Tuesday, June 19, 2007
If you hang around church folk much (which I do), then you're going to frequently hear about this idea of "waiting". It usually revolves around waiting on God to reveal His will or future direction for our lives -- we're waiting on the "next big thing" if you will. Last night the devotional Lisa and I read touched a little bit on this subject. And I have to admit ...

I just don't get it!

Maybe someone out there can help me.

Supposedly we're all remaining open to God's direction and leading at all times. We all will be quick to admit that God will take us all kinds of places in our lives that are very different from anything we ever imagined. We all want to be open to that.

So here's my question: If we don't know what we're waiting on, and we shy away from pre-supposing what it might be, then how can we really know that we're in a period of waiting? Are we not exactly where God wants us?

It just doesn't make sense to me.

I am not a Bible scholar. While the last few years I have learned my way around the Bible a little bit, I am still far, far away from being really knowledgable of it. I know there are stories in it of people and groups who are in this period of "waiting." Here's my question, though (and I am serious about this): Except in the case where perhaps they intentionally put themselves into a specific time of waiting in order to more clearly hear God, did any of these folks, while they were in the midst of "waiting," really realize that they were waiting? Or was it aftward that they looked back and saw their past as a period of waiting?

Wasn't the interim period, while they were living it, just "real life" when they were doing the best they could with what they had? Wasn't it more a period of "preparation" than of "waiting"? And isn't all of life a period of "preparation"?

Am I in a period of "waiting" right now? Frankly, I haven't a clue. How could I possibly know that I am waiting without pre-supposing what I am waiting for? I am in a period of preparation, yes. And God expects me to do all with that that I can.

A famous U2 song says "I still haven't found what I'm looking for." Isn't that an oxymoron or something? If we know what we're looking for, haven't we already found it?

Maybe someone can help me understand this idea of "waiting". I can see myself "waiting" on a pot of water to boil or "waiting" on a package to arrive from Amazon. Those are, for the most part, physical certainties. I know the eventual outcome and so I am "waiting" on it. However, when It comes to discerning God's will for my life ... that is a continual process ... but to me it isn't "waiting" ... it is following obediently one step at a time and realizing that, at any given time, I am where I am and God has a purpose for me being there. My focus must be on living that out and accepting the preparation He has for me ... there may very well be a "next big thing" out there for me ... I don't know and I don't want to pre-suppose. Right now, I just want to accept and to let myself be prepared.

  posted at 7:18 AM  

At 8:52 AM, Blogger HeyJules said...

I don't get it, either but I know I've felt it. There are times where it seems I am up against one brick wall after another and that's when I realize I'm "waiting" for me to set down MY wants to God can get me to hear His.

However, I am a firm believer that we are always exactly where God wants us so maybe it's just a matter of free will moving over and letting God drive the bus again?

At 12:33 PM, Anonymous John said...

Hi Todd.

God's will has been revealed in His Word As for us, we need to be obedient to God's Word. For in this we will do what God asks of us-not what we ask of ourselves.

Waiting? That's a churchy word for wanting to do something and for whatever reason not being able to do it at that moment.

Unfortunately, it's one of many 'churchy' words that sound cool but have no real substance to them.


At 8:51 AM, Blogger Todd R. said...

Waiting in Scripture is more of a longing for God's deliverance. The Israelites cried out to God and God heard them. The Psalms are all about waiting in the midst of struggle, oppression, exile, pain, etc. U2 also stole Psalm 40 from David--"I waited patiently for the Lord....He lifted me up out of the pit. Out of the miry clay." The Psalms often ask the question, "How long must we wait?" It is a lament of someone agonizing under the "weight" of sin, oppression or distance from God.

I think what you have outlined in your post would be better understood as searching for God and you and John are correct--we have falsely aligned that concept with the word "wait." When people search for God--for God's direction, guidance, and "the next step"--it is an action. Jesus tells the story over and over again about people going to great lengths to "find" God--from turning over every nook and cranny of their homes to spending all they have to gain access to it. Searching for God's will, longing to find that next step is active and not passive as the word "wait" suggests.

So if I am "waiting on God," it means that I am crying out to God in the midst of my difficult situation whether that be my own sinfulness, or under the sinful acts of others. If I am "waiting" for God to reveal to me what that next step or part of the plan is, I am actively searching to find where God is leading me. Rick Warren talks about finding where God is moving and joining God instead of "waiting" around for God to join us in what we are doing.

That's all I got. I pass.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Todd R. said...

