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Today we’re talking about waiting….something we all LOVE to do;).
In our last lesson about Lazarus, we learned that Jesus delayed action BECAUSE He loved the family. This revelation really impacted me because waiting often causes us to feel like the complete opposite is true.
Waiting is not fun, but it’s a part of life we can’t get away from - we’re always waiting on something.
During our adolescence we’re waiting to become a teenager. When we’re teenagers, we’re waiting to be able to drive, to graduate high school, and to become an adult. When we’re young adults, we’re waiting to finish college, to meet “the one,” and to get on with the rest of our lives.
From then on it’s one season of waiting after another: waiting to get married, to land the perfect job, to complete higher levels of education, for children, financial stability, career goals, or dreams to come true. Even when we are living in seasons of fulfilled desires, there are other (unfulfilled) desires we are still waiting on.
We’re waiting until the end of our days. This year I watched my grandmother, who loved God with all her heart, waiting on her death bed until the moment she would open her eyes in the presence of her Savior.
Obviously sometimes our situations of waiting are more emotionally intense - waiting through a health crisis, waiting on a child to come back to God, or waiting for the pain to lessen when suffering from tragedy or trauma.
The concept of waiting is too broad to ever imagine we could address it all in a single blog post. But one thing I’ve realized in studying for this lesson is that waiting always goes hand-in-hand with our desires. If we don’t desire to get married, then we’re not waiting for it. If we don’t desire to have children, then we’re not waiting for them. If we don’t desire a certain dream, then we’re not waiting for it to unfold.
This is the kind of waiting we’re going to focus on today - delayed dreams and desires. That’s why I’ve titled this lesson “Ready, Set...Wait?” We usually feel like we’re ready to run LONG before God says “go.”
Waiting is the place where our desires become intermingled with God’s timing.
We mentioned this briefly in the first lesson, but one thing we can know for sure is that when we are seeking God we can trust our desires are from Him.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
To delight ourselves in the Lord is to find our pleasure in relationship with Him. The Hebrew word translated delight here actually means “to be soft, delicate.” When we love and seek God, we become pliable to being shaped by Him. He shapes our desires in order to accomplish His purposes!
In the Old Testament, there is one word for “wait” which is used more than any other. It is the Hebrew word “qavah,” and it means all of these things:
To expect, to wait, to hope
To bind together (by twisting)
Stresses the straining of the mind in a certain direction with an expectant attitude, a forward look with assurance (Strong’s)
From an origin meaning “twist, stretch, tension of enduring,” with references to threads or a strand of rope (Brown-Driver-Briggs)
The explanations of this word fascinated me. Have you ever said, “I’m hanging on by a thread,” or “I’m at the end of my rope?”
Waiting is difficult and uncomfortable. It involves “twisting, stretching, and tension of enduring;” but it is that twisting that binds us together with God because we are fully dependent upon Him.
Let’s look at a couple places this word is used, starting with Psalm 25. David starts with a declaration of trust:
Psalm 25:2a, 3a
O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame;...
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;...
Throughout the rest of this Psalm, David goes back and forth between declaring good things he knows to be true of God and begging God to direct his path and to relieve his loneliness and suffering.
Let’s look at another one in Isaiah:
Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”
The word shame in these verses means to “be disappointed.” When we are waiting on God to act or direct or move, we will not be ashamed or disappointed that we put our trust in Him! Once again, this is a promise we can take from the Word and apply to OUR lives.
When we wait for God, our trust won’t be misplaced.
In the first lesson we talked about some stories from the Bible in which obedience led to painful journeys before God’s promises unfolded. These scenarios almost all involved waiting. Let’s look at Joseph and David again for example:
As a young man, Joseph dreamed he would be in leadership. This dream wasn’t fulfilled until about 14 years later.
Also as a young man, David heard from God through the prophet Samuel that he would be Israel’s king. This promise wasn’t fulfilled until about 15 years later.
And then there’s Moses. God began stirring Moses’ heart to help his people 40 YEARS before He spoke to him in the burning bush with “next steps.”
“When he [Moses] was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.
After this, Moses fled to the land of Midian, where he married, had children, and became a shepherd. 40 years later God showed up when Moses was in the wilderness tending sheep; and the desire God had placed in Moses’ heart 40 years earlier was finally set in motion (Exodus 3).
Let’s look at Paul. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus and his call into ministry took place 3 years before he actually started ministry. Furthermore, God birthed a desire in Paul to preach the gospel in Rome many years before it came to fruition.
