Advent is upon us – a season of waiting. I hate to admit it, but I’m a bad “waiter.” I’m not too deficient with the day-to-day waiting of standing in line at the grocery store, or cooling my heels at the post office, or idling in traffic, or even pressing “1 for English,” pressing “2 for customer service,” and then pressing “7 to leave a message.”
No, it’s waiting on a larger scale that exasperates me. The last few years have been unusually stressful for my husband, three grown children, and me. Cumulatively, we’ve suffered illnesses, job losses, and heartache. Others have suffered through far worse than we, and thankfully through God’s grace, we’ve persevered and in most ways are much better today.
Looking back on those three years and what we experienced, there was one thing that all our difficulties had in common: each involved a period of waiting. Throughout our travails, a Greek chorus of questions sang in my head: When will the medicine kick in? When will they figure out what’s wrong? When will he get better? When will he get a job? When will they ever have a baby? When will this be over? When will life ever go back to normal?
Greater minds than mine have explored why God makes us wait. Some say it may be because we need a period of this sort to develop character, or that we need to learn to depend on God, or that we need to wait because the timing is off and God is working behind the scenes. The idea that there was a greater purpose to our waiting brought some comfort, but there were several other things that I learned that helped me, and I hope may help you if you find yourself living in limbo.
When I’m troubled, distressed, or need help, I often turn to the Bible. While exploring the scriptures, I realized that waiting is part of the human condition. Whether it is waiting to grow up, graduate, get married, have children, find the right job, be successful, be healed, etc., all humans experience periods of prolonged waiting.
The Bible is full of people who have had to wait. Joseph waited to be released from prison. David waited to take the throne of Israel. Sarah and Hannah waited to become mothers. Job waited for the black cloud to be lifted from his life. Mary waited for the birth of Jesus. Jesus waited three decades before beginning His ministry. The apostles waited to receive the Holy Spirit. We continue to wait for the return of Jesus.
However, the most astonishing thing I learned about waiting gave me the greatest reassurance of all. It is said that misery loves company. Surely then, the greatest company of all is the company of God, and I was heartened to learn that we are not alone in our waiting, not alone in our misery. I learned that God also waits.
In numerous passage throughout the Bible, we hear His people, annoyed with waiting, pose this question of God, “How long, O Lord?” But we tend to overlook that there are numerous passages where God often posed (and still poses) that same “How long?” question to His people. For what is God waiting? Since God is perfect and nothing can be added to Him, out of the abundance of His love, He tells us in the scriptures that He is waiting for us–for us to repent of sin, to keep his commandments, to seek His face, to trust Him, to love Him, to make him Lord of our lives.
As we embark on this season of waiting, this season of Advent, may we look forward to the time when all our “How Longs?” will be answered with “Now, my beloved,” when the waiting will be over for both God and us, when we will be united with Him for all eternity in glory. Now that’s something worth waiting for!