No one likes to wait. One of the first pieces of advice that I received upon becoming a follower of Jesus was: “Don’t pray for patience; God will just make you wait.” I didn’t pray for patience for a long time.
The quarantined life has been difficult, but it has also had some perks. One such perk is that our family shares dinner together every night. Without sports or school functions to interrupt, sharing a meal at the dinner table has become a nightly ritual.
My kids fix their plates in the kitchen where my wife has prepared the meal. Then they bring their plates to the table where I make them wait to begin eating until everyone else arrives. With growling stomachs and aromatic steam rising to hungry nostrils, this waiting feels like torture even for me.
We will do anything to get out of waiting. On more than one occasion I have caught one of my children licking food from plate in the manner of a dog. Technically, since no eating utensil has been touched, they don’t consider it eating yet. Waiting is hard.
The problem with waiting is that it seems God prefers us there. The Psalms are filled with references to waiting. “As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (42:1). “How long will you hide your face from me” (13:1)? “Wait for the Lord and keep his way” (37:4).
The very first promise in the Bible is made in Genesis 3:15. From that point on, God’s people are always waiting. The Bible ends in Revelation 22 with the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus!” We are still waiting now.
This unique season has forced us all to wait. My kids are waiting for baseball season. Some are waiting for jobs to begin again. Others are waiting for news on the health of a loved one. Church members and pastors like me are waiting eagerly to meet again for worship. Like it or not, God has providentially put us all in a position of waiting. It seems appropriate to get the most out of it. Why does God want us to wait?
To understand this waiting phenomenon, I turn to the period of my life where waiting was the hardest. I remember back, fifteen years ago, to my engagement. My friends wisely advised me to make it a short engagement. The eight months I waited still felt like an eternity. The anticipation built as each day passed. I got through it by envisioning what our life together would be like. My intense longings were bearable because I knew that they would eventually find satisfaction in marriage to the one I loved.
Now imagine that I had chosen not to wait. Suppose that, instead of waiting for the one I loved, I decided to settle for something less just to get me through. What would that say about me? What would that say about what I thought of her?
Here’s the truth behind God’s desire for us to wait: We express our love and the value for the object of our longing hearts when we wait faithfully. God wants us to wait because our waiting for him honors him as the only One who is capable of filling our deepest desires. Our longings tell a great deal about who we are. We are what we love. We are defined by what we are willing to wait on.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another.” Augustine, even earlier in history, wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
We are forced during this season to wait, but you do have a choice to make. You can try your best to avoid it. Distract yourself during this time with binge watching and frivolous distractions. You can try to cure the ache in your heart some other way. Cheap substitutes are everywhere.
Or you can look to the only One worth waiting for. You can conclude, alongside so many who have come before, that every desire you’ve ever had can only find ultimate satisfaction in the One who made you for himself. You have never tasted enjoyment on this earth that left you full and ended your search. The reason is because there is only one Bread of Life who leaves you without hunger (John 6:35). There is only one Living Water who can end your thirst (John 4:13). His name is Jesus.
This pandemic is still here forcing us all to wait. Will you settle or will you be satisfied?