I’m willing to bet that everyone reading this hates to wait. We live in a society that lauds “bigger, better, faster,” and we by and large get what we want, when we want it. Thanks to the technological revolution, information is available 24/7. So waiting, whether we overtly or subconsciously admit it, is something of an impediment to staying active and busy.
Yet we can’t ignore the fact that waiting – especially when we don’t choose it – must have a divine purpose for our lives. If God is deliberate and doesn’t waste anything, then he must be speaking to us when we feel stuck, in the middle, or just plain lost. It’s important for us, then, to examine the “why” behind the “what:” how do seasons of waiting strengthen, prune, and purify us?
Look to Scripture.
In the Bible, we have both Old and New Testament examples of long periods of waiting. The most common and popular example would be the Israelites wandering the desert after their exodus from Egypt. Can you imagine spending 40 years of your life without a home, in a desert no less – without vegetation and with much desolation?
What kept the Israelites going those long years? Why didn’t they just turn away and quit the journey? Well, remember that most of them ended up grumbling from time to time – about their divine food (manna), worshiping the molten calf while Moses was conversing with God atop the mountain. But they kept moving forward. Why?
They were given a promise. God guaranteed that he had a place set aside for them, a land “flowing with milk and honey.” This was the Promised Land.
Then you have the example of the Visitation in the New Testament. Mary waited with her cousin, Elizabeth, after she received the news that she would give birth to the Messiah, the Son of God! Both she and Elizabeth prepared, waited, and celebrated together during several months of gestation. Why? Because they were given a promise – the ultimate promise!
Jesus also prayed in the desert for 40 days, during which time he was tempted by Satan. Isn’t that what happens to us, too? When God invites us to wait for his perfect timing, we often succumb to the doubts and discouragement brought on by thoughts from the enemy.
Why do we wait? Because God has promised that he makes good come from all things according to his purpose.
Live by Way of Obscure Faith
St. John of the Cross coined the term “obscure faith.” Essentially it means faith that is not clear, but it is certain. When we wait, we might be tempted to just pass the time doing one of many enticing options – internet gaming, shopping, idle time on social media scrolling and scrolling, running errands, etc. But we have to remember that waiting isn’t wasting. God wants us to use the time he’s given us fruitfully.
If we understand that this undefined time of desolation in the desert of waiting means something deeper, something we can’t fully grasp just yet, we are encouraged to keep believing that God has a plan in the midst of uncertainty and the unknown.
One such encouragement is that desolation leads to a period of consolation, and vice versa. We tend to go through cycles in our spiritual journeys from one to the other and back again. God gives us consolations, or spiritual sweetness, to uplift and strengthen us for the inevitable forthcoming period of desolation – when we can’t see anything and don’t know what’s going on.
Spend your “down” time resting in God.
(The next post will be about resting and the spirituality of waiting.)
This article is an abridged version of Chapter 1 from my book, Waiting with Purpose: Persevering When God Says “Not Yet.”