The transforming power of waiting on God

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The transforming power of waiting on God

August 2, 2022 - Dr. Jim Denison

© jessicahyde /stock.adobe.com

© jessicahyde /stock.adobe.com

I am waiting a lot these days. Waiting for my back to heal after spinal fusion surgery. Waiting for training camp to begin in hopes our Dallas Cowboys might actually win two playoff games for the first time in twenty-seven seasons. Waiting for our Texas Rangers to find enough starting pitching for the first time in decades.

Waiting for the incessant heat in Texas to change and for the drought to break. Waiting for the state-by-state legalities following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade to get sorted out so more babies can be saved. Waiting for the spiritual awakening that is our only hope of moral transformation in this post-Christian, even anti-Christian culture.

Waiting, as I am learning, is hard. Waiting on God can be even harder.

When I began my PhD dissertation in 1986, I wrote on an index card these words from Galatians 6:9: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” I taped the card to my study carrell where I could see it every day. I still have that card.

And I still need the hope it promises.

Are you waiting on God?

Are you waiting on God today?

Are you waiting for him to work in your church in ways only he can? In your family or finances or personal health? Are you waiting for him to guide you in making a pivotal decision? To bring reconciliation in a broken relationship?

Scripture continually encourages us to “wait” on God:

  • “The Lᴏʀᴅ is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25).
  • “Wait for the Lᴏʀᴅ; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lᴏʀᴅ!” (Psalm 27:14).
  • “They who wait for the Lᴏʀᴅ 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 40:31).
  • “Wait for the Lᴏʀᴅ and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off” (Psalm 37:34).

As I find myself in a “waiting” season, I’ve identified five simple principles that are encouraging me. I hope they’ll do the same for you.

Trust God’s character

The psalmist could testify, “Our soul waits for the Lᴏʀᴅ; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name” (Psalm 33:20–21). It is easier to wait on someone when you trust their character and know that waiting must therefore serve a redemptive purpose. They are not merely running late or presuming that their time is more valuable than yours.

Note the present tenses: God “is our help and our shield . . . our heart is glad in him.” When these are true for us today, we can wait for God to act tomorrow.

Remember his faithfulness in the past

The prophet pictured our Savior’s atoning love in this memorable way: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5).

When we remember what God has done for us in the past, we are encouraged to trust him in the present. Br. Todd Blackham of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Boston writes: “When God does for us what we could not do for ourselves, and delighted gratitude wells up, we learn to accept all manner of gifts that were too wonderful for us to perceive. May they restore to us an expectant wonder. Be bold, like Mary, to proclaim to the world, ‘The Lord has done great things for me. And holy is his name.’”

Redeem the time

As we wait, God redeems our waiting by blessing our worship: when we “trust in his holy name” (Psalm 33:20), one consequence is that “our heart is glad in him” (v. 21). Trust positions us to receive the joy God intends to give. He redeems the waiting moments with his joy-giving presence in response to our faith.

We can then ask for his best in the present even as we wait for his best in the future: “Let your steadfast love, O Lᴏʀᴅ, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (v. 22).

Continue to trust

When Mary Magdalene found Jesus’ tomb empty, she notified Peter and John (John 20:1–2). They came, saw the tomb empty, then “went back to their homes” (v. 10). But she did not: “Mary stood weeping outside the tomb” (v. 11), and there she met her risen Lord (vv. 14–16) and became the first evangelist of Easter (vv. 17–18).

Commenting on her persistence, Pope Gregory the Great observed, “At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow strong, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love.”

Believe his timing is best

Our Father wants more for us than we know to want for ourselves. That’s why the Scottish minister John Baillie prayed,

“Teach me that even my highest thoughts of you are but a dim and distant shadow of your transcendent glory. . . . Let me take refuge in the thought that you are utterly beyond me, beyond the sweep of my imagination, beyond the comprehension of my mind. Your judgments are unsearchable and your ways past finding out.”

In ways we will not fully understand on this side of glory, “The Lᴏʀᴅ is good to those who wait for him” (Lamentations 3:25).

Will God be “good” to you today?

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