I do not enjoy waiting. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I loathe waiting. But then, I have yet to meet anyone who really does enjoy it. Isn’t the majority of our lives spent waiting for something? It never fails that I get stopped at a freight train when I’m already late, or the line at the grocery store is miles long when I only have one item, or one of my kids can’t find a shoe when school is about to start. From the time we are young, we anxiously wait to grow up so we can experience more freedom. Along the way, we wait: to find out the college we’ll get into, to meet the right person to marry, for the right job, in traffic, to be seated at a restaurant, to have a baby, for test results, for answers to prayer, and for eternity. How can we possibly find any peace or contentment in this world if we are always waiting for something? It seems that one of God’s greatest tools of stretching and increasing our faith comes in the form of WAITING.
When we take a step back to see God’s perspective of waiting, instead of seeing it as an inconvenience to our plans, we may just see that it can be a blessing in disguise.
My husband, Jeff, and I were recently reflecting on the struggle he and our family have gone through over the past year as we prayed and pleaded for the Lord to provide a new job for him that would provide some relief for our family; a job that seemed would never come. I would like to share some of what God has been teaching each of us through the past year(s) of “waiting”.
(Jeff) Have you ever gone an extended period of waiting on God to bring some change in your life? For me, it was over this past year as I desperately needed relief from the job I was in. My job was incredibly stressful for both my family and I, which had led to challenges in our family, children, and marriage. Being on call, I was able to be called away at a moment’s notice, whether day, night, or weekend. My family struggled with the constant disappointment of me leaving and often missing out on church, birthdays, and other times my family needed me. As the stress continued to build, I struggled to understand why God wasn’t allowing me to move from my current situation when it seemed my desires were in line with things that were honoring to Him. But through this intense time of questioning and waiting, our hearts were being changed.
Here are few things that God has been teaching us both.
1. To love God more than anything else the world has to offer. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” Deuteronomy 6:5.
God wants ALL of us. He doesn’t want us to need Him PLUS comfort, money, career, health, or a spouse. He wants us to see that He is all we truly need. However, sin is often pulling our affections towards other things. Seasons of waiting reveal sin that is easier to hide when life is going well. God loves us enough to allow us to experience seasons in the wilderness in order to expose outward righteousness and penetrate the sin lurking in our hearts, that we may learn to fear Him and see that only He can fill the emptiness inside us all.
(Jeff) As much as we wanted relief for our family, we had to face the question…”Do we love and serve Christ because He can make our situation better or do we love Him because He is all that we need? We found that as we prayed and sought answers, our hearts began to change from just wanting relief to desiring more of Christ, whether relief came or not.
Are you waiting for something in your life that God seems silent to? Could He be asking you to seek HIM first above all else?
2. God is teaching us that waiting isn’t passive.
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” Ephesians 6:14-18.
At all times we must be actively working to apply the truth of the Gospel in whatever situation we are in. Even waiting should be active!
(Jeff) When change doesn’t come as quickly as we’d like or we don’t see a prayer answered in the timing or way we think is best, we can become complacent or paralyzed by it. God wants to use us right where we are but, if we take a back seat while we wait, we may miss what He has in store for us at this time and in this place.
Could it be that God wants to use you to encourage someone else who is struggling? Or could it be that He is simply working His grace more deeply in your heart to make you more like Him?
(Jeff) God brought Sarah and I to a point where we had to see that this time of waiting was God stirring in us the willingness to do something radical. Sometimes we simply need to rest and wait for God, but there are other times when God may use that same time of waiting to redirect and lead us a way that we never would have gone otherwise. Although I was job hunting, networking, and interviewing frequently, it seemed I had no options and was boxed into my current situation due to many challenging circumstances. We were faced with either being stuck in our situation or doing something drastic. As we prayed about it and sought counsel, we saw that we did have options, but it would require sacrifice that we hadn’t even considered. We made a decision to sell the home we had fallen in love with just 3 years earlier and downsize so I could consider jobs that would entail a large pay cut. God allowed the pressure to build enough to bring us to a point of letting go of everything we had worked hard for, even the house that our flesh wanted to hold tightly to. We had to ask the question, “Is Christ, and Christ alone what we will live for?
Neither of us would deny that this step of faith has been difficult. We have doubted, grieved, and struggled with our emotions. However, we have also felt an overwhelming sense of peace and assurance that God will provide for us every step of the way as we follow Him. He has been faithful and He will continue to be.
3. We must fight a discontent and grumbling Spirit.
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” Philippians 2:14-16.
