Most of us are not very good at waiting. Whether we're anticipating the arrival of a package from Amazon or longing for the Lord to answer a much-prayed prayer, patience isn't our natural inclination. Whatever our hearts are yearning for, we think we'll find contentment in the fulfillment of our desires.
I waited for a long time to become a mother. I'll never forget the day the doctor looked me in the eye and said, "It's really unlikely." My dreams of motherhood and a house full of children shattered in that moment. For years, I fretted about why God would allow me to be infertile, agonized over my deep longing to be a mom, and as I waited for the Lord to answer my prayers, I experienced a deep sense of shame. I felt the brokenness of my body while everyone around me seemed to easily acquire what I so desperately longed for. If God was making me wait, surely I was doing something wrong. I was embarrassed by the long years of waiting. How can God be good to me if He makes me wait?
Our culture celebrates the instantaneous delivery of nearly every desire we can conjure up. We can order a product and hold it in our hands in a matter of hours. We can watch the entire next season of our favorite show without moving from the couch, read the news and the newest bestseller on our phones. We can have food delivered when we want it, download the newest album by our favorite artist the moment it's released, and try the next technological breakthrough as quickly as we can tap "Order Now." Our society is geared toward satisfying desires immediately. Waiting means being left behind.
The Bible teaches something different about waiting though. God's people have had to wait for His good purposes for centuries at a time. Israel waited for deliverance from slavery in Egypt for 400 years. Jesus came to redeem His people after four centuries of silence from God. We are now waiting for the return of our Savior who will right the wrongs of sin, take us home to be with Him, and make all things new. We are slowly being sanctified each passing day so that with time, we become more and more like Jesus. The Christian life and the narrative of the Bible isn't at all about instant gratification or quick returns. Much of the Christian life is lived in some kind of waiting period. But God does good work in our waiting. Even when we're waiting for Him to fulfill good desires like children, marriage, provision, companionship, or growth, there is much that He can do while we wait for Him to act.
We Learn to Wait Well by Waiting
We usually ask God for patience when we're exasperated or tired of waiting, but it is actually through waiting that we learn to wait well. God may be using our seasons of deferred hopes to teach us to trust Him with our lives. Elisabeth Elliot is known for describing suffering as "having what you don't want or wanting what you don't have.1" Our waiting can definitely be described as suffering at times. When we grapple with a life we don't like or a desire that the Lord hasn't brought about, God is working out patience and perseverance in our lives. James said that "the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing" (see James 1:3-4 CSB). We don't learn endurance by getting exactly what we want when we want it. We learn perseverance when life is hard, when the Lord says no, when our lives are marked by suffering, but we trust God anyway. It's in the waiting that we learn to wait well. When you are praying for the Lord to fulfill this desire or meet this need, ask Him to help you find contentment in who He is. No unfulfilled desire or unmet longing will cancel out His faithful character. He will always be strong, kind, loving, sovereign, and near. He might be using your empty arms, empty womb, empty house, or empty bank account to teach you that He is always with you. James goes on to say that "we count as blessed those who have endured" (James 5:11). Blessing is not always the answered prayer. Sometimes blessing is the endurance and patience you learned while you waited for the Lord to answer your prayer.
No Shame in Waiting
When you've been waiting with deferred hopes for a long time, you can become convinced that if you perform a certain way, God will reward you with your desire fulfilled. We cannot manipulate God into doing what we want, nor should we try. He will accomplish His purposes as He sees fit, and if He asks you to wait, He is still being good to you. He doesn't withhold any good thing from His children, so His no for now is for your good (see Psalm 84:11, Luke 12:32). His no is not something to be ashamed of, for He will always do in your life what is for your good and His glory. The Bible teaches that it is good to wait for the Lord (see Lamentations 3:25-26). If you are waiting on Him, you can trust that He is doing what is best for you right now. There's no shame in entrusting every desire to the God who loves you and sent His Son to die for you.
We like to avoid waiting as much as possible, but every time we seek the Lord for longings or deferred hopes, we can know that He will grow the fruit of perseverance and patience in us, and He will teach us to trust Him with our hopes and desires. If you are waiting on the Lord right now, know that He will use your waiting for good.