I am in a period of waiting. I struggle to remember when I wasn’t waiting for something. It used to be waiting for school results, waiting for summer vacation, waiting to be considered an ‘adult’. But now that I am an ‘adult’ I find myself waiting for different things. Waiting for my dream job, waiting to see if I’ll ever meet ‘the one’, waiting for doors of opportunity to open, even just waiting for Friday to roll around. I am waiting. And I’m getting good at it.
You might be waiting too. Waiting for that job promotion you’ve had your eye on, waiting for your dream man or woman to walk into your life, waiting to buy that car, that house, that ‘thing’ that you’re desperately wanting. Like me, you might be waiting for direction, for friendship, for the next step. But that next step never comes. You’re in as much confusion as you were yesterday, and absolutely none the wiser to what you’re supposed to do next.
Over the last couple of weeks in my daily Bible reading, I’ve been reading through the book of Genesis. It’s a book I’ve read before. But this time, one word keeps standing out. And that is the word “wait”. In Genesis, we are presented with the accounts of men who waited.
Take Noah. The first man in the Bible to have been recorded as “waiting”. When we see Noah in Genesis 8, he is waiting inside an ark. A quick reminder of how Noah got here – God saw the corruption and godlessness on the earth, was sorry that He had made humanity, and resolved to flood the earth to wipe the earth clean. God saw Noah, a faithful man, and asked him to build an ark to house Noah, his family, and two of every living creature, and to protect them from the flood and the rain that lasted forty days and forty nights. In Genesis 8, Noah and his family are inside the ark, after the rain has stopped, but the flood is still there. And he waits. He waits until it is safe for them to leave the ark. Genesis 8:10 (NIV) begins “He waited”, as does Genesis 8:12 (NIV). Noah waited.
Abraham waited. Abraham, formerly Abram, was married to Sarah, formerly Sarai. God had promised Abraham that he would have a son, and that all nations would be blessed through his offspring. But there was a problem – Sarah was barren, and both Abraham and Sarah were in their old age. They had perhaps waited most of their lives for a child, and now it seemed further away than ever. Perhaps they had come to accept the fact that a child would never be a reality for them. So, when God gave them this promise in their old age, it seemed impossible that it would come to pass. So impossible that Sarah laughed! But God offers Abraham and Sarah an encouragement that we can also take for ourselves – “is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14, NIV). As you will see later, Sarah became impatient in the waiting.
Jacob waited. In Genesis 29, we read of Jacob’s love for Rachel. A love so strong that he waited seven years to marry Rachel, and then worked another seven on top of that afterward. The Bible records “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:20, NIV). Jacob waited.
Joseph waited. Genesis 37-51 tells the story of Joseph, and his testimony is one of waiting. At age seventeen, God gave Joseph a dream. But this dream didn’t come to pass until Joseph was age thirty, when he rose to power in Egypt. Joseph’s years of waiting weren’t as smooth as Jacob’s. Joseph endured opposition from his brothers, being sold into slavery by them, facing false accusations in the house of his employer, and ultimately ending up in prison. But Joseph was faithful, and so was God. Joseph’s waiting was not in vain.
So, what can we learn from the men of Genesis? There are three takeaways from their stories that I would like to offer. Because there is hope in the waiting.
1) God sees us in our waiting.
Alongside talking about waiting, Genesis also offers accounts of God seeing and listening. Genesis tells of two women who God saw in their hurt – Hagar and Leah. Firstly, Hagar. Hagar was a servant of Abraham and Sarah who bore them a son out of their impatience for God’s promise to be fulfilled. In her distress, an angel appears to Hagar and says, “the Lord has heard of your misery” (Genesis 16:11, NIV), and see replies “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13, NIV). God sees us when it feels like no-one else does. He hears our cries. He sees us in our waiting.
Leah was Jacob’s other wife – his first wife – and Rachel’s sister. While Jacob’s waiting for Rachel seems like only a few days to him, I would guess they felt like an eternity for Leah, who was unloved and unwanted, and forced to marry Jacob by her father. But God saw Leah. The Bible says, “when the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless” (Genesis 29:31, NIV). God loves us when we feel unloved. God sees us.
2) God sees us through our waiting.
