In the mundane routine that makes up most of our days, we spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for the red light to turn green, waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting in line to pick up lunch, waiting for the kids to get ready, waiting for the weekend to come. In our busyness, it seems we are relentlessly made to wait. I don’t know about you, but most days I don’t particularly like waiting. Perhaps this is the reason it seems God has had me in an extended period of waiting on Him.
What does it mean to wait upon God? The Bible has a lot to say on this subject. One familiar verse is Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” We are told to wait for Him always: “But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.” (Hos. 12:6)
There are several saints in the Scriptures who also found themselves waiting on God – sometimes for many years. God visits Abraham, giving him a promise that he and Sarah would have a son in their old age. In the process of waiting, Sarah gets impatient and decides to do it her way, causing problems that we are still dealing with today. Joseph receives a promise through two prophetic dreams and then goes through a long season of waiting on God. After many years and trials, he finally receives the promise of God when he is reunited with his family and promoted to second in command of all of Egypt.
God’s idea of waiting upon Him is not passively sitting around until He decides to move. If you look up the different words that are translated “wait,” the literal meaning of one is, “to look for; to hope; to expect; to look eagerly for.” Another word used literally means, “to wait longingly; to travail; to writhe (in travail for); to wait anxiously, to be distressed; to be pained.” Not exactly a picture of passivity!
Waiting upon God is painful and often distressing. I believe it is the greatest crucible we must endure in our journey of faith. Waiting burns up our flesh, because by nature, we are impatient creatures. God uses seasons of waiting to develop our character. He used Moses’ forty years of tending sheep to humble him. Waiting causes us to realize our great need of, and dependency upon God. Waiting caused Abraham and Sarah to understand that His ways are far higher, and better, than ours.
During seasons of waiting, God wants us to continue to hope. Biblical hope is confident expectation – not wishful thinking. He wants us to continually look for, and expect His promises to be fulfilled. Waiting requires trust, which is faith that He will do what He said He would do. Sometimes in the waiting, He will call us to travail with Him in prayer. In Scripture, this type of prayer is depicted as a woman in labor to bring forth a child. At these times, we must labor in the place of prayer, receiving the burden of His heart and “birthing” it through the Spirit. Paul spoke of this in Galatians 4:19, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” He often labored in prayer to see God have His way in His people.
Waiting is often painful, but it’s a necessary part of our journey to become like Jesus. He is the picture of perfect submission, patience, humility, obedience, and all those wonderful characteristics that we really long for in our own lives. May He teach us all how to wait upon Him!