And Jesus. After Jesus was initiated into public ministry through His baptism, the Holy Spirit led Him straight into the wilderness for 40 days. (We’re going to finish out our TRUST series by talking about Jesus’ time in the wilderness next week!)
In their waiting, all of these men did what was right in front of them each day. After Moses fled to Midian he tended sheep for 40 years. Joseph worked diligently wherever he was - in slavery and in prison. After Samuel anointed David and declared he would be Israel’s king, David went back to playing his harp and being a shepherd. It was David’s ability to play the harp which first got him into the palace, and it was lessons learned while being a shepherd (that God could use him to kill things much larger than himself (a lion and a bear)) which first got him onto the battlefield.
Eventually we will see that our diligence in the mundane was the training for our purpose.
The older we get, the more we realize we may not have a clue what we’re waiting for. When we’re younger, we have everything planned out according to our dreams. When we’re older, we understand God sometimes places dreams and desires within us to LEAD us somewhere rather than to fulfill them exactly as we plan.
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
Because we’re human, we turn our desires into plans. And this is ok! God made us this way because He created us to be doers. This is where trust comes into play once again. Although when we delight in the Lord we can trust our desires are from Him, they often will not unfold the way we plan.
We don’t trust our desires, we trust the One who placed the desires - because if God placed them, then He has purpose for them!
At first, we may feel disappointed that God didn’t act on our behalf in the way we dreamed or desired He would. As time goes by, however, we will see His plan unfold and realize He knew what He was doing all along...go figure;)!
I felt God call me to Africa when I was 7 years old. A girl in my class at school did show-and-tell with items from Africa because she had lived there, and from that moment on God birthed an intense emotion and desire in me for the continent. For 25 years I felt as though I was waiting (and longing) for God to send us to Africa. Why else would God have placed such an intense desire and passion in my heart for a people and place if His intentions were not to send me there?
That is the question I still don’t have a full answer to. However, at this point in my life, there are things I do know:
I know that moment over 30 years ago birthed a missional heart in me. So while I thought I was waiting to be sent to Africa, God sent me to my own backyard in the fight against human trafficking.
In the past 7 years, my husband has led multiple trips to Africa and raised tens of thousands of dollars for the organization we partner with there. Myself and my boys have had the privilege to go twice, which has resulted in the greatest desire of my sons’ hearts being to go back to Africa.
God’s plans may not look the way we thought they were going to, and His timing probably won’t be what we think it should be, but we WILL NOT be put to shame. Remember, that’s a promise!
Even if our immediate reaction is disappointment, God’s long-term plan will never leave us disappointed.
Our God can turn job loss into a catalyst toward entrepreneurship. He can turn infertility into a call to adopt. He can turn a childhood dream of being a missionary to Africa into a calling to be a missionary in your own backyard!
As I began to really think and pray on the concept of “waiting” and “trusting” God in preparation for this lesson, I had the realization that we are all waiting (to some degree) all our lives. How’s that for a bit of encouragement;)? But that’s when another realization struck me:
If our lives are spent in constant waiting, then God must have intense purpose in it!
Just as we’ve been talking about the last two weeks, the waiting must be ordained by God to accomplish good things on the inside AND God’s plans on the outside.
We’re going to close with this well-known passage. It might just be my all-time favorite passage about waiting:
27Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31but they who wait for the LORD 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.
There it is. All of it. God, Who is the Creator of the ends of the earth, possesses unsearchable understanding and purposely directs our paths. Yet, He compassionately understands that waiting can cause us to feel like our path has been forgotten by Him. He knows we grow faint, weary, and exhausted in the waiting, so He reminds us that He does not. He promises that He Who never wearies is the cure to our weariness! He promises that He Who never grows faint is the cure for us when we do. HIS power, HIS strength. Not ours.
Verse 31 ends the passage with a beautiful promise we can hold on to. There was a little phrase in that verse which jumped out at me - for the LORD. We wait for the LORD (not for our situation to change, not for money, not for a spouse, not for opportunity - for God). When we wait for the thing, our eyes are fixed on the thing. When we wait for God, our eyes are fixed on God. Goodness gracious that’s a hard one!
Then, oh the promises:
Our strength shall be renewed
We shall ascend to heights as majestic as the eagle
We shall be able to run our race and walk out this life with endurance like never before
The training is in the waiting.
Our trust will not disappoint!
Oh God, please help us to wait for You! Help us to walk faithfully with what is right in front of us in this day. Thank You for the promises in Your Word we can cling to, and thank You for the stories in Your Word we can study to know we’re not alone. Amen!