Many of us (all of us?) are waiting for God to act in certain ways. Certain prayer requests remain unanswered. We're waiting for God to "fix" us in the ways we want to be fixed. We're beseeching God for justice in the face of blatant evil. We're waiting on our Lord's glorious and anticipated return. But what does waiting look like? What should waiting for God look like?
Recently I witnessed one real-life example of waiting that many of us can relate to. My family and I were at a sit-down restaurant hearing about and celebrating the first day of school, and - like you do at a sit-down restaurant - we ordered. And then we waited. While we were waiting, I did a little people watching, and noticed a family near us that was also waiting for their food. While they were waiting, the parents were both engrossed in their smartphones and fairly inattentive to all else that was going on around them.
My wife and I, are on the other hand, have made an intentional decision to do as little of this sort of "phone filler" as possible (we're not perfect at this ourselves, by the way). Because we weren't absorbed in email or social media, we were more free to experience everything else in the restaurant while we waited, including taking in the sights of where we were and interacting as a family. And we were free to interact with the waitress and notice her presence alongside us and care for us while we waited. She refilled our drinks. The crayons given to our boys for their kid's menu activities all broke (a sign of cheap crayons when 4 boxes have crayons that break!), and so our waitress brought us new crayons on her own initiative. She checked in with us just to see how everything was going, even when there wasn't something specific we needed. And then, after a while, our food came.
Later that night I was reading Isaiah 64 and couldn't help relating a couple verses there with our experience of waiting at the restaurant. And, more broadly, with the experience all of us have with waiting for God. How we do "wait" for God well? Are there ways we can "wait interactively" with God, for him - noticing His presence even while waiting? How do we avoid absorbing ourselves in other things and missing God's continuous activity around us and in us?
Here's where Isaiah 64 comes in. Isaiah 64:4 says, "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him." God acts on behalf of those who wait for him!! What a great truth about this God who created us and loves us, and whom we serve and worship! And then, in the next verse, Isaiah provides some instruction on how we should wait for God: "You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways" (Isaiah 64:5). I simply want to highlight two truths about "how to wait for God" from these verses that deserve some attention:
1. God comes to the help of those who gladly do right.
This isn't some sort of "God helps those who help themselves" statement. We know from too many other places in Scripture that ultimately, we either won't or are unable to help ourselves (most notably, perhaps, in Romans 5:6-11, though Isaiah 63 also has a bit to say about this). And even in Isaiah 64:5 itself, the adverb "gladly" is huge - shaping how and why we do right. If we're "doing right" simply so that God owes us, that's not glad obedience - that's grudging obedience (and there's a big difference between the two). We can gladly do good because Christ offers us new hearts motivated by His grace. So as we wait for God, we gladly do right - we gladly live our lives aligned with Scripture. We willingly love God and we love others. We eagerly pursue personal holiness and work for the common good. Even while doing this, God never owes us anything, but this sort of doing good certainly invites His activity. So while you're waiting for God, stay faithful with gladly doing right.
2. Remember God's ways.
When my family and I were at the sit-down restaurant waiting for our food, once or twice one of our boys asked, "When will the food be here?" To which my wife or I replied, "Pretty soon. Just gotta keep waiting." We could respond this way with confidence because we've eaten out enough times to know we're not going to be forgotten. Our memory of eating out helped us while waiting at this most recent restaurant. In the same way, our knowledge and memory of God should instruct us while we wait. God is never absent - even in our waiting, and even when He seems hidden (just think of the life of Joseph in Genesis). God has already shown us He loves us and is for us (Christ's work on our behalf makes this clear). I'm confident God has worked in identifiable ways in your life, even when it's not the way you thought He was going to work. So while you're waiting, take time to actively reflect on ways God has been active for you and in you. Reflect on the promises of God that can sustain and provide hope. As you wait, remember God.
Are there other verses or practices that have helped you, while you wait for God? Share them here!
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.