Monday, October 7, 2019

The Pain, Privilege and Power of Waiting

Waiting. Whether idling at a traffic light, standing in a grocery store checkout line, or anticipating an important business call, most of us hate to wait. Patience isn’t a virtue in great supply. That is, unless our waiting involves someone or something we care about deeply.

Recently a speaker observed waiting can be an expression of love: The longer we’re willing to wait, the greater the measure of our love. For instance, sitting at a hospital bedside day after day, waiting for loved one to recover from a serious illness. A military wife anxiously anticipating her husband’s return after months of overseas deployment. A child staring out a window waiting for mom or dad to come home. 

Jesus’ parable of the lost son in Luke 15 tells the poignant story of a father waiting for a rebellious son to come home. This provides a vivid picture of how God the Father awaits the return of His prodigals. What great, undeserved love this demonstrates. A brilliant metaphor for His grace.

The desire of our waiting and longing, of course, isn’t always realized. Recently a friend lost his dear wife of more than 50 years to a long-term illness. Sometimes the hoped-for phone call never comes. But that doesn’t diminish the value of the love that inspires our willingness to wait.

When the expectations that undergird our waiting are fulfilled, feelings of joy have no match. Some friends had a critically ill daughter who waited weeks before she was physically ready to undergo major surgery. At last, the operation was performed, followed by a good prognosis. It was worth the wait.

Sometimes the desire that motivates us is directed to other objectives. People line up for 24 hours or more, wanting to be the first to latch onto the newest smartphone, or camp out for days to acquire tickets for their favorite musician’s concert. But how often do we demonstrate such love or devotion in waiting upon God?

Maybe we have to wait for Him to answer an urgent prayer. Other times it’s simply a matter of setting aside our busy schedules and everyday concerns to spend time with the Lord, reading and studying His Word, praying, meditating – and being quiet long enough for Him to speak to us. For many of us, this waiting is the hardest of all.

We tend to gauge our love for God by things we do: attending worship services; writing a check to support the work of His kingdom; participating in a service project; taking a short-term mission trip. But do we ever consider that the greatest measure of our love for Him is just spending time alone with Him?

In the Scriptures, particularly the Psalms, we see many examples of such love – and waiting. During one of his desert experiences, King David wrote, “O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). How often is this the expression of our hearts?

Sometimes as we look at the world around us, we’re tempted to wonder, “Where is God in all this?” We can take heart when we read another declaration from David: “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:1). 

He also wrote, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:1).

Then there’s my favorite passage on waiting, one I’ve turned to repeatedly over the years: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes…. Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land, when the wicked are cut off, you will see it” (Psalm 37:7,34). I can only imagine King David, faced with strong opposition, clinging to promises such as these.

Most of us willingly wait for a good friend who is late for lunch, a client yet to arrive for a critical meeting, or for the doors to open on Black Friday to take advantage of special Christmas bargains. Do we love God enough that we’re willing to wait on Him, however long it takes?

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