God doesn’t expect us to go through our waiting alone. He promises to walk with us. God promised Jacob “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised” (Genesis 28:15, NIV). God doesn’t expect us or want us to battle through this alone. He doesn’t leave us hanging on by our fingertips, waiting to see if He’ll come through for us or not. God promises to be with us. When speaking of Joseph, the Bible states that “the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted Him favour in the eyes of the prison warden” (Genesis 39:21, NIV). Even at our lowest, God is still with us. He still grants us favour. He is still faithful. There can be beauty, even in the depths. God is with us through our waiting.
3) God can use us in our waiting.
We don’t have to wait to be used by God. We don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect and for everything to fall into place until God considers us as useful – if perfection is what it took, we’d never make it. We’d be waiting for eternity. The truth is that God can still use us in our waiting and can use our waiting for good. So many who find themselves in waiting do nothing. They think “well, if only I had this”, “if only that would happen”, “my life won’t start until ________ happens”. But that is not a good mindset. If we think that way, we could reach the end of our lives and find that we have achieved very little because we were forever waiting for a certain thing to happen before our lives can begin. Things that are a part of our plan, but not necessarily of God’s plan for us. We may find ourselves waiting for the wrong things and using those things as an excuse to do nothing.
Because to us, it’s waiting. And waiting is hard. But to God, it’s all part of His plan. And our waiting is beautiful. God can use our waiting to draw us closer to him. In her book, Passion and Purity, Elisabeth Elliot writes “I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.” In the same book, Elliot also writes “When ours [our plans] are interrupted, His are not. His plans are proceeding exactly as scheduled, moving us always (including those minutes or hours or years which seem most useless or wasted or unendurable) ‘toward the goal of true maturity’ (Rom 12:2).” Waiting brings us to a place of surrender. Where sooner or later, the only thing we can do is leave the outcome to God.
So, I encourage you to take heart in your waiting. I know it’s hard. I know how easy it is to become impatient. But I’m also discovering the opportunity that waiting presents. In my own period of waiting, I’m finding that it’s a process. John Ortberg sums it up perfectly when he writes “biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.”
Use your waiting for good. The Bible says “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV). Katherine Walden encourages “While you might be in a waiting season, it’s not a season for you to be lethargic or sluggish in your spirit. Press in and keep doing what God has called you to do until the next door opens. Stasis is never a posture of a Christian.” Ultimately, your waiting is part of your testimony. Your waiting, time and time again, will testify to God’s faithfulness and His keeping of you. There is hope in your waiting.
I’m going to close out this blog post with some lyrics from Christian artist, Jamie Grace, in a song titled “The Waiting”. (If you haven’t listened to any of her music, I really encourage you to do so).
What will it look like?
What will it be like?
When my world turns out like you planned.
When will I get there? Feels like I’m nowhere.
My dreams are like dust in my hair.
But I know.
That this is the waiting.
I anxiously wait.
‘Cause I hold on to love that will never let go.
And in these times that my patience is tested,
Won’t you remind me that I’m not home?
Here in the waiting.
All of the questions, secret confessions,
Lord, You’ll make sense of it all.
And I know it’s hard,
So I’m letting go of these thoughts that are taking control.
That this is the waiting.
I anxiously wait.
I hold on to love that will never let go.
And in these times that my patience is tested,
You are the love that will never let go.
Here in the waiting.
So I’ll be here waiting,
Believing You’ll never let go.
In reading for this blog post, I came across some other quotes that I found really helpful but didn’t know how to fit them in to the post itself. So, I thought I’d post them below, for you to read at your leisure, in the hope that you’ll be encouraged by them in your waiting in the same way that I was encouraged in mine.
“Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work” – Peter Marshall
“What then are we to do about our problems? We must learn to live with them until such time as God delivers us from them…we must pray for grace to endure them without murmuring. Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting. They harm us only when we resist them or endure them unwillingly” – A.W. Tozer
“If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes” – Charles Spurgeon
“We are in hot haste to set the world right and to order all affairs; the Lord hath the leisure of conscious power and unerring wisdom, and it will be well for us to learn to wait” – Charles Spurgeon
“We shall not grow weary of waiting upon God if we remember how long and how graciously He once waited for us” – Charles Spurgeon
“I do know that 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” – Elisabeth Elliot
“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” – Elisabeth Elliot
“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” – Elisabeth Elliot
“God has promised to supply all you need. What you don’t have now, you don’t need now” – Elisabeth Elliot