The Hardest Part: Waiting is not an interruption. It is God’s plan.


From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.  Isaiah 64:4

When, Mom? How many more hours until they come? 

The party starts in 9 hours and 23 minutes, Gabe.

Is that a long time, Mom? 

Yes, Gabe.

Now jump back 2,000 years.  Think of the disciples  Just imagine their wait. The risen Christ had appeared twice to the disciples. But it wasn’t the same as before. Don’t cling to me, he’d said. I go.  I am ascending to my Father and yours, he’d told Mary outside the tomb.
But Jesus wasn’t totally gone. He left the disciples but hadn’t ascended yet, Between the surprise dinner date on Day 8 and Ascension on Day 40, there was a wait. Can you imagine their restless,  upper room, what should we do now wait?  

Peter went fishing. Gabe went out to play.

Waiting is our set stage.

Some friends of ours have been waiting a long time in the adoption line. They’d already waited awhile even before they “announced” their double Russian referrals to our Bible study with adorable, baby-blue frosted airplane cookies. That was almost four years before this. Before US-Russian relations dropped and our friends’ boy referrals did too.

But they kept waiting. And months later, a referral for another boy from another country came. But he was not to be their son either.  They didn’t step out of the queue. Finally, a few months ago, our friends accepted another referral. They’re still waiting.

Last month my friend posted this update:

We’ve moved on to the next step of waiting for approval! This did mean a flurry of things had to happen, including paperwork to get his visa and social security number, which meant [we] had to settle on what we were going to do about his name. 

I’ve read the wait doesn’t stop once you’re matched, traveling or back home. Considering we’ve been in the waiting stage (of various types) for a looooong time now, it was good to read that we might just never truly leave that stage and to mentally prepare for that.

You never truly leave that stage. She gets it. This side of heaven, we wait. It’s inescapable. At the store, at the stoplight we wait. From a seven-year old’s count-down to be eight to an eighty-seven year old’s count-down to be clothed, all creation waits.

Not An Interruption

For the Christian, waiting is where it’s at.

Our lives are on God’s stage. His choice crew are the Sanctified Waiters. Like Simeon, who waited for the consolation of Israel, and Joseph of Arimathea, who waited for the Kingdom of God.  It’s where God shows up and shows himself strong. It’s the where we see God act. Surely no one has a seen like ours who works for those who wait for him.  

For the Christian, writes Paul Tripp, waiting is not an interruption of the plan. It is the plan. Waiting is hard full of good. It’s Romans eight.

We ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoptions as son, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with wait for it with patience(23-25).  

Knowing that it’s part of God’s good plan doesn’t make it easy. Tom Petty’s lines are timeless, the waiting is the hardest part. We’re right there with Job- God’s servant Job-when we cry, What strength do I have, that I should still hope? And what are my prospects that I should be patient? (Job 6:11)

It takes great strength to wait. Weak people cave. David knew the connection. Be strong, and let your heart take courage and wait for the LORD (27:14). God gives strength to the weary not after we wait but while we wait. While we we groan inwardly, we wait eagerly. That’s a Romans 8 wait.

Worth The Wait

We appreciate more who most patiently wait. The hours fasting before dinner make it that much tastier. Planning the trip is half the fun. When we wait, we gain, what Jane Austen called, “that sanguine expectation of happiness which is happiness itself.” Maybe it’s not quite that sublime, but it’s true that anticipation of a good thing ahead eases the ache.

But there is still the ache. Waiting is a slow burn with undisclosed outcomes and uncertain timeframes. It tests our patience and tries our faith.

Waiting brings out old idols and can push us toward new ones, like control and self-pity and food and drink abuse too. We say, But if I only knew. It’s this not knowing that makes it so hard.  

In His Place, At His Pace is Hard. And Good.

Yes? And at the risk of sounding curt and rude, I add. That’s exactly what waiting is. Waiting is hard.

It’s hard and good.  We feel how hard it is. But we need to know it’s good, because we might not feel that.

Waiting is good because our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on that for which we wait. When we wait for God- as John Piper puts it, in his place and at his pace-we show the world that He is worth the wait.

The watching world-the audience to our waiting stage, sees God’s great worth when we don’t forge ahead with our own plans. But they are stubborn children, God declared through his prophet Isaiah, who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin. They see it when we look to food and drink and worthless things and desperately ally ourselves to sinful things. When we tell ourselves, The end justifies the means. God will understand. The watching world sees this too.

So we who would be meek and sanctified waiters had best be on guard, Because waiting tempts us two big ways.

Two Waiting Temptations

Waiting can tempt us too take a rash detour– to get on with our plan and away from the wait- or to give up altogether. I’ve known both.

We were married ten years before God opened my womb. Mostly I despised that wait in such a barren place, God’s place, I’ve come to see. How longingly I looked at methods that offered life, but at far too high a price. Were it not for Jim’s resolve, I might have taken this detour, taken things into my own hands, taken up a plan, but not his. Only by God’s grace did I stay in his place. 

Those friends of ours? A few days ago they got “the call.” After years on the domestic stage, they fly in sixteen days. When God says move, I guess you move, my friend wrote. By his grace, they go at his pace. 

This is why we, who he created for his glory, are here. We are on this waiting stage to showcase his grace, to show others that the glory of our God is worth our wait.  I waited patiently for the LORD, he inclined to me and heard my cry. Many will see and fear, and put their hope in the LORD (Psalm 40:1,3). 

The off-stage watchers will see us wait for our God to act and, the Psalmist said, will put their hope in our Lord too.

Wait is not waste. (I.e., The queue has a view.)

Waiting increases faith. God wants to be in deep, faith relationship with us. If he didn’t care so much about that relationship, explains Paul Maxwell,

…He would give you everything you wanted immediately. He would placate you with the pleasures of this world. For those who know God, that is intuitively unlike him — not unlike him to bless, but unlike him to appease. God did not send his Son to propitiate your temper tantrum (Rom 3:25).

Because he loves you, God will not bless you so richly that you do not have to trust him. He blesses you seasonally, proportionately, and incrementally, because he wants to bestow you with both the gift itself and the gift of faith, and never the former without the latter. CCEF counselor Ed Welch observes, “Such prosperity would be a curse.” 

What are you waiting for? Your house to sell or to finally be well? A conception at last or a loved one to pass? Outcome of a tick bite or solid sleep through the night? Change in our nation or a dear one’s salvation? For family peace or conflict to cease? Take heart: The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him (Lamentations 3:25).

Wait for it. Wait for Him. Stay the course. And remember, right now, at this very second, The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is whole toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9)

God is looking to help you wait well. Which means we don’t lose heart. We do the next thing.

Do the next thing.  

Back 2,000 years ago to Peter.

Somewhere between week two and day forty, after leaving peace with the locked-in Eleven, Jesus appeared to seven.  And he revealed himself this way:

Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to the, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out into the boat, but that night they caught nothing (John 21:2-3).

They did the next thing. They were still waiting. Peter did some his place and at his pace, be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord waiting. “Do the next thing” waiting.

Remember what happened then?

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net n the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

The rest is history. Peter strips down, throws himself into the sea and catches 153. They see the Lord for whom they’ve waited. And guess what? He’s been in control all along. While they were waiting in the boat, doing the next thing, Jesus was on the shore working for them.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread…Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” And Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead (John 21:9,12-14). 

What a God! He works while we wait. He serves his servants and calls them his friends.

So while we bide our time in and on this waiting stage, let’s “keep ourselves in the love of God as we wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 21). 

Because one glorious day, we will exit this stage- the Director will write us off- and we will say, You were worth the wait. 

“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Isaiah 25:9

 

 

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