I had a horse named Carson who was practically perfect in every way—as long as she was moving. The minute she had to stand still and wait, she would pace back and forth, stomp her feet, and throw her head. I would find myself running back and forth to the tack room to hurry and saddle her because she would create such a restless ruckus. Even when she had to stand and wait for other horses, she would restlessly run in a continuous circle. As long as she was moving, she was calm, obedient, and a joy. But when she had to wait, she was a night“mare.”
Honestly, I empathized with her. I’m not good at waiting either. I would much rather be moving forward. Somewhere. Anywhere. But sitting quietly and waiting is hard for me. So, can you guess what does God has me doing right now? Waiting. My husband and I are in a transition and find ourselves in a season of waiting for God to show us what is next—where we are to go and what we are to do. But we’re not the only ones. I have a friend waiting for the lab results from her husband’s biopsy. Another friend is waiting for a reprieve from an emotionally devastating situation. Yet another continues to wait and hope for a child. These are not light things to wait for. Psalm 37:7 tells us to “be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” Unlike Carson, I want to learn how to do this—to be still as I wait.
I recently heard a pastor say, “The waiting may be hard, but it never leads to disappointment.” The truth of that statement rests entirely on what we think we are waiting for. In other words, the question is not simply what am I waiting for, but what am I hoping in? I am learning that waiting and hope are intimately tied together. Waiting, by definition, has something hoped for at the end of the wait. We are waiting/hoping for the right job. My friends are waiting/hoping for a good report, relief, and a baby. But what if those things are not given? God never promises that our seasons of waiting will end by receiving exactly what we want. Not all infertility ends with a baby. Not all cancer ends with a cure. Not all singleness ends with a spouse. Which means that our hope cannot be anchored in the thing we are waiting for. Our hope has to be anchored in something far greater—the promises and character of God.
HOPING IN HIS PROMISES
I passed a billboard on my way to the airport this morning that proclaimed, “Jesus heals cancer. You don’t have to die.” Where in the world do we see that in Scripture? They are claiming a promise God never made—and giving a hope that is not ours to hold. The psalmist said, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” (Ps 130:5, emphasis mine). Our hope has to be anchored in the promises God has given us in his Word—promises in which we can anchor our hope and find that they will not fail. Here are just a few (all emphases are mine):
- I will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13:5).
- And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).
- Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us (Rom 8:26).
- Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Rom 8:34).
- Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1Pe 5:7).
- In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (Jhn 14:2-3).
These are anchors for your soul. When you are in a season of waiting, and feel yourself becoming anxious, run to these and remind yourself of the hope that is yours.
HOPING IN HIS CHARACTER
Hope also has to be anchored in the character of our God—the unwavering goodness, faithfulness, and sovereignty of the one making the promises. Psalm 46 reminds us to “be still, and know that I am God” (i.e. know who I am!). Knowing the nature and character of our God is to know rest, even in the midst of turmoil. Why? Because what God does flows out of who God is—which means that if he is good, his ways are good. If his ways are good, his answers are good—even when they are hard. Unfortunately, we don’t always view it that way. It is far too easy for us to view God’s character through the lens of our situation instead of the other way around. If we are going through a hard time, then God must be harsh. Or, if we are going through a trial, God must be angry. Or if we aren’t getting what we want, God must be unjust or unkind.
But that is using a backwards lens. Instead, flip it around and view your circumstances through the lens of the character of God. If God is for us (Ps 56:9), then he is working for us in this trial. If he is our refuge, our strength, and our salvation (Ps 18:2; Is 12:2), then we are safe. If God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love (Ex 34:6), then we can rest in the fact that he will be merciful, gracious, and loving to us. If God is great and awesome (Neh 1:5), then he is able to work mightily in the midst of our waiting. The list could go on and on. The point is that we need to remember who our God is and view our circumstances through the lens of his character. We need to be still and know that he is God.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
As the Israelites waited for God to return them to their land, Isaiah reminded them that “they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isa 40:31). And the same is true for us. If you are waiting on something, remember that, ultimately, it is the Lord you are waiting on. If your hope is set on getting what you want, then you stand the chance of being deeply disappointed, even disillusioned. But if our hope is in the one who is utterly good, completely for us, whose Word is sure, and whose ways are perfect, then that hope will never disappoint. So, when the trials come and you are called to wait and be patient, wait well by anchoring your hope in the one whose promises are sure and whose character is perfect.
Courtney Doctor is an author, Bible teacher, frequent conference and retreat speaker, and periodic blogger. She received an MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary in 2013 and is the author of From Garden to Glory: A Bible Study on the Bible’s Story (2016). Her greatest desire in all of this is to be able to faithfully study, apply, and teach the word of God. She has a love for education and currently serves on the advisory board for Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA. God has blessed Courtney and her husband, Craig, with four wonderful children, two amazing daughters-in-law, and their first grandson, Bo!