When I was a kid in a small Midwest town there was one street in particular that has stuck in my memory. This street had a train crossing and it felt like the only time it crossed was when we were in a hurry. I knew there was nothing that we could do to make the train speed up or even no point in trying to calculate how much of the train was left but it didn’t stop me from trying to figure it out. I did everything from count the cars to counting time in my head but nothing would change the fact that I would be waiting for as long as it was going to take for the train to cross before we would get moving again. Waiting like this removes all control and pushes my buttons in ways that little else does.
I think God uses waiting like running water through a hose in the spring to see where the leaks are. We all have parts of our faith and life that we don’t think about and as long as we perceive that we’re in control then we don’t have to face them or give them to God but when we wait they all get pressed harder and our vulnerabilities are exposed.
God has surfaced a lot of people in my life right now and in my own situation where waiting is a central challenge of life. Waiting for clarity, direction, permission, provision, healing, diagnosis…the weight is so heavy to consider some of these situations and in an environment where we often feel we have control everything it becomes all the more challenging. Waiting feels like holding your breath for some unknown period of time under the water of your circumstances and if we determine to do it in our own strength we will drown.
The Bible actually has a ton to say about waiting and there are no silver bullet verses to make it go away. What you find is a consistent chorus of who we should place our trust in when waiting. We don’t trust in ourselves, our circumstances, our carefully orchestrated plans or our standard of living – we trust God. In the Gospel we know that God is good and His ultimate goal is our contentment and satisfaction to be found in Him and the work He has done for us to save us.
One of the most challenging and encouraging books of the Bible in my study has been the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. He is a prophet dealing with the suffering of God’s people while they wait to see what God will do with these wicked people that seem to be living without consequence for their sin. He definitely had the benefit of audible dialogue with God but he still needed a lot of reassurance from Him. In Habakkuk, Gospel waiting is summed up like this, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end-it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay (Hab.2:3).”
There are people throughout the Scriptures that deal with just about every variety of waiting (Abraham & Sarah, Job, Moses, Hannah, Hosea, Habakkuk, David, etc.) and what is noteworthy is that their waiting was always a refining experience for them – God used the period of waiting to stretch them to be prepared for what was coming. Sometimes I wonder if the process of waiting is not about what comes after it but what is available from God in the middle of it. When I know I can’t control it, when I’m most aware of my limitations and when I need Him the most.
Jesus offers us this perspective, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith (Matt.6:27-30).”
The Gospel frees us from the captivity of our control and needing to know all the answers. Our hope is in Jesus and the provision that has already been secured for us. It doesn’t mean that the trial we are currently going through isn’t weighty and at times, debilitating but it does mean that we can have hope that God is always moving and will never have us wait a minute too long.
As we wait together let’s pray for one another that we can be strengthened by the Spirit of God to see His purpose and plan in our season of uncertainty…He definitely has one.