, and the list goes on – right up until Jesus himself with his followers who want him to set everything right and right now. But he doesn’t do what they expect and he seems to make them wait for his best miracle … and wait for it… wait for it…
We look back now and think, could Jesus have been any clearer to them? Of course he will rise again. Of course he was here to die. Of course he will be the redeemer of all humanity for all time. It’s easy to see in retrospect. But his followers – they had to be walked through it, stepped through it, waited through it, if you will. It unfolded for them daily as they grew up and understood the meaning of it all. Just as we, just as I, going through life day by day, come to know something more about our God, we experience His sweet peace and goodness as we wait.
Sometimes we grow tired of exercising our wait muscles. Well, more often than not, I am tired of it. I feel I am waiting for something at any given moment of every day. And then I am reminded that my waiting too often turns into discontentment, the loss of focus on the fear of the Lord, the lack of trust and hope only in Him. We wait for Him to will and to act as He sees fit and we wait for it with patience. I want so very much for all His good and perfect gifts. But they would not be good and perfect without good and perfect timing. So I pray for His contentment, to see my “now” as His stepping stone, my faith exerciser, so I can do the work of believing with my whole heart. And when the discouragement settles back in and I lose focus once again on His mercy and goodness, His Spirit reminds me that my only hope for anything is always in Him. It always was and always will be.
My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.
from Psalm 62