The Grace of Waiting
"Faster internet!" "Buy it now!" "Get what you've always wanted when you want it." These are only a few of the seemingly ubiquitous advertising slogans of our culture. No sooner have we begun to entertain them that we have met the dilemma of progress. The more things progress, the more we desire. The more we desire, the more we expect. The more we expect, the less we are willing to wait. The less we are willing to wait, the more we grow sinfully frustrated, anxious, discouraged or depressed. Progress feeds on a sin nature. As we move through our lives at hyper-speed, we unconsciously allow ourselves to believe that if we don't keep up we will be left out. We set expectations both for ourselves and others. We convince ourselves that we can do more and have more--faster than ever. We convince ourselves that we can do whatever we set our mind to--and to do it on our timetable. When expectations are not met--or when we experience the hardships and trials of life--we begin to grow anxious and despair.
A number of years ago, I was speaking at a conference in Anchorage, Alaska. I quickly observed that everyone seemed far more relaxed in Alaska than in the rest of the US. When I asked the conference host about my observation, he said, "In the lower 48 (States), there is an expectation that everything happens right away. Here, if the bridge is out, people know that it won't be repaired for months or years. People here don't expect everything to happen right away."
Richard Swenson, in his book The Overload Syndrome, writes,
"Progress always gives us more and more of everything faster and faster...We have to deal with more 'things per person' than ever before in the history of humankind. Every year we have more products, more information, more technology, more activities, more choices, more change, more traffic, more commitments, more work. In short, more of everything. Faster…Progress automatically leads to increasing overload, meaninglessness, speed, change, stress, and complexity."
The remedy is found in learning to wait on God. We will only ever truly learn to wait when we lack, when things are hard, when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and when we come to an end of ourselves.
King David knew all of this so well. Almost no one experienced more hardship, trials, loss and want, in life than David. While fleeing from Saul, David was--at one point in time--living among the Philistines. While living in hiding there, he fought battles for Achish, king of Gad (1 Samuel 27). When the Philistines were about to go to war with Israel, David was willing to be Achish's bodyguard. However, the other Philistine lords complained to Achish about David. Therefore, Achish sent him back to the land of the Philistines, where David had been hiding with his wives and mighty men (1 Samuel 29). When David and his mighty men returned, they found that the city had been burned, and their wives and children taken captive (1 Samuel 30). David's mighty men were furious at him, and sought to stone him. In 1 Samuel 30:6-7, we read, "David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God." David was at the brink of having lost everything. He was cut off from the people of God, from the land of God, from the enemies of God, from his own mighty men, and from his wives and his children. He had been stripped of everything. So, he did the one thing that he could do--and desperately needed to do. "He strengthened himself in the Lord his God."
The great distress of soul that David experienced at this point in his life gives us insight into his response in Psalm 62. There we read,
"For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken" (Ps. 62:1-2)
David never makes a single petition in this psalm. He never even asks God to do anything. He strengthens himself in the Lord by counseling his own heart to wait in silence for God. He again speaks of the grace of waiting in silence on God, when he writes,
"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God" (Ps. 62:5-7).
David didn't scheme. He didn't devise a plan. He exercised the grace of waiting in silence on God to deliver him. By so doing, he experienced God's deliverance, restoration and blessings. So much of the Christian life can only be learned when we are brought to a place where the only thing we have left to do is to wait on the Lord. Sinclair Ferguson says, "So often we think that we are trusting Christ when things are going well; when, in fact, we are simply trusting that things are going well. It's when things are difficult that we discover whether or not we are trusting him." David cried out to the Lord in self-abandonment and dependance. He wrote,
"Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us" (Ps. 62:8).
Learning to wait on the Lord in times of want, frustration, hardship and trials is one of the greatest graces in this life. It takes the supernatural work of the Spirit of God to enable us to do so. It takes a deep knowledge of who God is from the Scriptures so that we are able to rely on Him. It takes a clear sight of Jesus Christ, the strong and mighty Redeemer of our souls, who poured out his lifeblood for the redemption of our souls. It takes the gift of faith to enable us to wait for God to act. When we begin to learn the grace of waiting in silence, we begin to grow in our understanding of what it truly is to trust in the Lord.