Waiting is a topic which has long fascinated me, probably because I am so bad at it. A few years ago I wrote that ‘waiting isn’t a waste of time’, but so often, it feels like it. I first encountered Ps 130 over thirty years ago, but I have found I am drawn back to it time and time again as it links hope and waiting so strongly.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins. (Ps 130)
Today, I read a blog which talked about waiting (based on the account of the healing of the man by the pool who had waited helplessly for 38 years – see John 5.) The writer (Sam Miller) admitted ‘”here is no comprehensive or fully satisfying answer to” the questions we have about waiting, but added,“we can take some heart from the Biblical examples around waiting. Sometimes the waiting is longer, because the preparation for what is to come needs to go deeper. As Guinness famously advertised, ‘Good things come to those who wait.’”
He went on to say, “In this current moment of inhibited activity, there is maybe an invitation and an opportunity to wait. This waiting may involve purification and separation from things that inhibit God giving us what we are asking for and we may find ourselves provoked to greater desperation. These are both signs of preparation.In his journal writings, David, a colourful character of the Old Testament, expresses his frustration with the waiting. ‘How long?’ (Psalm 13) he moans on one occasion. David’s story and experience are very different to our friend in John 5 and yet, he finds himself in the same place of longing, waiting has stripped back and refined his desires: ‘One thing have I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after’ (Psalm 27). That one thing is to encounter God. Despite having tasted most of the good things that the world had to offer him, David finds himself hungry for more of what can only be encountered and experienced in God. Therefore, he sets himself to wait.”
Paul says, “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Rom 8:24-25) This is a life lesson for us. Waiting for the Lord is part of our Christian journey, and will always be part of that journey, until we are with the Lord face to face. Waiting is never easy; Michael Card says, “it’s the most painful lesson a believing heart has to learn” (‘Maranatha’). Sometimes the painful lessons have to be faced. Sometimes all we can do is wait. But that’s not inaction. That’s not doing nothing. As Eugene Peterson says, “waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.” As we wait patiently, we are stripped from our need for action and learn to hope in God.