Waiting is one of the hardest things to do.
I was with my family the other night at a minor league baseball game. We were waiting in line to get tickets. As I watched the other lines around us, it became obvious that our line was the slowest. This did not sit well with me; deep inside, something was coming unraveled.
It’s human nature - no one likes to wait. When we’re grocery shopping, we always look for the shortest line. Sometimes, we’re even willing to fudge on the ‘15 items or less’ line just so we can get out of the store faster. What is it about human nature that makes us despise waiting?
Yet so often on our spiritual journey, God calls us to wait. Just think about the stories in the Bible. Abraham and Sarah are promised offspring, and yet they reach their twilight years still childless. King Saul was asked to wait for the prophet Samuel’s blessing before he entered into battle, but Samuel was a day late and the enemy was breathing down their necks. The people of Israel had to wait 700 years for Isaiah’s prophecies of the Messiah to be fulfilled, and Christians have been waiting over 2000 years for His second coming.
The Bible promises blessings to those who wait upon the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 says, “...those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings as eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds good to me. I love the idea of gaining new strength, since so often I feel weak. And soaring on wings as eagles? That sounds awesome! The only thing we have to do is wait upon the Lord.
This is where it gets tough, because the Bible says God’s ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8), which means God’s timing is not always our timing.
Let me illustrate. My wife and I were living in southern California a few years back. We loved living in the San Gabriel Valley, but we had a desire to move back to the Northwest, where my wife is from. Both of us prayed about it for a long time, and individually, we both sensed that God was releasing us to do so. Immediately I started making connections with people I knew up north and started putting my resume out. In the next few weeks, I already had a few possibilities lined up, and one church already wanted me to come and preach. But we saw all of those leads come to a dead end - one by one. As a matter of fact, over the next several months, 3 different times, I applied for a job and it came down to me and one other person - and you know what happened? They gave the job to the other person.
Nine months later, we were still in SoCal, and our faith was starting to sink. We couldn’t understand. God said that He had released us to move, but He hadn’t opened the door so we could walk through it. People would try to reassure us by saying, “You’re in the waiting room, hang in there, God’s got something good waiting for you.” Deep down inside, we knew it was true, but we were having a difficult time believing.
It’s often in this time of persistent waiting that God’s people jump ship. Abraham and Sarah took things into their own hands and made a decision to conceive a child with Sarah’s handmaid Haggar. WIth his enemy breathing down his neck and his troops fleeing, Saul chose to take on the role of priest and offer a sacrifice to bless his army. My wife and I were tempted to give up on our dream, and accept that we hadn’t heard from the Lord.
In these times, we must be careful to avoid falling into the precipice of unbelief. There were many times I didn’t feel like talking to God, but I was still faithful to spend time in His Word. In those devotional times, God would remind me again and again that He was more than faithful to keep His promises. God even brought people into our lives that had a similar testimony of God testing them, only to have God show up in amazing ways.
And of course, in His timing, that’s exactly what God did with us: He opened the door for us to move to Oregon.
Now, as we look back at that year in hindsight, we can’t believe that we struggled so much to trust God. But being in the rescue boat offers a different emotional outlook than struggling to keep your nose above water as you’re looking for that lifeline. But it’s in that time of struggle that God builds expectation in us, and it’s in that time of waiting that He wants us to cry out to Him again and again and again. James 1 says, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds...” I think all of us would say waiting upon God for something feels like a trial. But it goes on to say, “...the testing of your faith builds perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work in you so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Sometimes we forget that the whole goal of God’s work in us is that we would become the radiance of His glory, which we do when we live a life of dependence on Him. We are shortsighted. We just want to get out of the waiting room. But His goal is to have a strong, intimate relationship with us - one in which we willingly pursue Him, especially in trying times; one that’s not built on coercion or even duty, but free will.
It’s in that time of waiting that we come to develop a different outlook - an outlook that recognizes that it’s not the gift that ultimately fulfills, but the Giver.
Pastor Toby Gallego
Riviera Baptist Church