Do you remember those dark ages, thousands of years ago, when you had to wait an entire week to watch the next episode of your favourite series? How archaic, right? Now we can have the entire season at once. We can microwave our food, making it hot in seconds. We can brew coffee instantly. The speed with which technology achieves results is a blessing for which we must be thankful. But I worry that this might make waiting on God even harder than it was for previous generations of Christians.
With God, waiting is the norm.
Because we occupy an ‘instant everything’ world, a society designed to reward speed and discourage delay, we have become unaccustomed with waiting. This presents spiritual problems. Because, with God, waiting is the norm.
Our Timeline is Different to God’s
God, unlike us in our fast-paced-instant-everything world, seems to prefer to do things the old fashioned way. He is never in a hurry. Yet he is always on time. His purposes unfold slowly, but surely. His promises are usually fulfilled in long time periods. But they always come to pass.
God is never in a hurry. Yet he is always on time.
Therefore waiting, or exercising any kind of patience, is quite the test for many of us. It reveals our hearts in ways that others can’t. With delay we can become perplexed, doubtful, angry, and disoriented. This may be compounded especially if we see other people getting from the Lord what we want.
Habakkuk’s Season of Waiting
The prophet Habakkuk was deeply concerned about the moral degeneration around him. He went to the Lord to lay this issue before him, seeking intervention (Habakkuk 1:2, 12; 2:1). It seems that when Habbakuk first began to pray, he supposed that God would act immediately. The matters he was raising with God were serious. Surely, the Lord would deal with them swiftly, wouldn’t he?
The answers Habbakuk desired did not come. He had to wait.
But, day after day, Habbakuk would look out the window to see that nothing had changed. The newspaper headlines did not say anything about national repentance or moral reforms. So Habakkuk laments to the Lord about it. He prefaces this lament, “O Lord, how long?” (Habakkuk 1:2)
The answers Habbakuk desired did not come in the time he expected them. Instead, he found himself having to wait. When God finally answers, he reveals that the solution he is working on will take years before it takes effect (Habakkuk 1:5; 2:3).
Our Waiting is for God’s Glory
In waiting, Habbakuk is in good company. For God dealt with the saints of old by requiring them to wait patiently for his promises (Hebrews 11:13). Abraham waited many years for the promised child. Isaac waited 20 years for his wife to bear children. Joseph waited over two decades before the dream was realised. The nation of Israel waited centuries for deliverance from Egypt. David waited many years before he ascended the throne. The exiles would wait 70 years before they could return to their land. The Church continues to wait for her Lord to return in glory. With God, waiting is par for the course.
God makes us wait to reveal his glory to us and through us.
Why does God make us wait? The short answer is to reveal some aspect of his glory to us and through us. In one case, the delay in judgement was in order to give men the time needed to repent so that his patience and mercy may be seen (2 Peter 3:9). In another case, God delayed so that the situation would get bad enough that his power may be shown to triumph even over death (John 11:4-6, 14-15, 40). In other instances, the delay is to cultivate spiritual fruit by testing our faith so that his wisdom may be seen (James 1:2-5). In some cases, the reason is not immediately apparent.
How Should We Wait?
Like Habakkuk, you may have found yourself in a long period of waiting on God. Do not despair. God has put you there and he has good reasons for it. How, then, should you wait?
First, employ biblical lament when the wait feels frustrating. Deep and honest lament is a great grace that God avails to every Christian. Habakkuk laments. He basically says: ‘Why aren’t you doing what I know you can do and have done? Don’t you see? Don’t you hear?’
Lament is an important part of how Christians relate to God.
Lament was an important part of how saints throughout the Bible related to God. It is precisely because they knew that God was all powerful that they frequently came to him and cried, with Habakkuk: ‘How long, O Lord’ (Psalm 13:1). They did not suppress what was going on in their hearts but they told it all to God. This usually broke forth into a deep sense of assurance, producing the fruit of patience and trust in God (Psalm 13:5-6).
2. Don’t Doubt God’s Goodness
Resist the temptation to think harsh thoughts of God
Second, resist the temptation to think harsh thoughts of God. Actively fight rising notions that call God’s goodness, wisdom, and love into question. In the thick of the wait, you will be strongly drawn into dark places in your mind. Put this to death by God’s grace.
3. Meditate On Those Who Went Before Us
Third, read passages about the saints of old who also waited patiently on God. Draw encouragement from them. See the outcomes of their patience and endurance. Observe God’s wise dealings with them and note the beauty of God’s perfect timing in bringing about his purposes in their lives.
4. Lean On Other Christians
Fourth, talk about your struggles with other saints in your local church. Let them pray with you, and for you. The local church is a gift of God to help you with the burdens of life. Lean on it.
5. Trust God’s Sovereign And Wise Care
God is at work in hidden and unexpected ways.
Fifth, rest in faith in God’s sovereign care and wisdom. Though it seems God is unaware or inactive, he is at work in hidden and unexpected ways. What seem like wasted years, unexpected delays, and unwanted detours, are all in his good and wise plan for your life.
As the world seeks to conform us into its mould of instant gratification, let us learn to be renewed in our thinking and be content to move at God’s pace. Like Habakkuk, let us learn to wait patiently and so glorify our God.