“We live in a microwave culture.”
It was something my high school teacher said to my class years ago when I was an indifferent and disinterested teenager. “We want everything immediately. We avoid waiting at all costs to the point that we will even sacrifice quality for convenience.” As a teenager, I didn’t see anything wrong with this. Getting something right away meant I could enjoy its benefits immediately. To me, waiting meant nothing more than the opposite—a delay of something good. It had no value.
This attitude is probably something we’re all a little too familiar with.
Perhaps today it’s more accurate to say that we live in a “prime culture” where everything we could possibly want can be delivered by Amazon to our doorstep in two days or less. Guaranteed.
We don’t like line-ups at grocery stores, and we detest traffic on the roads. We grow impatient in waiting rooms and we loathe being on hold with customer service. In more significant circumstances, we are no different. We are restless waiting for career clarity or retirement. We are anxiously waiting to find our spouse or discover our vocation. We are frustrated waiting for that breakthrough or season of calm in our personal struggle. Waiting is an experience we try to avoid.
Back in January, I tried something new. I asked God to give me a word for the year, a word that would characterize and direct what my 2020 would look like. I expected to receive something profound, a clear word of action that would help me make significant decisions that would affect the whole trajectory of my life. I had spent an extended period of time searching for clarity for my future, and I wanted 2020 to be the year that I found that definitive answer.
Instead, I received the word wait.
I sensed that God wanted me to wait for His direction in my personal life, a direction that I would receive not anytime soon, but at an indefinite later.
I was disappointed, to say the least.
Although this word proved to be accurate in small but meaningful ways throughout my year, it is clear that I am still waiting for that definitive direction. And I sense that, just like the beginning of 2020, the beginning of 2021 will continue as a personal season of waiting.
Yet, my disposition has drastically changed; I no longer experience the same disappointment I previously had. Throughout the year, I leaned into the word wait.
Almost every other day, I was asking in prayer, “God, what do you mean by wait? What is it that you want me to wait for? How does waiting connect to what I am going through right now? Why are you asking me to wait?”
And in this active waiting and wrestling, He uncovered significant areas in my life that He wanted to work on in this season of waiting. By constantly asking God these questions, I was giving Him permission to answer and speak and to do the work He desired to do. Now, I recognize that if it is God who is asking me to wait, the same God who only has great plans for me, then this season is invaluable.
Waiting for something still to come is simultaneously the arrival of God’s purpose for my life at this moment in time.
It’s not merely a delay before something great begins; the waiting is itself God’s work in me right now, while also being intentional and necessary preparation for what is coming.
The Bible is filled with numerous instances where extended periods of waiting with the Lord have paved the way for amazing things. The Israelites waited decades until they entered the Promised Land and enjoyed the rewards their ancestors could only dream of (Exodus). The hemorrhaging woman in the Gospels waited twelve years before she experienced profound healing of the disease that plagued her for so long (Mark 5:25-29). There is the paralyzed man who waited thirty-eight years before he was miraculously healed and experienced a breakthrough in what seemed to be a hopeless struggle (John 5:5-9). And perhaps the greatest example of all is the centuries of waiting that God’s people lived through until the arrival of the Messiah. Jesus came in a way they didn’t expect and brought a freedom greater than anything they could have ever imagined. In all of them, God fulfilled His promises, and the wait was an integral part of the journey towards receiving the promises of God.
As I reflect on all of this and how it applies to life right now, especially in a year where it seems like all of our lives are on hold, these two insights have encouraged me in my continued waiting.
First, my waiting builds eagerness and excitement. As I wait, I am cultivating a deeper posture of desire, and when that great thing finally arrives, my gratitude for it will be at a level I could not have reached without the waiting. Think of a child whose eagerness and excitement are built up as he sees, day after day, that wrapped box bearing his name under the Christmas tree. In the same way, I grow in eagerness and excitement by constantly returning to God’s goodness and remembering that, as He promised, He has great things prepared for me.
Second, in seasons of waiting with the Lord, God stretches my capacity to receive so that I can fully accept that thing that He wants to give me. The fact is that sometimes I’m just not ready. Think about giving a baby a new bike or a young child their first car. Sometimes I have to mature and grow in order to fully embrace, use, or even understand a gift I’m given. And sometimes I need to understand God and myself better to fully appreciate the blessings He has for me.
We all experience some form of waiting. All of us are waiting for this pandemic to end, and for life to return to some semblance of normal. Some of us are waiting to resume plans that were paused due to the pandemic: a wedding, a big move, a big trip. Some of us have been in a season of waiting well before this pandemic. We are waiting for our vocation, our breakthrough, our healing, our direction, our purpose.
Yes, waiting can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience or a pause in our life. The process of waiting and walking with God may be incredibly purposeful.
It also doesn’t mean that I become content to remain in the waiting. It doesn’t mean that I stop dreaming for that thing I desire to receive. It doesn’t even mean that I sit back and passively wait for God to act.
I wait with an active and seeking heart that gives Him permission to do His work of preparation in me.
Trusting in the intentionality of God who has great plans for me, I embrace the waiting with hopeful anticipation.
Waiting can be life-giving. It’s a time where God wants to reveal more of who He is and a time where His plan is already unfolding below the surface. May we open ourselves to His work and experience the richness of the waiting. He is a faithful God, and His timing is perfect.
“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:25
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