Grace for the Waiting
Waiting is defined as “the action of staying where one is, or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.” It is not a passive state, but rather something that requires effort. It is also something all believers must deal with as we walk this Christian pathway.
David was one who experienced the challenge of waiting on God. Psalm 13:1-2 says, “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” Here we see David asking the Lord the same question four times: “How long?” He was tired of waiting! At the time that he wrote these words, David was experiencing serious affliction, and there appeared to be no relief in sight. He had no advisors and was lonely. It seemed his enemy had triumphed over him. He wondered if God had forgotten him or was hiding His face from him. Overwhelmed, David presented his complaint to God through this prayer.
Sometime later, David wrote the words of Psalm 27. In verse 14 we read, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” This seems to be from a different David! The man who once questioned God, “Why hast thou forgotten me?” is now saying, “Wait on the Lord.” He even repeated it: “Wait, I say, on the Lord.” By the time he was writing this psalm, David had proved God. God had answered some of his prayers. The beginning of the psalm tells part of that story: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” David had seen God’s deliverance and developed an implicit trust in Him. Now he could recommend that others should wait on the Lord.
What we must understand is that when God allows a delay, it is for our well-being. Rather than viewing it as something negative, we should ask God for the grace to wait as long as He sees fit.
At times, we might also feel as David did when he wrote Psalm 13, and we can find ourselves asking God, “How long?” Rest assured that the God who delivered David is the same today, and He will deliver us too. Some view waiting as being of minor importance, while others see it as a burden, or perhaps even a form of bondage. What we must understand is that when God allows a delay, it is for our well-being. Rather than viewing it as something negative, we should ask God for the grace to wait as long as He sees fit. With the right perspective, we will understand that the time of waiting is a blessing, and it will not be a discouragement to our souls.
Why must we wait?
God has reasons for allowing delays in our lives. David waited for deliverance from Saul for almost ten years, and during that time he learned to lean on God. God used those years to develop David’s character and prepare him to be a good king. Not only that, but his difficult situations inspired many of the psalms that today are a real encouragement to us. These are just a few of the reasons why God might have allowed an extended period of waiting in David’s life.
Abraham waited for his promised son for twenty-five years, and he is now called the Father of Faith. During those years, Abraham gained a closer walk with God, and ultimately was rewarded when God gave him his promised son—not an ordinary son, but one who would continue the lineage through which our salvation came.
Another example is found in Deuteronomy 8:2 where we read, “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.” Here we see that one purpose for the Israelites wandering in the wilderness was to humble them. God may use waiting as a way to refine us, and it can also be the strongest test of our obedience.
While it is good to seek to know the mind of God, we must also accept the reality that His ways are past finding out. We have to choose to trust Him, whether or not we understand.
Romans 11:33 declares, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” There is a vast distance between God and man. God’s ways are infinite, and therefore it is impossible for us to understand all the reasons for what He is doing. While it is good to seek to know the mind of God, we must also accept the reality that His ways are past finding out. We have to choose to trust Him, whether or not we understand.
One thing we do know for sure is that God’s intentions for us are good. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God wants to give us an “expected end,” which we know is an eternal home in Heaven. Whatever else might be accomplished by our waiting, we can be sure that part of the reason is to help us arrive at that blessed goal.
Tarrying in prayer
One type of waiting on God is to physically tarry before in prayer, something that can be extremely beneficial to us spiritually. We must continue in prayer until we receive salvation, sanctification, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire. God does not have a set time requirement for receiving those three basic Christian experiences; we simply must continue to pray until we receive them. The same can be said for anything we need from God—we must keep praying until He answers. We can lose the blessing if we do not tarry long enough.
In the Bible we find examples of the importance of waiting for God to answer. Genesis 15 relates how Abraham had to wait for God to honor his sacrifice. A whole day passed and it was late in the evening when God responded. In Genesis 32 we read about Jacob, who never gave up but instead said, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me,” and eventually he received the answer.
When we kneel before God in prayer, we should have the same determination. It will not always be easy to continue in prayer, but we can lean on God for strength. Though we may not know why the answer has not yet come, through prayer God can reveal to us if anything is lacking on our part. If we will do all we know to do, and continue to wait on the Lord, He will certainly meet our every need.
