Waiting is tough. We wait for tax returns, job offers, test results. While “in the queue,” we feel completely out of control, at the mercy of someone else’s timetable.
One of the greatest temptations during times of waiting is to lose faith in God’s goodness. Because His timing doesn’t match ours, we start to think He doesn’t care, that He’s never going to act on our behalf. As a result, we spiral downward in anxiety instead of resting in joyful anticipation.
To experience joy while waiting, there are three common mistakes we must avoid. We find them in the Biblical account of the Hebrews en route from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Let’s set the stage. First, God tested the patience of His people by taking them on the long route. Then, because of disobedience, God sentenced them to 40 years of wandering before entering the Promised Land. Now they find themselves in “the land between,” waiting to receive what God had promised.
At one point along the way, God delivers them from an attacking army, and that’s where we land in Numbers 21:4-5.
And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”
And here we find our three mistakes.
Impatience betrays a lack of trust. It assumes that God has lost track of time and needs to be prodded to action. In our microwave, FedEx, instant download world, it’s common to want everything NOW.
I’m all for time-saving devices. I use my microwave every day. But when I am waiting for something out of my control, something that is in God’s hands alone, I do well to trust that He is orchestrating the timetable and the path according to His perfect wisdom.
One of the fruits of the Spirit is patience. It is a good thing to rest quietly in our spirit and trust God’s perfect will to happen in God’s perfect timing.
Grumbling against God
Instead of remembering the amazing miracles God had done for them (very recently), the Hebrews complained about what they didn’t have. Case in point: food. God provided daily food for them called manna. Now, I’ve never eaten the same food every day for years on end, so I can imagine that might grow old. But notice the contradiction even in their own words:
“…There is no food…and we loathe this worthless food.”
Wait a minute – was there food or wasn’t there? There was food; it just wasn’t what they wanted. We need to be careful not to miss what God is providing as we wait for what we want Him to provide.
Grumbling against God’s chosen leader
Many people who aren’t in leadership think leaders have it made. After all, they get to do what they want, and make other people do what they want, right? But it doesn’t take long to recognize that leadership is 10% privilege and 90% responsibility.
Moses didn’t aspire to a position of power; in fact, he argued with God when called to lead the people out of Egypt. Moses’ challenges leading the people demonstrate that there isn’t always glamor in leadership. And things get especially dicey when God calls a leader to lead people somewhere they don’t want to go, without the resources they think they should have, on a timetable that feels too slow.
Trusting and respecting the God-fearing leader placed over you is a way to trust God.
A new habit
So now we know 3 things NOT to do while waiting. One of the best ways to combat impatience and grumbling is to cultivate gratitude.
…Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:18
When you’re tempted to grumble against God’s dragging timetable, thank God for His faithfulness in the past. When you’re tempted to grumble against some hair-brained idea God’s leader has suggested, thank God for providing for your needs. It may be helpful to write out a list – make it a prayer.
Practicing gratitude may not cut your wait shorter, but it sure will make the wait a lot more enjoyable.
What have you discovered that helps you wait with joy? To leave a comment, click on the title above.