Want to see first hand and up close the truth about human anxiety? Visit any waiting room or area. It's a vivid picture of people struggling on the ragged edges of life. They are waiting. And, it may be one of the more trying challenges for our species, that is patiently enduring until our name or number is called or the line advances to our turn. Whether in a doctors office, the airport, or moving to the check-out register at Wally World, we have what I call a wait problem. Unless we're wired at birth with extra measures of resolve, or have achieved a measure of spiritual maturity, our internal gears are calibrated for movement. Waiting is one of our more critical tests.
Looking and listening up may be our first lesson in times of trial. Severe times should lift our eyes and ears toward heaven for God's provision in adversity. However, shifting our attention heaven-ward is very often attended by the expectation that God will respond to our prayers and pleas, you know, like right now. But, like many life processes, with personal grief as a classic example, we can't look and listen up with a stop-watch in our hands. There's this thing about God's timing that superintends even our darkest and most miserable moments. As Jesus reminded the apostles before his ascension, "It is not for you to know the times and seasons the Father has fixed by his own authority" (Acts 1:7, ESV). It's an element of learning to wait on God.
It's difficult to count the number of times Bible people asked the on-point question when their waiting mechanisms were depleted. King David asked it often: "How long, Lord". In Psalm 13 alone the question is asked four times---
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Psalm 13: 1,2, ESV
Of course there are many other occurrences in the Psalms. Make note of Psalm 35:17; 62:3; 74:9; 79:5; 80:4; 82:2; 89:46; 90:13; 119:84; and many others perhaps lost in translation. All of the intrigue in his family, in his reign over Israel, and in his personal spiritual life created long periods of doubt and uncertainty, often culminating in a desperate plea to God, "How long, Lord?" Evidently the man after God's own heart had a wait problem too. And, there were others as well. Check out Habakkuk 1:2, and Zechariah 1:12 as examples.
My personal favorite is what Isaiah asked in the moments after he said, "Here am I Lord, send me" (Isaiah 6:8, ESV). The occasion is one of the high moments of the Old Testament, when Isaiah was given entrance to the throne room of God. The majesty and glory of God resonated in the text, and Isaiah was overcome with his own sinfulness. After the angels cleaned his filthy lips Isaiah heard God ask, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" (Isaiah 6:8). How thrilled to hear Isaiah's voice of surrender, "Here am I Lord, send me". Talk about a mountaintop experience. Then, immediately after those words, his wait problem became visible. He asked, "How long O Lord?" (Isaiah 6:11, ESV). Sounds a lot like some time conscious people I know.
Waiting on God is a prominent recurring Bible theme too, more verses than I can list or mention with any degree of clarity in this venue. Rather than enumerating them, let me identify several Scriptural promises that provide endurance and confidence as we wait on God.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole
spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5: 23, 24 (ESV)
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me
up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our
God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1-3, ESV (This is my personal life verse).
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who
wait for 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.
Isaiah 40: 30-31, ESV
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due
1 Peter 5:6, NIV
This last verse is very special to me. It was given to me on the morning after our son Brian Eliot Holmes was murdered, July 18, 2011. It doesn't mention waiting on God specifically. The word "wait" isn't there. Still, it is the spiritual discipline that permits any of us to understand the concept of "due time" and compels us to wait for it.
Adversity in life should immediately draw our eyes and ears toward heaven so we can look and listen up. Lesson 2 is an important learning as well. It is know and trust the one who will hear us and lift us in his time. It is the virtue of waiting on God.
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