David shared some insight about tarrying in prayer. In Psalm 62:1-2 he said, “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved.” The declaration, “I shall not be greatly moved,” speaks to the effort that is exerted in waiting. Without effort, the natural tendency is to be moved—to begin to doubt God and to struggle spiritually. We must determine to keep our focus on God and His faithfulness.
The successful Christian is one who prays and who finds refuge in God.
Moving on to verse 5, David said, “My soul, wait thou only upon God,” and in verse 8, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him.” Pouring out our hearts to God requires prayer, and that is what sustains the Christian. Trials will come, temptations will come, and all manner of challenges will come, but prayer will see us through. The successful Christian is one who prays and who finds refuge in God. When David poured out his heart before God, He heard his cry and answered. God has abundant blessings for us too, and when we spend much time in prayer, we will see what He desires for us.
Each experience is unique
There are many different situations that may require us to wait on God. As in the case of David, we might be in need of deliverance. David’s very life was in danger and he sought a place of physical safety. Some may be sick and are looking to God for healing. We may need financial help or some other type of breakthrough from the Lord. There are many who are praying and waiting for God’s direction about marriage, and many married couples who are looking to God regarding children.
After I was saved, I waited for fifteen years before marrying, and once my wife and I were married, we waited eight years before our son was born. At the point when we had been married for five years, I was struggling about what to do and finally decided to consecrate the whole matter to God. I prayed, “God, You have blessed me and given me everything in my life. I have everything one needs, and it is just a child that I don’t have, and I will never pray to You about a child again. It is done.”
There were still some difficult times following that prayer, but the matter was settled between the Lord and me. Three years later, when we were not expecting it, God gave us our son. I do not know why God chose that timing, nor how our lives might have been altered if the events had unfolded differently. We may never know why, but God always has a reason and we trust Him.
At times, God does let us understand the reason for waiting. That was the case recently when our family relocated to Wharton, New Jersey. In the United States, it takes an average of forty-five days to process a loan application for a home. After looking and looking, we found a house that we liked, but delays caused our bank loan to expire two times, which meant we had to re-apply twice. It was eight months before we moved to the home! However, during that eight-month period, the price was significantly reduced! We ended up thanking God for the delay.
David waited for only ten years and Abraham for twenty-five, yet each produced the same result: God was glorified in their lives.
Each case of waiting is unique. The case of David was different than that of Abraham; David waited for only ten years and Abraham for twenty-five, yet each produced the same result: God was glorified in their lives. Our experience will be unique as well. God has a plan for you, and He has a plan for me. He has reasons why we should wait, and there is a blessing for us when we do.
The danger of rushing ahead
There is often a temptation to become anxious as we wait, in part because the enemy of our souls tries to convince us that our situation is terrible and that God will fail us. Often we may feel an urge to run ahead of God and solve problems in our own way rather than waiting for His answer.
King Saul is an example of the consequences of not waiting on God. In 1 Samuel 13 we read that he decided to offer a sacrifice to God rather than waiting for the prophet Samuel to come and officiate. The sacrifice was meant to solicit God’s favor in a war with the Philistines. As Saul saw the enemy host approaching and his own people cowering, he chose to make the sacrifice himself. Samuel arrived immediately afterward and told Saul, “Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever” (verse 13). Saul had been instructed to wait, but instead he chose to do things his own way, and he suffered for it.
Psalm 37:7 says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself . . .” God wants us to rest in Him. That means being fully assured that He will do what He has promised, regardless of how circumstances appear. We must remember that God does not need our help to accomplish His plans. God is not early. God is not late. God is on time! We may encounter distressing situations, but we can still wait for God. Jesus has promised to never leave us, and if we humbly seek His help, He will give us the grace to wait when we need to.
God has not forgotten
In Isaiah 40:27 we read an insightful question: “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord?” Anyone who feels that God has forgotten him can substitute his own name for “Jacob” and “Israel” in this verse. God never forgets His own. Before we were made, He knew us, and He knows everything about us. Even our very hairs have been counted by Him. Verses 28-31 continue, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” These are four powerful promises from God. We can trust in God; He has never failed.
Perhaps you have been waiting for something for years. Be assured, God will answer your prayer. We read in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise.” God’s promises are sure! Let us not be afraid or troubled, but let us tarry and ask God to give us strength to wait on Him, and He will surely bless us.