When we’re waiting on God to act, those words describe us. We may be waiting for provision of a new job; for God to woo a grown child back to faith; for Him to open the womb for a baby desperately wanted, or to bless us with a wife or husband.
From my experiences and from God’s Word, here’s what I’ve learned to do while waiting.
1. Keep on praying.
Yes, when God has repeatedly answered with silence, this is easier said than done. But I keep praying because Jesus commanded us to do it.
When Jesus taught His followers how to pray, He emphasized persistence (Luke 11:1-13). He employed a verb tense calling for continuous action: “Everyone who keeps asking, receives; and he who keeps seeking, finds; and he who keeps knocking, it shall be opened” (verse 10, translation mine).
2. Study the lives of Bible characters who waited on God for a long time.
Abraham (Gen. 12-21) waited twenty-five years for God to give the promised heir through Sarah.
Joseph (Gen. 39-41) unjustly languished in jail for more than two years before God catapulted him to prominence and his administrative destiny was fulfilled.
Twenty five years passed between Samuel’s anointing of David to be king, and David’s assumption of the throne in Judah (1 Sam. 16-2; Sam. 2).
Take a close look at their narratives. What did God accomplish in their lives while they waited? Their stories reveal the truth of V. Raymond Edman’s remark: “Delay never thwarts God’s purpose; it merely polishes His instrument.”
3. Camp out in biblical texts where the theme of waiting surfaces.
Among my favorites: Psalm 13; Psalm 27:13-14; Psalm 62:1-8; Lamentations 3:22-25. As you read, jot down answers to these questions.
- What traits of the Lord do these passages cite?
- What effect should awareness of these traits have on my faith?
- What do these verses suggest I do while I wait? (Look for what the texts illustrate and imply, not only what authors directly state.)
- What would you add to this list of things to do while waiting on God?
- If you’re currently in a time of delay, which of these suggestions do you most need to apply?
4. Remember God’s past faithfulness.
Remembering specific prayers God has favorably answered, and how you grew spiritually through times of affliction, may instill the faith needed for current stressors, such as delays. How has He provided financially? What relationships has He salvaged? What did He do in your heart and character during past episodes of waiting?
In Psalm 106:7-22, three times God lamented Israel’s forgetfulness of His past deeds on their behalf. Psalm 145 repeatedly tells us not only to remember His past deeds, but to tell others about His past faithfulness. Remembering and testifying shifts our focus from our current excruciating delay to who He is (and who He has been) for us.
5. Employ the hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” during a devotional time.
Listen to a rendition of the song online. Digest the lyrics from a hymnbook. Ponder this question: Which words/phrases in the lyrics mean most to me right now? Why? Then sing the hymn back to God.
6. Express praise and gratitude to God.
Examine Psalm 103 and Ephesians 1 for benefits associated with salvation. Thank God for wooing you to Himself, and for what He has done in the past for you and your family. As you express gratitude, mention specific instances when He intervened. What you are waiting for pales in comparison to what He has already done.
7. Ask the Lord to use your delay for a redemptive purpose.
Invite Him to expose areas in which you need to grow, to reveal hidden sins to abandon, and to show you meaningful avenues of service to fulfill while you wait. When you’re in a waiting mode, you’re usually more teachable and more responsive to the Holy Spirit’s whispers.
In effect, you’re saying to Him, Father, don’t waste this difficult delay. Use it for my long-term benefit and to enhance Your glory through my life.
Terry Powell holds a PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Since 1981, he has taught Bible, Church Education, and Leadership classes at Columbia International University in South Carolina. Terry has served as an associate staff member for three churches, and is a licensed preacher for the Presbyterian Church in America. Terry has written or co-authored 17 books.
In Terry’s book Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement To Sustain God’s Servants, you’ll find two chapters on “The Discipline of Delay.” The book provides biblical insights to instill resiliency for folks involved in ministry. H
Terry’s blog, penetratingthedarkness.com, covers issues related to Christian faith and depression.