As a student, I had to read a lot of plays by existentialist authors, people who believed that there was no meaning to life and definitely no God. One of these plays is called ‘Waiting for Godot’ by Samuel Becket which follows a pair of men who divert themselves while waiting expectantly, vainly, for someone named Godot to arrive. They claim he’s an acquaintance but in fact hardly know him, admitting that they would not recognise him when they do see him. To occupy the time they eat, sleep, converse, argue, sing, play games, exercise, swap hats, and contemplate suicide – anything “to hold the terrible silence at bay.” The fact remains that Godot never arrives and he has become a symbol for pointless waiting and for the meaningless of life. Some have even said that the play is a metaphor for the existentialist belief that there is no God.

Waiting for God is not at all like that. Psalm 130 tells us to watch and wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, but this waiting is not at all pointless or meaningless.

The psalm starts with a prayer ‘out of the depths.’ We often find ourselves in despair, but even when we are faced with desperate situatins, we can cry out to God, holding on to what we know of Him (that with Him there is forgiveness, redemption and unfailing love.) We are not promised a trouble-free existence (see John 16:33, John 15:58), but Psalm 130 gives us a strategy for what to do in troubled times. We wait for the Lord. We hope in the Lord.

A night watchman’s job is not at all glamorous or exciting, but that does not make it unimportant. We are so used to measuring our worth by our actions, by our productivity, that sometimes we get frustrated by waiting. We would rather be like Abraham, organising a son for ourselves, than wait for God to perform a miracle. We would rather be like Moses who killed an Egyptian because he thought that was the easiest way to get rid of oppression than wait forty years in Midian for the miracle of a burning bush. We don’t understand how Joseph can wait so patiently in prison when he’s been wrongfully accused and ill-treated; we’d have been organising great escapes worthy of Steve McQueen, if that had been us! We can sympathise with Saul’s impatience at having to wait seven whole days for Samuel to arrive just so that there was an anointed priest to offer a sacrifice: no wonder he thought it didn’t matter who did the offering!

Why do we have to wait? What does God teach us in the waiting? Why doesn’t He just work on our timescales?

(1) Waiting teaches us to trust.
It requires faith to wait (see 2 Cor 5:7). As the song goes,
“You are working in our waiting,
Sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding,
You’re teaching us to trust.”(‘Sovereign Over Us’, Aaron Keyes)

We have to trust that God knows what He is doing and is in control and waiting forces us to trust God rather than our own understanding.

(2) Waiting shapes our characters
God is even more interested in who we are than in what we do. He is working to develop the character of Christ in us through the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal 5:22-23, 2 Pet 1:5-8).

(3) Waiting teaches us God’s perspective

God’s timing is not ours (2 Pet 3:8-9). We can learn so much if we have to wait – think of the story of Joseph! (see Gen 50:20). Even the worst that can happen (think of the horrors of Calvary) can be worked into God’s redemptive plans (see Acts 2:23-24). Nothing can hinder God’s plans. He is working all things together for good.

While we are waiting, what do we do? We continue to serve God faithfully, wherever we are, doing whatever He has called us to do. Waiting is not just a waste of time. As Eugene Peterson says when looking at the life of David in those wilderness years when he was running from Saul and wondering how on earth he was ever going to see the promise of becoming king of Israel fulfilled when it seemed doubtful he’d even survive much beyond his early twenties, “Biblical not-doing is neither sloth nor stoicism: it’s a strategy. When David sat down before God, it was prayer. It was entering into the presence of God, becoming aware of God’s word, trading in his plans for God’s plans, letting his enthusiasm for being a King with the authority and strength to do something for God be replaced with the willingness to become a King who could represent truly the sovereignty of God, the high King.” (Eugene Peterson, ‘Leap Over a Wall’)

‘Waiting Here For You’, Christy Nockels