The other day, I was sitting at a red light, and the words came out of my mouth that have often rolled around in my head. “Oh, come on! What’s the deal with this light?” After all, this light had just extended my massive six-minute drive into a serious eight-minute intrusion into my busy life! Unfortunately, my impatience was mirrored in the reactions of the four- and six-year-old children who were in my car. Jonathan said, “Yeah. Hurry up, you slowpoke light.” Savannah made a similar comment. “That’s a stupid light.” Talk about conviction! I had just displayed to these little children that the way to solve our problems is to get impatient and frustrated with anything that stands in our way.
In our fast-paced world of microwaves and drive-through everything from pharmacies to banks, we struggle just to wait. I’ve thought many times about the irony of impatience. It seems that the quicker we get things done through the “improvements” of modern conveniences, the more impatient we become. This problem, however, goes much deeper than rebuking a traffic light or walking off in a huff when the copier jams one hour before the bulletins must be ready for the service. The real problem exists in our impatience with God and His perfect timing. Maybe you are thinking, “I preach about God’s sovereignty. I would never question His timing.” Before you skip this for a different, more controversial or sensational article, I would challenge you to consider the seriousness of our impatience with the Sovereign of the universe. God’s Word teaches us through the command to wait as well as through the patterns of those who were asked to wait for God’s plan to be fulfilled. God’s oft-repeated reminders to us of our need to wait on God reveal our tremendous deficit in patiently waiting and the wonderful lessons we learn in the process of waiting.
In what ways is waiting on God a need for us? Maybe the more appropriate question is, when is waiting not a need because it infiltrates every area of life? We often have to wait for the visions God has given us to be fulfilled. Maybe you’re waiting for one of God’s promises to come to fruition. Or is it a financial crisis that you are waiting to be solved? Are you waiting in agony for a rebellious child to return to the Lord? What happens when you get laid off and you don’t know how you will provide for your family? Waiting on God takes many forms, and we all struggle with it. Our flesh screams out, “I want it now.” But, at the same time, we know the commands that tell us to wait on the Lord. Here’s a question for those of you who thirst for controversy—where’s the balance of waiting on the Lord and moving forward by faith?
I have been thinking about this area for a few years now, and recently someone said, “In the questions of life, we must make our first response to find everything that God’s Word says on the topic.” So, I determined to start a study on the people in Scripture who had to wait on God. I started the study only recently, so I’m not very far; but it’s fascinating to see the patience test from God and the response from the person.
Abraham waited for 25 years to see just the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise to him (Compare Gen. 12:1-4 with 21:5). Yet, Romans 4:20 says that Abraham didn’t “waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God” (NASB). We find that hard to do for 25 hours much less for 25 years.
Joseph was rotting in an Egyptian prison for 13 years before he was even brought before Pharaoh. Don’t you think he ever sat in his cell, praying, “God, if You are with me, what are You doing? I could be using my gifts in much better ways outside of the prison.” But we know the end of the story. God had a perfect plan for Joseph, and it would be fulfilled at the perfect timing for the good of all the nation of Israel and a beautiful picture throughout all eternity of the power of forgiveness.
David stayed with sheep in the desert after God had said that he would be the king of Israel. Then he was chased and threatened with his life by King Saul. That’s not a reassuring way of seeing God’s promises fulfilled.
Paul wanted to spring into action immediately after his conversion. God wanted him to spend three years alone with God before Paul could even begin to understand his calling and his God.
The list could go on with many names of people in the Bible who were greatly used by God but went through an agonizing waiting process. It’s never fun to test our patience. It’s never delightful to feel like you are floating with no stability or even answers. We cringe when God seems silent to our prayers and questions.
We’ve all walked through times–some of them for extended periods–when we knew that God had something else to do in and through us, but we didn’t know the whats or the wheres or the whens. We do know the Who—the unchanging Person of Jesus Christ; and we can place our complete confidence in the fact that “he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6, KJV).
In whatever areas you’re waiting for right now, take heart. God is shaping you, strengthening you, and preparing you for the next step of victory. “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage and He shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Ps. 27:14).
Joy Wagner taught classes and was the ladies’ dorm supervisor at Northland Baptist Bible College (Dunbar, WI) for 10 years. For the last year, Joy has been working as a counselor at Red Rocks Baptist Church (Lakewood, CO).