Saturday, January 8, 2011

Waiting: On Its Purpose, Duration, and Joys

I am a member of the most impatient of all God's creatures; human beings. Unfortunately it seems that we are the only species that has been burdened with this trait. None of the plant or animal kingdoms seem preoccupied with that subsequent event which will steal their attentions in the future. The birds contentedly flock and feed until an instinct urges to migrate to a warmer location on the crest of the coming cold. They do not aimlessly worry through their weeks of waiting with a fear that they might miss the moment when the wind is right, and the moon full. The salmon struggle upstream to lay their eggs, with no worries of whether or not they will make, or doubts that perhaps they should have waited to begin their journey. Each year the grunion burrow into the sand on the beach behind my home. Only a short window of time provides the perfect conditions of tide and moon. We know when they will arrive, having studied and charted their behaviour, but even if they could speak they would not know what day it was that they always appear. They trust fully that an instinct placed within them by their Creator will tell them when the time is right.

In Matthew chapter six the Lord Jesus uses the sparrows and the lilies of the field as examples to reprimand our impatient, worrisome race:

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear? 'For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." -Matthew 6:25-33

For us waiting is a daily, ever-present aspect of our lives. In some instances it is no more difficult than waiting in line at the bank, or getting caught in traffic. But at other times it becomes a consuming longing for a time that has not yet come, for migration to a warmer and less lonely area of our lives that seems miles in the distance. Often we imagine ourselves much happier if only the very thing we were waiting for came to us in an instant. Even harder it is when we wait for what we know not. Jesus tells us that His Father knows all that we need, even when we do not know it ourselves. Do you wait for your life-long companion? Fret not over him or her, your Heavenly Father knows of your need. Do you tarry for guidance from the Counselor concerning the next stage of your life? Be not anxious, for the Lord is gracious.

What is the purpose of waiting, whether it be long or brief? Isaiah provides us with the most beautiful of answers when he says, "Therefore 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 who wait for Him" (30:18). The Lord is waiting Himself, for the perfect time in which to fulfill His promises to you, and to provide for your every need. The all-knowing and all-wise God who programed the instincts of migration into the birds cannot make a mistake concerning the perfect time to be gracious to you.

None of us knows the time that the Lord will extend His hand of graciousness to us. It might be tomorrow, perhaps it is next month, or perhaps the sweet smelling crocuses of spring will not poke their petals through the frozen ground for many years to come. Nevertheless, this does not make the Lord less gracious, nor should it make us less patient and content in His love. Until the time that our patient waiting is fulfilled we must do as the Lord commanded in Matthew. Seek first the kingdom of our wise and loving Father and our long and aimless waiting will suddenly become a time of preparation, joy, and fulfillment. I can happily and truthfully say that I would not mind waiting for something I sorely desired (such as guidance for the future, husband, family, etc.) if it meant that the period of tarrying was characterized by growth in fellowship with the Lord, meditation on His Word, and joy in the blessed Lover of my soul. Tarry long, Lord Jesus, in fulfilling your promises to me, and in supplying that thing for which I long with all my heart if it means that I might draw closer to you!

When put in the light of blessed, personal, and intimate communion with the Saviour waiting is transformed from a burden to a joy, from a weight to the means needed to soar, from frustration to desire, and from a cause for grumbling to a cause for praise. In waiting is the Lord's sovereign purpose revealed, that we may be "transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory" (2 Cor. 3:18). Content in the blessedness of our Lord Christ may we be, no matter what we wait for, or for how long. As we turn our eyes to Him may those things grow dim in the light of His indescribable glory and ever-present grace.

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