In the past 5 weeks, I’ve begun to learn – to really grasp down deep – one of the most challenging and necessary lessons of my 25-year life.
I’m learning in earnest how to wait for God.
I’ve often heard that phrase (or its variant “wait on God”) sprinkled through Christian conversation and slipped into devotional books… I’ve even tossed it around myself more than a few times.
But this “waiting” is no longer merely an idea to me; in the past month it has smacked me square in the face.
When I say “waiting for God,” I mean that each morning I rise to a day of quietness, of not knowing things I would very much prefer to know, of having to open my empty hands again and again and trust that this temporary blindness to my future is just precisely what I need. When I say “waiting,” I don’t mean the waiting of a child who counts the days until his birthday finally comes, or a fiance waiting for the wedding day to arrive at last… Those sorts of waiting have a definite and clearly outlined end standing ready at the conclusion of the waiting, giving buoyancy to the patience. No, I mean the sort of waiting that is clueless to outcomes, the sort of waiting that has had to release the right to know or plan or predict, the sort of waiting that has cried out in need and urgency, “God, I will have whatever You give me… whatever You give me. And I will wait, without knowing for what I wait… except that I wait for You.”
Things hurt. Things happen that we wish achingly we could undo. Things get confusing. Things sometimes grow in our lives into convolutions and masses that are too knotted for us to untangle, no matter how earnestly we want to fix them or sort them out.
And just when we yearn for something from the Lord that is concrete and definite, something to help us unravel what we can’t unravel alone, He instead says to us, “Wait for Me.” … or, “Be still and know that I am God.”
“Just wait? That’s it?” we think to ourselves (at least I’ve thought that throughout this past month), “I want an answer… some solid direction!”
But that tender, sturdy voice holds fast: “Wait for Me.”
And then begins a slow trickle, a tender stream of promises telling us of the hope that grows up out of the fertile soil of quietness and trust, of the steadiness of character that is crafted only in the furnace of discipline, of the maturity that makes its home in the heart that has learned to surrender everything, even the right to plan and know.
And if we can quiet our protests and our tantrums and our surges of impatience – if we can lift our eyes to the horizon rather than fixing them on our shuffling feet – we will discover that the one thing for which we’ve so long been searching – Joy in its most real and true sense – is hidden in the most surprising of places. It is not found in the unveiling of a great “solution,” nor in the “fixing” of our problems, nor in the great revelation of what is next for us, nor in the fruition of all our ambitions. No, the Joy – the unimaginable best that we can long for as humans – is found in letting go, in surrender: a thorough and ruthless surrender before God that leaves no surviving pride or self-importance. There is nothing sweeter in this life than lifting open and empty hands to God, having offered to Him all our ambitions, triumphs, defeats, dreams, passions, timetables, agendas, plans, sins, and desires. The whole lot.
Such a surrender brings Joy because of this fact: when we empty ourselves of the clamor and clutter of our thousand other ambitions, aims, achings, plans, and gods (little ‘g’), we are ready to be filled up with One Magnificent thing: God Himself.
He “draws near” to the humble indeed.
And when we let go of our right to know things now, when we set our hearts to wait for Him – regardless of the specifics we do or don’t have – we have found one of the most marvelous secrets of our existence: “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Is. 40:31)
There is a mystifying, spirit-empowering, and heaven-breathed power unleashed upon those who “wait for the Lord.”
And with each new day of quiet and uncertainty that I face, I become more convinced – as I cling to the promises of God and wait for Him – that the waiting carries such power because He reveals Himself so intimately and tenderly to those who wait. Never have I savored the kindnesses of God, the person of Jesus, as much as I do in seasons of uncertainty and the eerie quiet of slumbering plans.
In the waiting, in the surrender of knowing what is next, comes a strengthening within me to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is who He says He is… And He is for me not against me.
I won’t pretend to have mastered this lesson of waiting for God. FAR from it! Likewise, I am not suggesting that the circumstances of the past month for me are worse than most others face, not at all (my challenges and uncertainties are of my own doing)… Instead, I say honestly: I have a thousand miles yet to go on this journey of learning to wait on God. But the important thing is that I’m learning at all.
That is my encouragement, to myself and to those like me: whether the thing we face is small or medium or large in its severity of confusion and difficulty, let’s learn the lesson of waiting on God, let’s learn surrender. Let’s ask for hearts willing to release all our own agendas, repent deeply of our sins, and open up empty hands to receive from God whatever He might give.
Because, friends, I guarantee you that what He gives us to replace what we’ve surrendered will be ten thousand times better, if we can only wait for it, for Him…
Our surrender might be painful, but it need never be despairing… For – in the economy of God- we always surrender meager rubbish to receive a most valuable and excellent treasure, exceeding all of our imaginings.
We might not know the specifics, but we know Him, and He is Good – so good that the simplest raw understanding of that goodness would be as a hurricane to us. He is loving – so loving that even a small glimpse into the reality of that love would plaster us to the ground with awe.
So we can rightly tell our hearts:
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13)
There is no room for despair in this waiting – no room to stare at our shuffling feet and moan about our slow progress or convoluted path – because the goodness of the Living God thunders at the horizon before us, if we will only lift our eyes to see it: a landscape of hope kissing the chin of a sky thick with the tenderest mercies of Heaven.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”