What Have We Learned from Waiting on God?
Wait. It has been said that it is one of the most difficult—yet most powerful—words in the English language. It is certainly contrary to how we are trained today in America. We live in a society that wants everything now—instantly now, in fact. We have instant cash, instant phones, instant messaging, instant foods, instant hot water, instant information … If we have to wait 30 seconds for the computer to boot up, we feel like we are waiting ‘forever.’
Yet God does not change with societies. He still requires that each of His children learn to practice the timeless and powerful character quality of patience. Although the experiences that He allows us to go through to learn this quality vary greatly, it seems that one common experience is the need to wait on God for marriage.
God brought us together as husband and wife, but it did not happen instantly. It required waiting on Him. Since we have been married, many have marveled at the peace and joy that we have. Over and over again, we hear people comment how they can see that we are “just perfect for one another.” Some have even eagerly gone in search of the same thing. “How did you get such a wonderful thing?” they ask. But the answer is not what many are looking for; it isn’t an easy answer for the flesh. But it is, none-the-less, the right answer, the only answer. By His grace, we waited on God.
We didn’t advertise in the ‘singles’ paper. We didn’t date. We didn’t court. We didn’t attend the ‘Christian’ singles groups in hopes that ‘perhaps God would bring us together with someone.’ We didn’t even “go witnessing” together (outside of those times when our families happened to be out ministering together). With His strength, we waited on God. We didn’t wait just one month; we didn’t wait just one year. We waited on God for marriage for fourteen years (though, certainly, God does not always choose this long—or this short—of a period of waiting).
Just what does the word “wait” mean anyway? Does it mean praying a quick prayer, sitting on your hands for a few days (or a few minutes), and then acting in some way that you think will ‘help God out’? NO! It means ceasing from our own labors, being still and knowing that HE is God. It is acknowledging with our minds, our hearts, and our actions, that God’s ways and timing are above our own, and it is submitting to that timing. As much as the flesh may say otherwise, true godliness is to wait on the Lord who will reveal His will to us if we will remain surrendered to Him (Rom 12:1-2).
Before we were engaged, we both desired strongly to be married. Waiting doesn’t mean that a person doesn’t have desires. However, we had both committed our ways and our hearts to the Lord, and we knew that we needed to wait on Him to direct our steps. As such, we took our desires captive to the obedience of Christ, and we actively waited on Him. But that active waiting didn’t include pursuing a mate. Rather, we waited on God by seeking to be about His business. We served our families. We reached out to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (Giampaolo to the brothers, and Jackie to the sisters—not vice versa). We looked for ways to share our faith in Christ. We examined ourselves and sought in a daily, ever-increasing way to be formed more and more into the Image of Christ and to be sanctified fully unto Him.
When a Christian chooses to give way to impatience, to bypass this essential element of waiting on God, that person steps out of God’s will for his life and becomes a vessel no longer useful to God. Saul was God’s chosen instrument as King of Israel. But Saul failed to wait on God. The chapter of 1 Samuel 13 describes a perilous time when the Philistines were attacking the Israelites, and the people of Israel were beginning to scatter out of fear. Saul was supposed to be waiting for Samuel to offer a sacrifice and thus to receive direction from God, but Samuel was taking longer that Saul anticipated. Finally, in desperation, Saul decided he could wait no longer, and he offered the sacrifice himself. Just as he finished the sacrifice, Samuel arrived. Samuel’s rebuke to Saul for failing to wait is very sobering, indeed: “‘You acted foolishly,’ Samuel said. ‘You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, He would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him leader of His people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.’”
By failing to wait on God, not only do we forfeit God’s perfect will for our lives and, thus, the opportunity to reflect more gloriously His Image and Praises, but by becoming impatient and not waiting on God we also miss out on the opportunity to be bound more tightly together with Him. The Hebrew word for ‘wait’ is ‘qawah.’ It means “to endure, to hold out, and during that time to become wound together more tightly with the object of the waiting.” God told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8 that He led them through the desert—through the season of barrenness, of seeming lack, and of waiting for fulfillment of the promise—to teach them that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” He wanted to establish with them during this season of waiting an intimate relationship in which they learned to rely on Him to supply their every need. Sadly, most of the Israelites never learned this lesson. They were too busy complaining and finding ways to try to get what they wanted more quickly. And since these people never learned to wait, and thus never obtained that being bound together with God and in this receiving His best, they weren’t happy when they entered the promised land either (Psalm 106:14-24, especially verse 24). They quickly turned away from God, and they never found the true peace and joy that they were looking for.
But two men in the Israelite community ‘had a different spirit.’ These were Joshua and Caleb. They waited on God for forty long years in the dessert. They learned to rely on God, and they entered the Promised Land and experienced a richness from that land that few others were able to comprehend. For true fulfillment does not come from a position, or a location, or a circumstance. It is found only through waiting on God and being joined together with Him.
This is how we have found such sweet joy and peace in our marriage to one another. It isn’t because we were “lucky” and “happened to find the right one.” It is because we put our relationship with God first, ahead of our own desires. And we waited on Him, and learned to rely on Him for all our needs. And He in turn satisfied our longing souls with His dear Presence; and He put us together. “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.”
When a person chooses not to wait on God, he forfeits God’s blessing, and he brings on himself much sorrow—both temporally and eternally. The devil is deceitful, and he will often make it look for a season as though a person has “obtained a good thing” in spite of impatience. Perhaps you have known someone who rushed into a marriage … and it seemed to go pretty good for a while. In fact, it might even make you wonder if it is worth waiting on God after all. It can appear like you can reach out and have a good thing without waiting. But remember that the devil is a liar and a deceiver. Time will show the Truth: it will show God to be true and everything contrary to waiting on Him and submitting to His will to be a lie. Jesus told a parable about two houses. One house, no doubt, went up very quickly, as its foundation was only sand. The other house, however, took more work, more waiting, more time, as it was built into solid rock. On the surface, both houses looked just the same for quite some time. It wasn’t until the storms and the rains came along that the differences became apparent between the two houses: one had a solid foundation from being built on obedience to Jesus Christ; the other was built merely on the sands of one’s own will and impatience. And the only house left standing was the one that had the right foundation (Matthew 7:24-27). There are no shortcuts to receiving God’s blessings and to being bound together with Him. “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” (Isaiah 30:18).
One final word about waiting: the need to wait on God does not cease when a person gets married. As Christians, we need always to wait on God. Perhaps it will be waiting on God for the money to buy something we would like or need—rather than plunging into debt to have it now. Maybe it is waiting on God to deliver us from a particularly trying situation at work, or with another person. Or it could be waiting on God (not through the use of birth control or fertility drugs) to bless us with children. Of this we can be sure: we will never outgrow the need to or the benefit of waiting on God.
“‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:24-26).