The whole world is now well accustomed to “waiting.” For some of us, it’s something that hasn’t happened in a good long while – we have lived not waiting for the internet; not waiting for the movie; not waiting for the food. But now we have been reacquainted with what it means to be stationary. To sit. To be still. And new flash here:
We do not like it.
Of all people, though, Christians ought to be the most comfortable with waiting. That’s because “waiting” is something we are really doing all the time. For most people, “waiting” is just a means to an end. You bide your time until the waiting is over, and you get the meal you ordered or the promotion that you’re due. But for the Christian, waiting is not just a temporary time; it’s a perpetual state. Our whole identity, in a way, is built around waiting, for we are the people who believe in things that we cannot see. That are not readily apparent. That are coming, and yet have not yet come. To be a Christian means to be someone who waits, whether we like it or not.
Because we are Christians, we are also people who wait. But also as Christians, we should be uniquely positioned to understand the value in waiting. We should know that even though it seems like nothing is happening, God is busy in us as we wait. Waiting, in fact, is one of the most formative times in our lives. And while it is not only impossible but also arrogant to say for sure exactly what God is doing in our souls as we wait, we can describe, I think, some general ways that waiting shapes us into the people God intends for us to be:
1. Waiting redefines our desires.
Imagine it’s the week after Christmas, and your child comes to you with something he or she wants. Of course you could go out and get that thing for them, but chances are your response is going to be something like, “Christmas just happened. If you really want that, you’ll need to wait.” And a funny thing happens the longer that waiting period goes on. Something else catches the kid’s eye, something else captures their hearts, something else arrests their attention. Their desires change, and the same thing is true with us, albeit in a more redemptive way.
Now imagine that you are praying for something. Maybe it’s a new job. So you pray, “Job, job, job,” and nothing seems to be happening. But as you focus your attention on this singular issue for more and more time, you realize that the better thing to be praying for is not a job, for the job only represents something else that has now been exposed. You find, over the course of waiting that your prayer changes from “job, job, job” to “trust, trust, trust.” Your desire has changed to something deeper. Something more lasting and more true.
2. Waiting exposes our hearts.
Here’s another scenario – imagine that you are no longer waiting for a quarantine to be lifted or for the vaccine for a virus to be found, but instead are waiting in an everyday way like at in the black hole of the DMV. You wait and wait and wait… and then you wait some more. Chances are, the longer you wait, the more frustrated you become. Self-entitlement starts to bubble up inside you, and you begin to feel that you are being wronged in some way because you have to wait. Your rights as a consumer and a citizen are being challenged. And you begin to boil.
Now where did those things come from? Of course, you could blame it on the DMV, but if we are honest with ourselves, we know that the DMV didn’t plant that frustration in our hearts; it was there all the time. The waiting only exposed it. So it is with this period of waiting – there is a near daily “exposure” that is taking place in all of us – exposure of fear, of anxiety, of frustration, and yes, of self-entitlement. Until these things are brought into the light, we cannot really bring the gospel to bear on them because they would have otherwise remained hidden.
3. Waiting gives you margin to think.
If nothing else, these past months have afforded us all much time to think. To ponder. To consider. And for the Christian, these are important things that help us surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We aren’t just thinking small thoughts any more; we are thinking about the future. About our source of identity and security. About the nature of faith and trust and hope. These are things we don’t typically think about, not only because it’s uncomfortable to do so, but because the world around us is just too noisy.
We have places to go, people to see, and conversations to have. But now? While we wait? Now there is nothing but time. Time to confront these issues and more on the battlefield of the mind. And time to guided in our thoughts by the Holy Spirit who knows and searches all.
Waiting is not easy. It’s not comfortable. But it is profitable, if indeed we are willing to embrace it and not just wish it away.