Originally published Tuesday, 18 February 2014.
Like most children, my kids hate to wait. We were at the doctor's office recently waiting for our turn when one of my kids remarked, "We'll be stuck here for days!" On another occasion, they complained about how long it was taking us to get somewhere, saying it would take “forever.” I decided to time how long "forever" actually was. (In case you are wondering, forever is 7 minutes 14 seconds).
To be honest, I don't like waiting either. When I have a plan, I want it happen right now. I don't like to be in-between where I was and where I want to go. I don't like not knowing how long it is going to take to reach my goal.
This is especially true when I am in the midst of a struggle or trial. I want it to be over right away. I want clear answers and direction on how to get out of my trial. Waiting is the very last thing I want to do.
Yet, when I am struggling with something or going through a challenge, it seems like waiting is something God wants me to do. He seems to take longer to respond to my pleas. I start to wonder if he even hears me or that perhaps he doesn't have the time for me. I feel as though I am lost in a deep valley. The fog is dense and I cannot see a way out. I wander aimlessly, crying out for relief and rescue. In times like this, my heart resonates with David's in Psalm 13, "How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" (vs.1)
In the book of Lamentations, the writer had also been through an intense trial. He was weary and worn and felt as though he had lost all hope. Throughout the book he lamented over the sin of the people and God's subsequent judgment. "I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, "My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord." (3:17-18)
I can relate.
Yet the poet didn't stay there. He spoke his lament; he voiced the depths of his sorrow and pain and then he reminded himself of what he knew to be true. Though he felt like he had no hope, he reminded himself that he actually did have hope. "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope; The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." (3:21-24).
In reflection on his despair and the emotional turmoil he had gone through, he went on to say that waiting is a good thing and that the Lord blesses those who wait for him. "The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." (3:25-26).
If you are like me and hate waiting, you may wonder, just how can waiting on the Lord be a good thing?
Whether we are waiting for relief from a trial, an answer to prayer or direction on which way to go, waiting on the Lord is good for us. Sometimes the purpose of these times of waiting is so that we would seek and thirst after God. As we linger in the valley, we realize that we can't do life on our own. We've exhausted all our counterfeit and temporary resources and find that we can't rely on ourselves. We admit that we can't do anything apart from God. These times of waiting empty us of all that we have relied on and trusted in.
Because we can’t be filled until we’ve been emptied.
In waiting, we find that God hasn't answered our prayers and given us all that we've asked for because he knows it will not satisfy our deepest longings. He knows we'll end up thirsty again. But in having us wait in the silence, with only the resounding echo of his apparent absence, we realize that he is the only thing that can satiate our thirst. Because the reality is, God is not concerned with making us happy and fulfilling all our wishes but in removing all the obstacles in our life that keep us from true enjoyment--that of God himself.
It is important that we don't waste our waiting. We need to use that time wisely, reflecting and remembering. Like the poet in Lamentations, we need to return to God, to the truth of who he is and what he has done. We need to remember his great love for us in Christ. We need to remind ourselves of his grace poured out for us at the cross and his vast stores of grace available for us moment by moment. As we reflect on his faithfulness, we realize that we really do have hope and we say with the poet, "therefore I will hope in him."
In Psalm 143, David was also in this place of waiting. His prayer can be our prayer. "I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah. Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul" (vs. 5-8).
Though waiting is hard, it is good. We need times of dry valley wanderings to increase our thirst for God. And he is faithful. When we use those seasons of waiting to seek after him, he will reward us and quench our thirst with more of himself. For only he can satisfy the deepest longings of our heart. "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).
Are you in a season of waiting? How can you seek and thirst after God during this time?