Hardships

Trusting God As I Wait

How do I wait during times of hope deferred?

Sarah Martin

I am a terrible waiter.

Not the food-service kind. The restless, impatient, I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me kind.

So, after waiting more than 30 years to get married, I anticipated a great feeling of relief to characterize those early months of holy matrimony.

Amid the typical adjusting-to-married-life challenges and new ways of communicating would reign the joy of hope fulfilled and the pleasant calm of having turned the page. The waiting was over. Wasn’t it?

Instead, reality set in.

Another season of waiting met me in that next chapter.

It came in the form of my husband’s mysterious illness.

My husband visited doctor after doctor. We scoured the Internet. We sought counsel.

Months kept passing. Nothing worked.

Friends assured me it would pass before I knew it.

The words “God is sovereign” and “He is in control” escaped my lips, but, on the inside, I still obsessed about my husband’s baffling symptoms and tried to forge plan after plan that would appease my fearful worrying.

Isolation became my default, and anger bubbled beneath the surface.

For years, my email signature had closed my messages with a simple verse: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage” (Psalm 27:14). I can't recall what prompted the choice in the past, but I found those words particularly challenging in the present.

“Be strong...” I felt nothing that even resembled strength.

“Let your heart take courage...” My heart seemed to be choosing despair over courage.

“Wait for the Lord...” What was I really waiting for?

We’re all well-acquainted with waiting. Ask anyone and you’ll hear about people waiting for jobs, to become parents, for companionship, healing, reconciliation, justice, direction. The list goes on and on.

All the while society encourages -- even glorifies -- instant gratification, express lanes, fast passes, next-day shipping, buy now, pay later.

On the outside, getting what I want, when I want it, sounds great.

But does that really match up with what I say I believe?

God is a perfect, sovereign, all-powerful Creator.

I have to believe He doesn’t make mistakes or forget or overlook.

So, that’s where I started, with the Author and Perfecter of my faith.

And during this time of hope deferred, I began to see how God knit waiting into the very fiber of our existence.

As children, we yearn to be older, to enjoy the “freedom” attributed to those years that offer driver’s licenses and diplomas and that first paycheck.

As adults, we typically wait 40 weeks for a baby to arrive, and then we wait till she walks and speaks and outgrows the need for diapers.

Forget the big stuff, we even pause for our food to digest, wait for our hair to grow, or our scrapes and cuts to heal.

Scripture gives us story after story of God’s children experiencing deep longing. Waiting for deliverance, for the Promised Land, for the Savior.

David wrote about it: “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

Jesus Himself waited. He could have come to earth as a full-grown man beginning His work immediately.

Instead, He arrived as a baby and didn’t perform a single recorded miracle for more than 30 years.

He also could have risen from the dead mere seconds after succumbing on the cross. Yet He stayed in the grave 3 days, much to the dismay of His family, friends and followers.

And His Second Coming? About it Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God, too, is a waiter.

Yet He intertwines waiting with His promises.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” (Isaiah 30:18).

He continued, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (40:31).

Pondering those words, I can’t help but notice a common theme: waiting for God.

Not just waiting for His return, but for Him. His character. His love. His grace.

Not the thing that I think I’m waiting for.

Having to wait requires me to feel the depth of my need and my inability to do things alone.

Having to wait exposes upon whom I trust and depend.

Having to wait allows for my growth, maturity and, sometimes, the opportunity to savor things I could only enjoy at that unique time.

Considering how I usually respond to seasons of longing, I overlook those benefits.

Instead I have moments of obsessive focus on what I don’t have, angry complaining, frantic comparisons. Basically, I become self-absorbed.

Yet God unflinchingly commits to the process of what He is doing in and through me whether or not I realize it.

He knows what I need. He knows how I feel. And in His great love, He does not give in to my requests (ok, demands) when He knows the greatness of what He has in mind instead.

He asks me to look beyond myself. He asks me to wait for Him and His purposes in His timing because of who He is.

Even today, as my flesh demands answers (and a diagnosis), a deeper question awaits me: Do I trust God enough to wait for Him?

The all-powerful God who has ransomed His people, defeated the grave and persevered generation after generation so that all might come to repentance, invites me to embrace my unfulfilled longings, for better or worse, in the dark days, in the joy-filled days and in this current season of waiting.

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