It goes without saying that there are many things that challenge humankind’s ability to wait. This is especially true for Christians when we are called to wait upon God. I can think of three things that especially challenge my ability to wait upon God.
Undoubtedly, my biggest struggle in waiting upon God is through His delays to answer my prayers and act on my behalf. Specifically, His delays are most challenging when I am in the midst of painful situations, and He doesn’t seem to do anything to intervene or act on my behalf. And while I know that God works in ways we cannot see, this assurance often doesn’t make the challenge of waiting any easier. In fact, I often find myself more frustrated at God than at my circumstances, because I know He can do something about it, but seems to withhold His providential workings.
It is in these moments of frustration, and even anger towards God, that I am reminded of His promises to us as we persevere in prayer through our pain and suffering. One passage of Scripture that is especially meaningful to me is Luke 18:1-8. Here, Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow to teach us that we ought always to persevere in prayer and not lose heart.
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Essentially, Jesus’ message is to be persistent in prayer, for God listens to persistent prayer, and He will answer. While the judge has little regard for the widow’s request for justice against her adversary, because she keeps pressing him, he consents to give her justice. Like the judge, God listens to persistent prayer. However, God is different from the judge, for He is just. Jesus tells this parable to encourage His followers not to grow weary in prayer. In Jesus’ day, as well as in the early church and present day, people are perplexed by God’s delay in bringing the justice for which they pray. Through this parable, Jesus affirms that God will answer their prayer, and that Christ, the Son of Man, will come. And when He comes, He will find among His people faith that has persevered in prayer!
Waiting on God to act on our behalf is certainly frustrating and challenging. But Scripture assures us that “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him” (Is. 64:4). And we are furthered assured for “…the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Is. 30:18). Let us, then, persevere in prayer with hope and anticipation, for God is gracious and merciful, and He will intervene on our behalf and act for us!
Another way I am challenged to wait upon God is through His silence to my prayers and pleas for answers. God’s silence can often feel like He is being cruel and insensitive to our requests. But if we truly know the character of God, we know the opposite is true. Because God loves us, and because His goal is our sanctification – God making Himself holy in us – this means He will not give us what we ask for until the time is perfect according to His sovereign will. That is, until His ultimate will is going to be fulfilled in granting the answer to our requests, and not unless His answer ultimately leads us to sanctification.
When I feel as though God is silent to my requests, and that He seems unconcerned with my affairs, I find comfort in His words to Israel found in Isaiah 40:27-31:
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Like Israel, you have probably felt at times that God is oblivious to your situation, that your “way is hidden” from God, and that He seems to have little regard for your plight. But this Scripture gives us great assurance that the exact opposite is true. For God, who is “the Creator of the ends of the earth,” is everlasting and neither faints nor grows weary. In fact, God promises us His power and strength when we feel faint and weary. Moreover, God’s understanding is beyond human comprehension. This means that in our finite understanding of life and the events around us, it is useless to try and make sense of our circumstances. Yet, we can rest in the fact that because God knows the beginning from the end, and because He knows every detail of our lives and circumstances, then we can certainly trust that He is not oblivious to our situation and cares about what we are going through.
When God’s silence is burdensome, and we are faint and weary from prayers and pleas gone unanswered, let us rest in God’s promises that “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” God is everlasting, God is loving, and God is good. So let us trust our lives and circumstances into His all-knowing, all-loving, and all-sovereign hands. And as we wait, we can be certain that God is working for us, and is working in us to make us more like Him!
Finally, I am challenged to wait upon God through His withholding of judgment on the wicked and evildoers. The Bible is replete with Scripture passages on the prosperity of the wicked while the righteous suffer injustice and evil against them. It is no wonder, then, that so many ask “Why do the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper?” Perhaps the strongest case in Scripture that addresses this is Psalm 37:1-10:
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
This Scripture passage is a wonderful promise from God that though the wicked seem to prosper in their evil ways, they will soon “be cut off” and “be no more.” Moreover, while God’s promise to the righteous is that “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday,” He contrastingly promises that the wicked and evildoers “will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.” Is it any wonder, then, that in this passage alone the phrase “fret not” is used three times to address the righteous who tend to fear the prosperity of the wicked.
We also find comfort in God’s promise that those who “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!” (vs. 8) and “wait for the LORD” to act, rather than attempting to take matters into their own hands against the wicked, are promised an inheritance in the land (vs. 9). This anger can also refer to the anger and wrath we may feel at God’s delay in punishing the wicked and bringing about justice for the righteous. Yet, good people have no reason to envy the prosperity of wicked people, or to be uneasy about it. Why? Because even though we find ourselves focusing on the flourishing places the wicked have built up for themselves (vs. 10), God promises that they “will not be there” forever for their ruin is certain. Moreover, as a token of God’s favor and blessing to the righteous, He promises better things for them in the other world, of which the wicked have no dwelling or inheritance (vs. 9).
Waiting on God certainly has its challenges. Not the least of which is the uncertainty that comes with waiting. Such uncertainty as to what the final outcome will be, and uncertainty about how long the waiting will endure, and even uncertainty about God. Even as I wrestle with these questions, I find comfort in the truth that God often allows uncertainty in our lives to make us certain in Him alone. May all of God’s people find comfort in this truth as well!
– Peggy Harvey