(Jeff) It can be a temptation in times of waiting to become so focused on the end result that we miss out on what is right in front of us for today. This was a constant battle for me in my job situation. It was a daily temptation to give way to the battle in my mind and breed a discontent and grumbling spirit over some of the unfair ways I was being treated in my job. I struggled with wanting to fight back in my own wisdom, instead of waiting for the Lord to defend me. I was given an opportunity to portray Christ to my coworkers in the way I handled the unfair treatment and my faith was stretched as I waited on God’s timing to change my situation. If we aren’t careful though, our desire for relief or change can so consume us that they give way to anger, bitterness, and discontentment, causing us to miss the opportunity to show Christ to those watching.
We can’t do this on our own, but we can pray “Lord use me where I am and give me contentment in my current situation. Give me strength to fix my eyes on Your ways and give me joy in serving You today. Show me how to honor you with the circumstances I am given.
4. God is teaching us to overcome doubt by remembering God’s faithfulness and provision from the past and His promise to be faithful in the future.
“And you shall remember the WHOLE way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness…”Deuteronomy 8:2 (Emphasis mine).
Remembering God’s faithfulness from the past is one of the surest ways to calm the anxiousness within us. Moses reminded the Israelites how God had led them the WHOLE way through the wilderness. He didn’t come and go or lead them just when they were obedient. God was faithful to lead them despite their faithlessness at times. Sometimes, our circumstances can seem hopeless and endless, but we must fight those lies by constantly replaying God’s past faithfulness and the promises in His Word that He will continue to be faithful. God is always at work in and through His children.
5. God is teaching us to humbly depend on Him to provide all that we need.
“He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years” Deuteronomy 8:3-4.
God preserved the clothes on their back and their feet did not swell for FORTY years! While God allowed the Israelites to endure the wilderness, He provided for them the whole way. He provided endurance and strength for their long journey so that they could continue to walk and make progress on the path He was leading them on.
(Jeff) Sometimes we get confused between what we want and what we really need. These seasons of waiting can reveal to us the frivolity of the things we often think we need and instead open our eyes to things that are of true importance and eternal value.
There were certainly times when this happened in my waiting. The difference of what I wanted and what I really needed became blurred, which led me to question God when an interview fell through or the “perfect” job didn’t pan out as it seemed it would. Over time, I began to experience peace as Christ opened my eyes to see that He had something better than anything I could have planned. When I focused on what was in front of me, I was frustrated and impatient, but when I put my eyes back on Christ and His truth, I found confidence and peace that He was working and providing for everything I needed for that day.
6. God uses seasons of waiting to lovingly discipline His children.
“Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in His ways and by fearing Him” Deuteronomy 8:5-6.
(Jeff) Sometimes a season of waiting stems from God’s loving discipline due to our own sin as we see it was for the Israelites. However, suffering, trials, and seasons of waiting on God does not always mean we are being disciplined for something specific. The discipline of God is also seen in the way that Hebrews 12:5-7, 11 talks about it; “My Son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure…For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
The discipline of God corrects and trains, but also produces endurance and maturity in our faith. We can pray as we endure through a season of waiting that God would produce in us the fruits of the Spirit and for His work of sanctification in our life. This requires a daily choice of surrendering our will to His with radical obedience.
7. God is teaching us to hope in the abundant and eternal blessing He has for those who endure and wait patiently on Him.
“For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land…a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land He has given you” Deuteronomy 8:7a, 9-10.
God not only provides, but He pours out His blessings on those who obediently follow and wait on Him. He delights in blessing us as we learn to delight in Him.
(Jeff) After over a year of praying for a new job and seeing absolutely no end in sight, God opened doors that didn’t seem to even exist and swiftly changed our situation within weeks. We have been overwhelmed by His goodness to provide what we needed in His timing. However, this provision has looked different than we first desired. The season of waiting aligned our hearts more with His, giving us a willingness to accept a job with much lower pay, sell our home, and move in with Sarah’s parent’s as we wait for home. We have lost much of what we had in earthly terms but, have gained more contentment, peace, and joy than ever before. God Changes our situations in ways that only HE can, in the way He chooses, teaching us that although we cannot fully understand the workings and timing of God, we can fully trust Him to be faithful to provide exactly what we need.
While we are so thankful that God has provided a new job situation for our family, He doesn’t always choose to bring us the answers we are seeking while on this earth. There are many areas of our life that we are still being stretched as we wait on God. However, our waiting and trusting in Him is not in vain. He promises that one day, we will be brought into a good land where we will lack nothing and will be fully satisfied in the presence of Christ. May we faithfully endure till that day.
Wherever you may find yourself praying and waiting on God to work in your situation, do not give up or give way to hopelessness. Waiting in the wilderness can be one of the greatest grounds for transformation. Jesus Christ has conquered death and paid the penalty for our sins once and for all. We can walk in that truth and learn to trust Christ to lead, provide, and bless us along the path of waiting on Him.
Sarah (and Jeff) Walton
This song is such an amazing song for anyone going through a season of waiting on the Lord. May it be an encouragement to you.
[Photo Credit to: Christopher Martin Photography]