I spend much of my life waiting for something: for the light to change, for a response to my text or email, for the nurse to call my name. I wait for hard things, like answers to blood tests and for good things, like a vacation to start. I wait for dreams to come true and for answered prayers.
In many ways, the Christian life is one of waiting. We live in the in-between, a time between Christ's ascension and his promised return. We wait for Christ to come and make all things new. We wait for his glory to be revealed and his promises fulfilled. We wait for eternity where we will live forever worshiping our Savior.
Waiting is hard because we are impatient by nature. We want to speed things up and make things happen. We want things to take place on our time table. We look at waiting as wasted time—time we could be using for other things. We can't see waiting as productive and important in and of itself. We treat it like a no-man's land, a purgatory of sorts between where we've been and where we want to go.
Yet the Bible encourages waiting and sees it as a good thing, particularly a specific kind of waiting: waiting on the Lord. "The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD" (Lamentations 3:25-26). "From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him" (Isaiah 64:4).
Waiting doesn't mean not doing anything. It doesn't necessarily entail idleness or sitting still. In the Bible, waiting is a posture of the heart. It's a humble reliance upon the One who rules all things and holds all things together. It's living out the knowledge that God is good and faithful and will always be so. Biblical waiting requires hope and trust in our steadfast God.
In the passage above from Lamentations, waiting is described as "the soul who seeks him." This means there is work to be done in our waiting, important work.
What can we do in our waiting?
Wait in Prayer: As we wait on the Lord to move in our lives and in those around us, we seek him in prayer. Whatever we are waiting for—healing, restoration, provision, rescue—we cry out to the Lord in prayer. The Psalms of Lament are prayers of waiting for God to come to the rescue, whether for an individual or for God's people as a whole. These prayers are one's we can model and pray ourselves. And we don't just pray once, we pray repeatedly, telling the Lord our troubles, seeking his help, and responding to him with trust and praise.
Watch with Hope: We also watch for God to move. We wait with expectation. While God may not answer our prayers in the exact way we request, we know he is faithful. We know he loves us in Christ and he will do all for his glory and our good. So we wait with anticipatory hope. We look for his glory in our life. We look for his providential hand at work in all things. We trace his grace in all the details of our days, from the littlest things to the biggest. Like a child on Christmas Eve who can't fall asleep, excited for Christmas morning, we wait for our Father with hope.
Wonder with Joy: As we pray and watch for God's work, we wonder and marvel at his grace. We are his children, chosen in Christ before the creation of world. Through the blood of the Son, we are made holy, set apart for good works. We have a Father who cares about all the details of our lives, down to the number of hairs on our head. He knows what we need before we ask it. We have the down payment of our inheritance through the Spirit living within us, who comforts, guides, teaches, and exhorts us in righteousness. For all this and more, we wait in joy, because we know the One for whom we wait.
Waiting is hard. But good things happen in our hearts when we wait on the Lord. As we draw near to him in prayer, seeking him as our refuge, and watching for him to move, we can't help but wonder at his generous grace for us. As you wait on the Lord today, know that your waiting is not wasted time. It's not in vain. For you wait on the God who rules the universe and the One who has proven his faithfulness to you in Christ. So pray. Watch. And wonder.