Waiting intrudes itself into every part of our lives in this fallen world. Consider all the waiting brought to view in the account of Jesus’ birth in Luke and Matthew’s gospels. The people as a whole were waiting for the Messiah. Zacharias and Elizabeth had been waiting so long for a child they had given up all hope. Because Zacharias didn’t believe the angel’s words about a son, he waited ten months in silence. The life Mary and Joseph expected for themselves was forever changed as they waited for the birth of Jesus. Simeon and Anna waited until old age for a glimpse of the Messiah. Waiting demands that you carry on living each day with an expectancy that scans the horizon; that listens for every word. God calls us to wait with expectant hope, for He calls us to wait on Him!(Zeph. 3:8) He gave His people every encouragement in their long wait for the Messiah and yet the anticipation expressed in Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come, thou long expected Jesus…Joy to those who long to see Thee…was true for only a few at His birth.
What comes to mind when you think of waiting? We live in a culture that has outdone itself in trying to do away with it. When we find ourselves thinking, “I just can’t sit around waiting and doing nothing” we need to realize we are misunderstanding what the Bible is teaching us. Elisabeth Elliot described it this way:
Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.
Bearing, carrying, lifting, does not describe passivity but rather, God dynamically involved in our lives. The prayers of the psalmists and the exhortations of the prophets are filled with counsel about waiting for God. The Lord’s silence had driven some in Jesus day to unbelief and despair. They took matters into their own hands, in unsuccessful revolts against Roman oppression. Many others lived continually disappointed, ‘Where is the Lord in all our troubles?’. The religious became indifferent to God as well as the world around them, ignoring their heart questions and instead poured their energies into outward actions. It’s not very different today. We find waiting so difficult because we have not learned to wait with hope (Ps. 130:5).
Prepare yourself as you turn to His Word, for God gives us the unvarnished truth about waiting! David prayed, “I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” (Ps. 69:3). Isaiah wrote, “I will wait for the Lord who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob…” (Is. 8:17). Why, we ask, does God allow waiting to be so difficult and long? The short answer – to change us as He draws us to Himself. David asked, “And now, Lord, for what do I wait?” and answered, “My hope is in You.” (Ps. 39:7). As we continue to bring our tears and questions before the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit in prayer, we sense our focus shifting. The very things we wait and long for bring us into God’s presence so often, that we find the immensity of who God is, filling up and satisfying our waiting hearts (Ps. 62:5).
Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands. Elizabeth Elliot
God has given us promises that we can hold on to as we wait quietly on Him. There are so many verses to explore but here are a few to ponder today. God hears us as we wait (Ps. 40:1). In waiting, we experience His goodness (Lam. 3:25) and understand that He acts on our behalf (Is. 64:4). God favors those who wait for His loving- kindness (Ps. 147:11). He will not let us be ashamed of waiting for Him (Ps. 25:3). And when waiting seems utterly beyond us, He promises that in the very act of waiting, we will find new strength! (Is. 40:31)
Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Anna…all of them realized some of the treasure in these promises. God heard Zacharias and Elizabeth in their waiting. Simeon waited believing God would show him the Messiah (Lk. 2:25, 26) and he was not ashamed by the waiting. They all understood that despite the long wait, God was acting on their behalf, they were seeing His goodness, loving- kindness and salvation in seeing Jesus.
Can you trust the God who calls you to wait? Consider this marvelous verse (Is.30:18) “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.” Amazing…the God of justice is the gracious God who waits… to have compassion! The cattle stall reminds us of this – He waited through ages and at the right time, came to pour out compassion and save His people from their sin. Let our Advent reflections remind us that the story is not finished. While He remains with us, by His Spirit, Jesus, the God-Man is waiting to return at the end of the age. Are we waiting for Him? May God increase our faith and renew our strength that we may run the race He has set before us with hearts that wait for Him!
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee…
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.