The Fine Art of Waiting

Psalm 40:1  I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.

One of the most difficult things to learn is the fine art of waiting, particularly when you are younger.  We are naturally wired to satisfy a desire or “want” quickly.  Athletes must necessarily learn this important discipline of waiting as most sports require thousands of hours of practice to “master” them (yet even the best in a given sport will agree that you never actually master the sport).

In my son Nathaniel’s pursuit of the track & field decathlon one of the last events he had to pick up was the pole vault.  He shared with me that it had been one of the most challenging and frustrating things he has ever done.  His first coach spent considerable time teaching him the very basics, including how to hold the pole and how to run with it.  Nathaniel then took very small steps each week with only small incremental progressions beginning with planting the pole into the vault box, then simply swaying into the pit, and then swinging and lifting your legs straight in the air.  After many months he had not even gone over the bar yet and was growing a bit restless.  One day his coach couldn’t make practice and just my son and a senior pole vaulter were there.  The older vaulter said that he learned by just going over the bar and suggested my son just try it.  Nathaniel did try it and it was a disaster.  After leaving that practice, he said to me that he was not yet ready to go over the bar and understood why he needed to be patient.  His coach had much to teach him and would know when he was ready to go over a bar.

Our Christian walk can be similar.  Often there are things we yearn for; perhaps a special job, a special person in our life, or making a certain team or competition.  We pray to God and ask that he come into our situation and supply our needs or remove barriers, and yet it just does not happen.  We have options at this time; we can wait on the Lord or we can just try to make it happen.  And we may have success in getting what “we want”, but if it is not God’s timing then it is manipulation, and we will not experience the fullness of what God desired.

God does not keep things from us because he is some cosmic tyrant.  God loves us, knows us, understands what is best for us and he knows how we can best assist him in furthering his kingdom.  David understood this and chose to wait patiently on the Lord.  The original Hebrew word here actually suggested he “waited and waited”.  And after waiting patiently, his Father in heaven did not disappoint him.  He heard David’s cry and in his time he “lifted [him] out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set [his] feet on a rock and gave [him] a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:2).

As mature Christian disciples we need to learn to praise God in our time of waiting on him and ask God to reveal what it is he wants to do in our lives during this time.  Through our times of waiting God can develop some very important characteristics in our lives.  It is in these times that God can sanctify us so that we can better resemble him.  Ironically, it is in these times where we feel we are doing nothing that God can grow the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Looking at this list of fruits you can understand how waiting, above receiving, can more effectively grow these fruits.  However, the choice remains ours.  We can choose to wait patiently with thanksgiving (Philippians 4: 6-7), or we can choose to grumble or choose to manipulate situations to try to get what we want now.  Choose the former and watch God do mighty things in your life.  It may take a while to see the fruit, but rest assured they will grow.

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