The Glorious Gift of Waiting

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I put my hope”
Psalm 130:5

I don’t like to wait. Who does? I went out Christmas shopping last Sunday. I waited for almost five minutes to turn left at a red light. I know it was five minutes because I timed it. I wanted to see how long it was going to take for the light to change. Five minutes felt like forever.

I’ve been known to leave things at the checkout when the line is too slow. It depends how badly I need the stuff. Sometimes I decide it isn’t worth the wait. Christmas shopping is the worst. I checked four or five places for a specific toy for my son. Everyone was out of them. Apparently this is a “hot item” this year. I decided to just go home and check on Amazon. I should have done this in the first place. I had what I needed, ordered and on its way, by later that afternoon. I don’t get why anyone would choose the lines and the crowds and the wait when we have such options at our fingertips.

The spiritual life is full of waiting too. I’ve noticed a change from when I first became a Christian to now. At first, everything was so new and exciting. I couldn’t get enough of Bible study, worship, and fellowship with other Christians. It seemed that God was everywhere. He spoke to me through everything and everyone. There was abuzz about learning and growing. I’m not sure when it all changed. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and everything was suddenly different. But I have noticed some things that used to be easy now require more effort and discipline on my part. And things are definitely moving at a slower pace. This bothers me. I like to keep the pace moving in all areas of my life. This normally would be something I would chide myself about; like I must be doing something wrong. I have noticed a real impatience with myself. A discontent with where I am that is rooted in a pressure to be further along. I’ve wondered at this pressure – where does it come from?  And I’ve decided it is something that I am putting on myself. It is connected to this dislike of waiting.

Elisabeth Elliot helped my thinking on this recently. She says, “He makes us wait. He keeps us on purpose in the dark. He makes us walk when we want to run, sit still when we want to walk, for He has things to do in our souls that we are not interested in.” – from Secure in the Everlasting Arms.

If I am reading that correctly, it says: God makes us wait…on purpose. That He has purpose in our waiting – deep inside our own souls. I love that she notes this soul work is stuff we are mostly not interested in. That’s because it requires waiting, and we don’t like to wait. The soul is a waiting place dependant upon God’s initiative. This made me wonder how many times I have “left my stuff” and walked out on God, deciding it wasn’t worth the wait. This made me wonder what my impatience might be costing me. How I might be missing God in the rush.

Romans chapter 8 says something very similar to what Elisabeth Elliot said. It says, “The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:20). That passage is wordy. I’ve read it again and again, and I am still not sure I totally understand its meaning. But let me share what I do gather from it: God subjects us to waiting. He does so to lead us into true freedom in Him.  But this is clearly a process…and a long one. The passage goes on to say, “Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24, 25). In other words, we are not there yet. We are still in waiting mode. The passage then describes how the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. How He intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will. This is so encouraging to me! God helps us, even in our ability and willingness to wait. He helps us wait in the firm hope of glorious freedom. And He is at work in the waiting – inside our very souls. The Holy Spirit reaches down into our groaning places; into our soul longings where desire runs deeper than our words can express. He expresses our deepest desires and brings us into alignment with God’s purpose and will for us. That’s pretty amazing. Who knew such important work was going on in all this waiting?

This Christmas, I am thankful to be more aware of what God is doing in my waiting. I am developing an interest in this soul work He is doing inside of me. I am grateful to know that progress may be slow, but it is sure. I can trust that God is doing everything He wants to accomplish inside of me – in His timing. I have more of an understanding of my own frustration. I am learning there is purpose even in that. I am learning not to dismiss my impatience or “duck and run” out on God, but to bring all of me before Him. To sit with God with all my angst and displeasure; to surrender these feelings and pressures to Him in hope of the glorious freedom He has promised.

“I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2).

I pray this Christmas, as you look upon the Holy Infant so tender and mild, some of the heavenly peace of that Silent, Holy night would enter your own soul. In the stillness of Mother and Child, you would see a beautiful picture of how God cradles us in our waiting to accomplish His work in us.

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

We live in the dawn of His redeeming grace. “When the time had fully come, God sent His son, born of a woman,…to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons…God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, that Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:4-6).

Waiting is holy work. We wait in hope for the glorious freedom that is ours as children of the Most High God! “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! …and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:1, 2).

Hallelujah! There is the moment when we will know the glory wrapped up in all of our waiting. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!