Continuing with some generally random thoughts on waiting (at which I am not all that adept at doing) Ben Patterson reminds us in Waiting that do to it well we must cultivate two basic characteristics: HOPE (the previous post) and HUMILITY (the topic today).
Ungracious waiting, which. to be honest, usually shows up looking like “angry waiting,” almost always grows out of a lack of true humility. To be blunt, gracious waiting requires that we understand that we, or our plans, or our desires, or our pain, or our “needs” are NOT at the center of the universe.
I think we often wrestle with waiting because we want to be in control. In fact, a mark of one who does not wait with humility is a demanding attitude towards God and others. we often insist that God respond in some way:
- We insist that he make known to us the plan, or we grouse, because we have important things to do.
- We stipulate that he must answer our questions, or we go into a funk, pouting and whining..
- We demand that God make things right immediately, or at least on our timetable, or at least before we get bored, or run out of money, or …
- We often require that he do it in a manner acceptable to us!
And we tend to be this way because we, and what we need, are what is important and he seems to have forgotten that. We can’t understand why God thinks we need to wait longer. OK, we (I) may not want to believe this is true of us, but our behavior so often betrays us.
But maybe (probably) there is a bigger picture – a larger story – and our waiting may have to do with things about which we are not told. We might not even be the center of the story after all.
Consider Job. He experiences suffering, pain, and emotional distress far beyond what most of us will ever face. He finds himself wishing for death and finding that even that must wait, even as he waits for God to explain himself. He asks God “why?” (asking why is not a sin), yet he is NEVER told the reason for his loss or the reason for his waiting – which was more about God and his dialogue with Satan!
Yet Job becomes quite arrogant, or more nicely put, self-centered. As Patterson says, “The great temptation of suffering (waiting for it to go away) is to let your pain become the whole world and to start believe that all that ever was, is, and will be, is your private hell”
God finally has to confront Job with truth that he is sinning in his waiting. He is less than gracious. He is arrogant, he is selfish, and he is self-centered. He has been humbled, but he is not waiting in humility. I’ve been there!
Why might God make us wait?
Our spiritual growth, development of character as we wait.
- Our deepened understanding of God, of truth, of his plan, his purposes, and his greatness – especially when he finally acts to end our waiting.
- Deepening our perspective as we begin to take our eyes off ourselves.
- To remind us of our dependence on Him
Job 38:1-39:30 (NASB95)
1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge?
3 “Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding,
12 “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place,
13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it?
17 “Have the gates of death been revealed to you, Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
36 “Who has put wisdom in the innermost being Or given understanding to the mind?
Another demonstration of our lack of humility is when we attempt to make things right in our own way and time – probably because he isn’t meeting our demands above. There are a few illustrations in Scripture like,
- Abraham and Sarah taking Hagar as a surrogate rather than waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled.
- Moses knowing he was to be deliverer and taking matters into his own hands by murdering the Egyptian.
- The Children of Israel waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain so they took to making a Golden Calf as their God.
How often do we, as well, arrogantly to take things into our own hands? I’ve come across the these lately:
- A Christian young man who is tired of waiting for his soul mate, for his sexual fulfillment, so he arrogantly takes away the virginity of a young woman.
- A Christian man who cheats to get a promotion for which he has been waiting far too long (in his opinion).
- A Christian wife and mother who tires of being neglected by her husband, her kids, her friends. God isn’t changing them so she goes looking for “life” in another man, arrogantly damaging all around her.
We would be wise to learn to “wait, in prayer” rather than take things into our own hands. Eugene Peterson call this a “disciplined refusal to act before God acts.” Yet, so many times say “AMEN” in our prayers and run away before God has a chance to reply. Or we pray, but forget that listening to God is far more important that giving Him your idea of how he should act.
But what about our happiness!? In our marriage, with our kids, with our friendships, in our jobs, or lack of jobs does it ever occur to us that we might have to wait to be happy? We may not be at the center, and remembering our first point we have hope – there is more to life than “now”.
A final thought. (I think it comes from Patterson). Our arrogance and self-centeredness and demandingness may actually cause us to miss that which would end our waiting. Remember the Pharisees who were waiting for Messiah but missed it because Jesus wasn’t what they wanted.
“What we become as we wait is at least as important as the thing we wait for”