Okay, here is one more thing then I'm done--It is interesting to look at the attitude of our waiting. Most notably here is the story of Shadrack, Meeshak and Abegigno (Rack, Shack and Benny) and Paul and Silas in prison. They faced hardship and despair but in the midst of their waiting, they were not without hope. The triplets faced their adversity with prayer and, at least in the scripture account, w/o complaining and wailing/gnashing of their collective teeth. Paul and Silas sang hymns in prison.

I have a friend who spent five years in an awful work environment (church) that was highly dysfunctional and unhealthy. He was the lead person on staff and decided that, while he felt like he was in prison, he needed to learn how to sing hymns of praise until God's rescue came.

Not sure what that says about my understanding of a biblical waiting--recognizing the emotions and feelings (Psalms of lament. Crying out to God) and yet facing that situation with praise and thanksgiving.

I don't do that very well.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Todd M said...

Wow Jules, John and Todd. That's all good stuff. Thanks!

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Julie R. said...

I'm not sure if this is still open for discussion, but I wanted to comment. An example comes to mind of waiting in the Bible that reflects the concept of God speaking a word over someone's life, a promise, and then God using the wait to stretch their faith until its fulfillment. The story that comes to mind for me is Abraham and Sarah waiting for Isaac. The call and blessing over Abram's life came in Genesis 12, became more specific in 13, he questioned it in Genesis 15, they came up with their own plan in Genesis 16, God reaffirmed the promise in Genesis 18... it wasn't until Genesis 21 that Isaac is born. It is an interesting progression of how God is utterly faithful, even in the midst of our human capacity to wonder, waver, and doubt.

There are a few cool scriptures that I believe share some of God's heart for us in the wait. "I tell you this now, before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe that I am He."
John 13:19 He gives us a glimpse of what He wants to do, so that when it does happen, we recognize it was His hand that accomplished it. He does it to grow our hearts to believe Him for what He said.

"So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me." Acts 27:25

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" Luke 1:45

These verses seem to reflect specific things that God may tell us He wants to accomplish in our lives. Things that He wants to use to gain our attention and grow our faith as we focus on Him in the wait. I don't think it is the only way He works, or that He is always saying a specific thing or we are doing something wrong if we don't hear it. I think it can be in small things and in big things.

God gave Holly a desire to go to China a year before she actually went. In that time, it was an unfolding of God's plan in her life, of growing her faith to see how God would accomplish it. Now she can look back over the past two years and see where God led her, how He was faithful to her, and that His word over her life came to fulfillment just as He said. Her waiting time may have been filled with wonder (is God really calling me to do this?) and doubt (can I survive a trip to China?) and faith stretching questions (where will the money come from?). I think in a very real sense it is a waiting on God, seeking what His plan is, putting our hope in Him, that He will lead and provide as He said.

Some of our waiting is intended to be a growing time of intimacy with God, where we depend on Him to carry us through a difficult season, where we give Him our heart's desires and ask Him what His will is for us. We may have a desire to serve God in a capacity that hasn't been opened up to us yet, or we may have God-dreams of what we hope will unfold. We have a dear friend who is single who has truly longed to be married and have a family. That is an agonizing wait -- if God will provide a spouse, or give the peace and direction for staying single.

The concept of waiting seems very relational to me -- a longing, seeking, growing. If nothing else, maybe it is listening and being attentive to anything God is wanting to speak into our lives. The concept of waiting on Him, being present, attentive, ready, and willing. The Hebrew concept of waiting is "expectation" -- we are expecting Him to show up. I love that.

I'll close. Just wanted to share a few things to think about. Blessings!!

At 5:51 AM, Blogger Todd M said...

Wow, everyone. This has been great discussion -- just what I was seeking. It has helped to deepen and broaden my perception and understanding of how God works.

And it's the most comments I have had since I wrote that post about hugging!

Thanks all!

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Todd M said...

Not sure ... I doubt anyone is still following this ... but here goes.

I am still struggling with this concept though.

God is always faithful. He always follows through on His promises. In that respect, waiting on God's promises is waiting on a physical certainty.

My lovely wife and I tried for seven years to conceive a child before it finally happened. By the time it did happen, we were pretty old to be starting a family. Evan will always pretty much have the oldest parents in his class.

But throughout that seven year period, I never saw it as waiting so much as part of the process for seeing God's fulfillment of His promise. I always sensed that we would have a family someday and I will even say that, in the last few months before we knew Evan was on the way, we had decided that adoption was how God would fulfill his promise of a family. Maybe that was, like Abraham and Sarah tried, taking matters into our own hands but we would have seen an adopted baby very much as a blessing and fulfillment of God's promise of a family.

I don't know ... maybe it is a show of weak faith on my part ... but I always believed we would someday have a family ... I just never saw that seven year period as being a time of waiting.

So, I am still struggling with this concept. Perhaps I am just an apathetic sap.


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