The world today is geared toward instant gratification and is averse to waiting. Modern transportation allows passengers to reach their destination in a fraction of the time it took centuries ago. Conveniences such as the microwave oven and email speed up cooking and correspondence. Even the transmission of biblical knowledge has evolved from a painstaking transcription process into pocket-sized computers. Turn on a smart phone, and the entire Bible is at one’s fingertips. For all these reasons and more, waiting often carries a negative connotation in modern society. But the Bible illuminates the blessings that waiting can bring.
Waiting on the Lord
Exercising a patient, confident trust in the Lord, even amid trouble, is the biblical idea of waiting on the Lord. Believers know that God is good and that He is in control. “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentation 3:25). He will act in His time, and, in the meantime, His children can will rest. “None who wait for you shall be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3, ESV). We are commanded to wait, and faith demands it: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14). The Lord promises to help those who wait on Him (Isaiah 30:18; 40:31).
Waiting on God’s Justice
King David, though greatly blessed by God, struggled mightily throughout his life. In the book of Psalms, he describes his personal reactions to perilous times. In moments of distress, David cried out to God and sought protection from and justice against his enemies: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes” (Psalm 37:7). Even while fearing for his life, David said, “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name” (Psalm 33:20–21).
Waiting on Answered Prayer
When faced with fear and distress, the Christian is encouraged to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). After we pray about a problem, our tendency is to immediately start looking for God’s answers. However, God often requires a time of waiting before answering. David, seeking relief from his troubles, said, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1). Though answers to prayers aren’t promised immediately, God does promise to hear our prayers.
God also promised to help those who can’t even muster the words to pray. The apostle Paul said, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:25–26). The Holy Spirit comes alongside believers and prays with and for them, even as they await an answer.
Elsewhere, Paul offers this encouragement in waiting: “But we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope” (Romans 5:3–4). Having patience builds us up, leading to stronger character and increased faith in God.
Waiting on the Return of Jesus and Our Glorification
A popular topic in the days of the early church was the return of Jesus Christ. As Christians throughout history were persecuted and martyred across the world, they hoped for the day when their Savior would return and save them. James, the brother of Jesus, encouraged the early Christians with these words: “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:7–8). Waiting is not easy. Paul says that Christians “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). As believers wait for that day when they will see Christ and be glorified, they have a responsibility: “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (Jude 1:21).
Waiting — The Conclusion
God’s timeline isn’t the same as that of human beings (see 2 Peter 3:8–9). Though waiting is difficult and unpopular in today’s culture, it is necessary for God’s plan. The Bible provides ample comfort and promises blessings to those who wait.