Waiting can be discouraging. Waiting can be hard. So what does it look like to wait in a way that makes you a participant in what God is doing rather than someone who struggles against the wait? Let me suggest four things today, and I'll add three more on Monday.
Remind yourself that you're not alone
As you wait, tell yourself again and again that you haven't been singled out. Remind yourself that you’re part of a vast company of people who are being called to wait.
Reflect on the biblical story. Abraham waited many years for his promised son. Israel waited 420 years for deliverance from Egypt, then another 40 years before they could enter the land God had promised them. God's people waited generation after generation for the Messiah, and the church now waits for his return. The whole world groans as it waits for the final renewal of all things that God has promised.
It’s vital to understand that waiting isn’t an interruption of God's plan. It is his plan. And you can know this as well: the Lord who’s called you to wait is with you in your wait. He hasn't gone off to do something else, like the doctor you're waiting to see. No, God is near, and he provides for you all that you need to be able to wait.
Realize that waiting is active
Usually our view of waiting is the doctor's office. We see it as a meaningless waste of time, like a man stuck in the reception area until he has nothing left to do but scan recipes in a two-year-old copy of Ladies' Home Journal.
Our waiting on God mustn’t be understood this way. The sort of waiting to which we’re called is not inactivity. It’s very positive, purposeful, and spiritual.
- To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of remembering: remembering who I am and who God is.
- To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of worship: worshiping God for his presence, wisdom, power, love, and grace.
- To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of serving: looking for ways to lovingly assist and encourage others who are also being called to wait.
- To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of praying: confessing the struggles of my heart and seeking the grace of the God who has called me to wait.
We must rethink waiting and remind ourselves that waiting is itself a call to action.
Celebrate how little control you have
Waiting is difficult for us because we want to be little gods that reign with complete power over a small piece of creation. But ultimately that's a draining and futile pursuit, so waiting should actually be a relief to us. It's a reminder that I don't have as much power and control as I thought I had.
Pastors, elders and ministry leaders, let me speak to you right now. When you're required to wait, you realize again that you don’t have to load your church onto your shoulders. You may have God-given responsibilities in a number of areas, but that’s vastly different from pretending you have sovereignty in any area.
The church is being carried on the capable shoulders of the Savior Shepherd and the King of Kings. All we're responsible for is the job description of character and behavior that this King has called us to in his Word. With the remainder, we're free to entrust to him, and for that we ought to be very, very thankful! He really does have the whole world in his hands.
Celebrate God's commitment to his work of grace
As you’re waiting, reflect on how deeply broken the world that you live in actually is. Reflect on how pervasive your own struggle with sin really is. Then celebrate the fact that God is committed to the countless ways, large and small, in which his grace is at work to accomplish his purposes in you and in those to whom you minister.
When it comes to the ongoing work of grace, he is a dissatisfied Redeemer. He won’t forsake the work of his hands until all has been fully restored. He’ll exercise his power in whatever way is necessary so that we can finally be fully redeemed from this broken world and delivered from the sin that’s held us fast.
Celebrate the fact that God won’t forsake that process of grace in your life and ministry in order to deliver to you the momentary comfort, pleasure, and ease that you would rather have in your time of exhaustion, discouragement, and weakness. He simply loves you too much to exchange temporary gratification for eternal glory!