Waiting well

I don’t know anyone who likes waiting, especially when they don’t know how long they will be waiting for. Many of us are naturally impatient – a problem exacerbated by a culture that often promotes instant gratification. For many Christians, waiting for God is often the most challenging part of the Christian walk. I struggle when I pray and though I am confident God has heard me, I don’t know when He will intervene. Then, there’s also the gap between when you act on God’s instructions or put your faith in His promise and when the results come. Not knowing the length of that gap has probably led many to give up on God. Nevertheless, Scripture instructs us to wait patiently for God [Lamentations 3:26]. So, how do we do this? How do we wait well?

The story of two heroes of the faith, Noah and Abraham, come to mind. God essentially instructed both men to take giant leaps of faith. Noah was told to build a boat in preparation for a deluge no one had ever seen. Some estimate that there was a gap somewhere between 55 and 75 years from when Noah received the instruction [Genesis 6:12-17] and when the flood finally came [Genesis 7:4-6]. Noah didn’t know how long he’d have to wait, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was mocked by people as he acted on God’s instructions. Would I have had the same resolve? Would you?

How about Abraham? He was 75 years old and childless when God asked Him to leave behind all he’d known because He was going to give Him an heir and a land [Genesis 12:1-7]. He heard from God several times between the ages of 75 and 86, but he was still childless [Genesis 12-15]. Then God said nothing for 13 years (between the end of Genesis 16 and the beginning of Genesis 17). So, that’s 24 years of waiting for God to keep His word. Abraham only found out how much longer he’d have to wait when God confirmed when Isaac would be born, a year before his birth [Genesis 17:21]. Ever wondered what those people Abraham left behind thought of him in that 24-year gap?

Have you’ve ever waited on God for something you desperately desire, especially when your conviction is backed by Scripture or a personal revelation? I know a little about this experience, and I have very close friends who have either experienced the gap or are currently in the gap. In my case, I was somewhat convinced that God would act within a particular timeline. But when He didn’t, panic and uncertainty set in. I began to doubt myself: “Did I hear God correctly? What if it wasn’t God I’d heard?” and so on. We often imagine our biblical heroes had indubitable encounters when they heard from God, but sometimes this wasn’t the case. Often, they acted in faith, without tangible proof [Hebrews 11:4-40]. They chose to believe God and act on His instruction, even when their reality stood in stark contrast to what God said.

Consequently, the vital lesson from these men and women is that our convictions should be based on who God is and His character, not reality. If you’ve ever had to wait on God, you know that sometimes in the gap, reality will mock you. Friends may desert you, and some may question your sanity. This is when you’re likely to doubt yourself and even question God. This is usually the point when we’re tempted to help God along by coming up with other solutions. I believe this is where Abraham found himself when Sarah, his wife, proposed that he should obtain his heir by other means [Genesis 16:1-4]. He’d already waited for 10 years for God by that point, so it was easy to justify seeking alternatives. In my opinion, this is the greatest temptation in the gap: the temptation to seek alternative solutions if God doesn’t come through within our timelines.

I’m writing this week to encourage anyone in the gap. I often imagine our biblical ancestors cheering me on whenever I doggedly hold onto Scripture or a personal revelation in the face of severe opposition. However, this is often harder when it’s a personal revelation because they aren’t explicitly stated in Scripture. Here I believe that God honours the sincerity of our hearts over the accuracy of our actions. Therefore, even if I heard wrong, God will still reward me for faithfully seeking to obey Him [Hebrews 11:6]. This is ultimately where I anchor my confidence. When we seek to obey God or take a leap of faith on account of our confidence in Him, especially at great personal cost, He compels Himself to act on our behalf because of His lovingkindness, righteousness and faithfulness.

So, if you find yourself in the gap, do what you can to ignore your present reality and focus on God’s character and His integrity. Since God has exalted His name and His word above all things [Psalm 138:2], He cannot let anyone who puts their trust in Him see shame [Romans 10:11]. These things are true even if we die before we see God come through [Hebrews 11:39]. Additionally, God understands our humanity. He knows we will vacillate in our convictions, especially when He doesn’t come through when we expect, and He has made provision for that [Isaiah 40:28-31]. So, whether your faith is sky-high or you’re barely holding on, God has got you in His hands [Isaiah 49:15-16].

Ultimately, waiting well comes down to trusting God and anchoring our convictions on His character and integrity, regardless of our reality. He’s a sovereign, all-powerful, covenant-keeping God who loves us. That combination of attributes guarantees that we will never lose if we put our trust in God and wait on Him to come through for us. God has never short-changed those who trust Him, and He never will.

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