Frequency illusion is a kind of bias in which, after noticing something for the first time, there is a tendency to notice it more often. Let’s say, for example, you decide it’s time for a new car, and you want to buy a Jeep. So you’re thinking about Jeeps, researching Jeeps, and test driving Jeeps. Frequency illusion would say that you will also start noticing Jeeps on the road, and your mind can trick you into thinking there is a higher frequency of Jeeps on the road than there actually are.
That same thing has probably happened to you in a number of contexts; it certainly has to me. I have been spending much time in the Book of Psalms lately, and I wondered if I was suffering from frequency illusion. It seems to me that the exhortation and command to “wait” is all over this particular book of the Bible. We are doing a lot of waiting around our house right now, and perhaps I was reading my own circumstances into the Bible. Surely there is some of that, but on the other hand, you can’t read many of the psalms without running into the word. No fewer than 15 times are various psalms centered on this idea – that we are to wait on the Lord, hoping in Him, instead of feeling anxiety or the compulsion to take matters into your own hands. We are to:
- Wait expectantly (Ps. 5:3)
- Take heart and wait for the Lord (Ps. 27:14)
- Wait in hope for the Lord (Ps. 33:20)
- Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him (Ps. 37:7)
Waiting is a skill, if you will – and a skill the Lord wants us to work at. To practice. To grow in. And here are three reasons why God wants us to be good “waiters”:
1. Waiting shapes our character.
We hate waiting because waiting, in our minds, is a waste of time. We know what we need to do, where we need to go, or what we need to get, and waiting for whatever that thing or destination is, is just an obstacle to overcome. But that’s not the perspective God has. God wastes nothing. Indeed, He wants us to wait because it’s during seasons of waiting when our hearts are laid open and bare.
When we wait, we see our own frustration, anger, anxiety, and a host of other things. During seasons of waiting we come to see the true nature of our faith and we are forced to reckon with what we say we believe is actually what we believe. Waiting changes us at the heart level, and this is what God is primarily interested in. He is far more concerned about making us into the image of Jesus than He is about getting us to a destination quickly.
2. Waiting builds our faith.
Waiting is an opportunity for us to reaffirm our faith and to have an active kind of trust – the kind of trust that takes real work – rather than a passive and assumed kind of trust. And this is where we live most often. Our faith exists in the realm of assumption. We assume the sun will come up. We assume we will not have a catastrophic accident. We assume that everything will be okay today just as it was yesterday. That’s not all bad – again, our ability to make such assumptions is a reflection on both God’s common and special grace in our lives.
But every once in a while, it is a very good thing for us to be put in a situation that’s a little more extreme. For us to have to wait, and in waiting, to have to actively exercise our faith. It’s during seasons like that which our faith is built up. Like a muscle that needs to be worked out in order to grow, so is our faith.
3. Waiting glorifies God.
Consider, for a moment, what you must believe to be true in order to wait on the Lord. What truths fuel our waiting? We must believe that God knows what our situation is. We must also believe that He cares about our circumstances. We must further believe that He wants to help us, and that He knows what’s best for us, and will eventually bring that about. If we don’t believe these things, or if these things aren’t true, then waiting is foolishness.
But these things are true, and each and every one of them present these attributes of God – His care, His love, His providence – to those around us. Our waiting becomes a testimony to the character of God. God receives the glory when we wait well.
Waiting is hard. And it’s not any easier for the Christian. But waiting is not a waste of time. It’s during seasons of waiting when our character is formed, our faith is built, and ultimately God is glorified. Be a good waiter, Christian, for your own sake and for the glory of Jesus.