She saw me munching half a toasted bagel with melted cheesy top. Gracie loves cheesy foods… Cheese sticks, cheese pizza, grilled cheese, broccoli with cheese, and of course cheesy toast. She demanded with urgency, “I wanna, pwwweeeeessss!”
She wandered around my legs while I put together a bagel with cheese on top and placed it in the toaster oven. As she saw me close the door and set the timer she became unglued in tears and protest. “NO! NO ! I hungwy. I wanna pwease!”
“I know, but you have to be patient, ok?” I said as I pulled her up to perch on my lap. We peered together into the toaster oven window and I pointed to her bagel. “See it’s cookin’. You have to be patient.”
She sat still in my lap watching the cheesy delight bake up perfectly. All the while Grace sniffled tearful gasps of “I’m payyshent…. I’m paaayshent…”
It occurs to me how difficult it is for us in our human nature to wait. We do not like waiting. Waiting oft implies having to deal with discomfort, and in our post-modern feel-good culture the old phrase of “good things come to those who wait” has lost its luster. We do not have time to wait. And furthermore, waiting is not only uncomfortable it denotes for many of us a sense of powerlessness. But I would argue that our perception of waiting has been distorted by our break-neck speed and spoiled culture.
My good friend and mentor, Chris, astutely pointed out in one of our Bible studies: “You know ‘waiting’ is a verb!” What a profound thought. We often think of waiting as doing nothing like we are sitting around passively at the very least, or victims of powerlessness at the very worst. But waiting is not a position of either passivity or powerlessness. Waiting is not simply sitting around and doing nothing. Waiting is a verb, meaning it has action, so then the better view of it is this: What is the action behind our waiting? Is it anxious waiting or patient waiting? Is it fearful waiting or faithful waiting?
Every time we are in a season of waiting we are simultaneously in a season of opportunity. The opportunity rests in which act of waiting we choose to employ. Anxious and fearful waiting suck the life right out of us, they are “energy zappers,” whereas patient and faithful waiting strengthen and energize us. Fearful waiting does not trust the outcome, faithful waiting not only trusts the outcome, but also girds us for whatever that outcome may be.
When we employ patient and faithful waiting we rise in strength. Our ability to manage the discomforts of the world increases. Our ability to delay gratification firms itself (a difficult hurdle to jump in our WiFi-French Fry world, but nonetheless a cornerstone in our spiritual maturity.) The virtues gained from the patient and faithful wait are far greater fruits than the eventual outcome….
Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! (Psalm 27:14)
This is not a verse just beckoning us to sit around waiting in hope of the Lord’s outcome. It says our hearts will increase in strength. That is not to say that there is no discomfort, no agony or sniffling gasps of “I’m payyyshent!” as we wait for the Lord’s plan to unfold. In fact, it is that very discomfort that builds our “spiritual muscle.” Any fitness expert or body builder will advise the main way to effectively gain muscle is by strength training, and exercising. The more we train, the more muscle we build and the greater our endurance.
But those who wait on 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. (Isaiah 40:31)
This verse from Isaiah gives a real feel for what we gain when we choose to wait on the Lord. Our strength is renewed because we are giving up the futile efforts of taking matters into our own hands, or worrying in gut churning anxiety. Because we are not wasting our energy on the fruitless and the futile, we are then gaining strength. We are also exercising our spiritual muscle which means we are building endurance, and endurance is what allows us to manage each successive “wait” with even greater strength and fortitude.
They Lyrics from Chris Tomlin’s famous praise song “Everlasting God” draw from this passage in Isaiah 40. The Chorus says:
Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord,We will wait upon the Lord…
(Lyrics to Everlasting God; Chris Tomlin)
It does not say: “Strength will rise as we take matters into our own hands. We will do it our own way…”
Nor: “Strength will rise as we pace about and worry. We will pace about and worry…”
And not: “Strength will rise as we sit and twiddle thumbs. We will sit and twiddle thumbs…”
None of these choices gives us strength. In fact they actually weaken us. They weaken our position, our character and our morale. They turn us into either victims or aggressors, and either way we miss the glory of the Lord.
The message is this: “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord. We will wait upon the Lord”
The first line refers to what we gain in our patient and faithful waiting. The second line refers to an active choice- It is saying: “No, I’m not going to do it some other way, I am going to wait on the Lord… No matter what.”
How can we in those moments be reminded to make that choice? Try this to hang your hat on: Have you ever flipped to the last page of a book to read the ending? I’ve got to think everyone’s done it at least once in their lives. Knowing the ending does not stop us from reading the pages in between because we still want to know how the ending came to be as it was written by the author. Remember this– The Lord our God is the master author of all time! If you have forgotten, we already know the ultimate ending to the story He has written, even though we are caught up in the midst of the pages in between living out how that ending will come to be.
God’s promises in His universal story are this: Eternal security for his children and His victory over every worldly battle. But, these promises are not just for the universal story. They are promises for every individual story as well, and for every individual incident of your life. As you wait on the glory of God’s plan to unfold… to give you provision, or a new path or deliverance from something weighing you down, remember this: The end is written. Standing by God’s side you are victorious with him. And as you wait, you will rise in strength and be able to endure until your day of victory arrives. You’ve flipped to the back of the book, my friend, so take heart and rise in strength… you already know the ending! So, like Gracie, just be “payyyshent!”