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Waiting has fallen on hard times in the modern world. People are in a hurry in just about every area of life, and what time is spent in waiting is filled with snippets of communication, video clips, memes, and hot takes. Most of the great technological innovations in recent history are conspicuously designed to cut down on the amount of time that we have to wait to get to the desired goal. If we can’t do something online in a matter of minutes, is it worth doing? If a package can’t make it to your door in two days or less, is the product worth ordering? Even movies are getting with the program as they are edited into tighter and tighter story beats. Have you watched a movie from before the year 2000 recently? They are so terribly slow compared to the movies made in the twenty-first century.

No matter how hard we try, we will never eradicate the need to wait, though I do fear that we will become increasingly unhealthy in the way that we spend our hours in the queue.

The thing is, to wait is human. Waiting is a part of being a human made by God for His glory. In fact, the theme of a humanity that waits on God is returned to over and over in Scripture, and here we find the context of our own time spent waiting.

God made time and called us to experience Him in it. One of the incommunicable attributes of God is His aseity, or His independence and self-sufficiency. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us, God is “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable” in His being (Q&A 4). In other words, while God has created time, He is not bound by it as we are. When God spoke the cosmos into existence, He created it as time-bound, and we are no different. We are dependent on the passage of time and cannot imagine our lives apart from it. Every thought that we produce, every word that we speak, every conscious moment exists in time. That means that waiting is a crucial part of being created in time. It is all around us whether we are aware of it or not, moving unstoppably forward into the future. Contrary to other religions’ claims or instincts, waiting is not an illusion, a trick of the mind, or even a result of humanity’s fall into sin. Waiting is a part of humanity’s creaturely nature. We wait because we are human.

You can be encouraged today that because you have the Spirit of Christ, you too can be confident that He will bring to you every blessing that He has promised you. You too now have a spirit of waiting—or, in the language of the Christian church in history, you have a spirit of perseverance. He will complete His work in you and for you in His own timing, and you will make it to that day.

God made us for a story that is not yet complete. Yes, we are time-bound, but time is not a random progression toward no end; it is not, as Macbeth asserts, “a tale told by an idiot, . . . signifying nothing.” The story of human history is the story of God’s creating and redeeming the world, or what John Calvin calls the “theater of divine glory.” Divine glory is complete in the Godhead, but we experience it in time. God is unchangeable, but our experience of His revelation is in time, developing and growing through the ages until its fullness in the new heavens and new earth. This is what we wait for, the divinely desired end toward which all creation is moving, that beatific vision that we see now in part but that we see in the fullest human sense possible when Christ returns.

God will one day free us completely of the threat of Satan, sin, and death. We wait because we are time-bound to God’s story of redemption and glory. Still, we wait with yearning, patience, and forbearance because sin has infected our waiting with suffering, anxiety, and uncertainty. The opposite of control, manipulation, and complacency is godly waiting. When we recognize that we are not little lords of creation and that our best attempts to supplant God will always end in failure and destruction, we are finally in a position to wait in a godly way for His provision. The same goes for our suffering. Is it any wonder that one of the most common stances of faith is the stance of waiting on the Lord? The patriarchs waited (Gen. 15:5–6, 15–16; 49:18), Isaiah waited (Isa. 8:17), Israel waited (33:2), the psalmist waited (Ps. 40:1–3), creation waits (Rom. 8:19), and the church waits (Rev. 22:20–21). These are just a few examples. Waiting is the way that we trust in the Lord, who will be faithful to His promises. Waiting is how we bridge the way from promise to fulfillment, and one day all promises will be completely fulfilled in Christ. Until that day, we wait.

God’s providence toward us is perfect, but we experience it only in stages. This last point may not be obvious, but it is important. There has never been a time when the Lord has not been God, when His victory was not sure, and when His glory was not complete. Jesus, Himself God made flesh, is, as John calls Him, “the one who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev. 1:8), but we do not yet see His work in its fullness. From the perspective of heaven, the whole of human history is to the glory of God, and our waiting on the Lord does not make the present reality of His glory untrue. As those united to Christ, we are as secure in His benevolent provision now as we will ever be.

In light of this context to our waiting, how should those united with Christ face the reality of waiting on the Lord? Here we develop a lexicon for biblical waiting, a special language of those who wait. We should wait with acceptance (forbearance). We should wait with confidence (steadfastness). We should wait without anger (patience), because the God of abundant life will not fail us. We should wait with the knowledge that the wait is worth it (hope). We should wait with compassion for those who are also waiting, whether they know it or not (mercy). We should wait with the full realization of what has already been accomplished for us, the blessings that are not waited for but are enjoyed in the present (gratitude).

For the Christian, waiting is the application of faith in time. When that application of faith seems daunting, we can encourage one another that we are equipped with every aid we need to wait. To see this point, we should look to the two stories in Scripture where temptation occurs in a place of waiting—the wilderness. The temptation of the wilderness, whether for Israel or for Jesus, is the temptation of immediate gratification when waiting is called for. It is the temptation to settle for lesser blessings than the one that God has set aside for us. Israel desired to return to the relative security and sustenance of Egypt instead of waiting for the Lord’s provision in the wilderness and the promised land (Ex. 16:2–3). Satan offered Jesus the same thing, essentially saying: “You don’t have to go without. Turn this stone to bread. You don’t need to wait to be lifted up in praise. Throw Yourself off the temple and command angels to lift You up. You don’t need to wait for the cross and the tomb. Bow down to me, and I will give You the nations now. There’s no need to wait for God’s timing” (see Matt. 4:1–11; Mark 1:12–13; Luke 4:1–13).

But the Lord Jesus Christ succeeds in the wilderness waiting where Israel failed. And we have the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9). You can be encouraged today that because you have the Spirit of Christ, you too can be confident that He will bring to you every blessing that He has promised you. You too now have a spirit of waiting—or, in the language of the Christian church in history, you have a spirit of perseverance. He will complete His work in you and for you in His own timing, and you will make it to that day (Phil. 1:6).

Waiting is the application of faith in time. And waiting produces a life of hope that will not disappoint (Rom. 5:3–5).

The Blessing of Waiting

Waiting in an Age of Instant Gratification

Keep Reading Waiting on the Lord

From the April 2024 Issue
Apr 2024 Issue