Waiting: Spiritual Disciplines

During one season of life, I hated a particular “dirty four letter word”: wait. I was an angsty college student, single but didn’t want to be, and desperately trying to discern the Lord’s calling on my life. To all my prayers, I continued to get the same response: wait. It came so often and in so many forms that it became a “dirty four letter word,” and when I would hear it again, I would groan. Be quiet, child, and wait—it was the resounding word, in the Scripture I was reading, in my prayers, in the counsel of those I trusted. Wait for answers. Wait for His timing. Wait for healing. Wait to understand what He’s doing.

I had a small strip of cardstock taped to my desk during this season, on which I had scrawled a short snippet of Hosea 6:3: “As surely as the sun rises, he will appear.” Because of the surety of God’s appearing, Hosea calls us to “press on to know the Lord.” We can wait for God, and we can come to know Him better in the waiting, because it is his nature to be known and not forever hidden from us.

I’m never sure whether to be comforted or terrified by the waiting we see encapsulated in the Bible—Abraham and Sarah waiting for a promised child, the Israelites waiting to be freed from slavery in Egypt, David waiting to finally become king, the prophets waiting for justice, God’s people waiting for a Messiah, the church waiting to see the fulfillment of the Kingdom. Waiting is not foreign to this journey of faith, and God is patient and moves on His own timetable, not our own.

Waiting in any sense is a challenge. We wait in lines, impatiently tapping our feet when it doesn’t move as fast as we’d like. We wait for news, about test results or a potential job. We wait for spouses and for children, for peace, fulfillment, healing. As much as we wait, one would think we’d get better at it over time, but waiting always seems to be a trial. 

We don’t like waiting—and I, for one, don’t like to feel the wait—the empty, still, space of it. But the stillness of waiting quiets the distractions of being "on the move," and we can learn to just “be” with the Lord. He meets us here, in the waiting. 

Waiting forces us to sit in the uncomfortable, uncertain, angsty present. It forces us to acknowledge our lack of control. There is wisdom in this. We learn trust and patience, as we entrust our lives into His hands in the faith that He is good. As we wait, with all of our unanswered and unanswerable questions, we can look to God alone and say, “Lord, you know.” 

Just as we learn to pray, we can learn to wait well.

If you are in a season of waiting, try to focus on letting go of control. Look for little ways a need for control is arising, and turn it over to the Lord. Be quiet with the Lord and prayerfully consider how this season of waiting is inviting you to be with Him.

Practice waiting well in seemingly less significant ways. Stand in a longer line at the store. Drive in the slow lane. Slow down your response and wait for others to speak—and speak fully—before you respond in conversation. Think of another means to practice waiting. Pay attention to what happens inside of you while you wait—are you anxious, impatient, angry? Why? How might these reactions to “smaller” waits be amplified and reflected in more significant waiting?

During this Advent season, we reflect on the wait for the Messiah’s coming and on our wait for His second coming, when His Kingdom will come in its fullness. We wait—but we wait in hope because we know our waiting is not in vain, for as surely as the dawn comes each morning, He will appear.