If you're on a quest for the right mate, waiting on God can feel like torture.
You pray. You plead, bargain, and promise that you'll be forever grateful if God will just help you find the right person to marry. And yet an answer doesn't come.
Miserable, you repeat the questions everyone secretly asks, "What is God thinking? What is he doing? Why is he taking so long? Am I going to miss the chance of a lifetime?"
Still no answer comes. Heaven seems silent. There's no booming voice, like you see in the movies. There isn't even a tiny whisper, like the prophet Elijah heard. There's nothing.
Whether you're waiting for a mate, the perfect job, physical healing, or something else very important in your life, waiting on God is one of the most difficult things Christians are called to do.
When you don't get any clear direction, you're tempted to act on your own. You convince yourself that God told you or gave you a sign but that you missed it or couldn't understand it. You haven't done so badly so far, have you? You're perfectly capable of making your own decisions. After all, God did give you free will for that, didn't he?
If you can't, for the life of you, figure out God's plan, isn't it better to do something, anything rather that just sit there, waiting on God?
Our society admires people who take charge, who boldly make decisions and lead the way. We reward initiative, not patience. We like people of action, who jump in with both feet, grabbing the situation by the tail and wrestling it into submission.
If this 'take charge' attitude is rewarded in your workplace, you'll be tempted to use it in your personal life, too. After all, the early bird gets the worm, and victory doesn't go to the faint of heart.
But the Bible is filled with people who waited, often for many years, for God to act. Abraham and Sarah were both wrinkled geezers when she gave birth to Isaac. Joseph had to wait years before God reunited him with his family. Joshua and Caleb had to wander in the desert for 40 years with the disobedient Israelites, patiently waiting on God, before they could enter the promised land.
Martha and Mary had to wait for Jesus--and their brother Lazarus died waiting.
But then he lived again!
No matter how urgent our request seems, we tend to forget that God not only wants what's best for us, but that one of his names is Jehovah-Jireh: The God who provides. Because he owns everything and controls everything, he not only can give us another chance, but as many chances as we need to fulfill his plan.
In her powerful book, Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On, Stormie Omartian says, "As you take one step at a time, holding God's hand and letting him lead, He will get you where you need to go."
That's great news! We can't blow it because God works all things together for our good. We ask him for guidance, we follow his instructions from the Bible, and we trust him every day.
We use the Bible for our lamp, knowing that God's going to show us what to do, a little at a time, but not months and even years down the road.
I've often tried to talk myself into believing that I think something is good for me, so God must think so too. I got tired of waiting on God, so I tried to turn my desires into God's desires for me. Every time I did that, the situation ended in failure.
And yet, over the course of my life, God turned even those failures into progress. It took me years to distinguish my desires for my life from God's desires for me. I still make mistakes. But I'm doing better. I've messed up so much that I trust God's judgment now instead of my own.
What does all this have to do with waiting on God? When we're waiting, God is asking us to surrender our desires to him. He's asking us to make that leap of faith.
We need to trust that he will do the right thing--because that's part of his unchangeable character. The right thing may not always be what we want, but only the perspective of years can help us look back and see God's lovingkindness at work in our lives.
Waiting on God is hard, no doubt about it. But when we exercise our faith by turning our needs and desires over to God, promising to follow his way, our waiting ends, God acts, and we take another step on the path he has set for us.