I hate waiting.
Time seems to move slower. Your life grinds to a halt. You become restless and fidgety.
Our society cares a lot about speed and efficiency. ‘You snooze, you lose.’ ‘The early bird gets the worm.’ No one likes ‘slow and steady wins the race’. We want speed, we want efficiency, we want results.
When there’s no change, it seems we’ve become irrelevant. Apps, phones, social media platforms are constantly updating so they wouldn’t fall behind. Even when updates are unwelcomed, at least it generates discussion and conversation – you wouldn’t be forgotten.
We’re also a culture of instant gratification. When we want something, we want it now, which is shaping us to become annoyed and irritated at the slightest pauses in our lives. Our wants and ‘needs’ become the centre of our attention, demanding others to cave to our desires.
Waiting tests our character
The world hates waiting so we avoid it like the plague. We don’t see any good in waiting and we think there’s no positive benefits in our lives. But what if it does?
Waiting tests our character when we choose to be obedient to God, trusting his wisdom and knowledge of the future.
I am reminded of the women in the Bible who waited so long for children – women, such as Sarah, Rachel and Hannah, who waited for years and years for God to answer their prayers.
Sarah waited so long, she laughed at the prospect that God could give her a child at her old age (Genesis chapter 18). Rachel waited so long she cried out to her husband, Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Genesis chapter 30, verse 1). Hannah waited so long, her prayers to God made a priest thought she was drunk (1 Samuel chapter 1, verses 13 to 14).
Their stories of anguish and long suffering resonates with us when we’ve also waited – or are waiting – for something to come true: a dream to become a reality, a relationship to blossom, a change in life circumstances. They’ve longed for God to answer their prayers and help them vindicate their worth as a true woman (in Biblical times, women who couldn’t bear children were considered cursed by God). Our waiting, too, becomes more painful when we feel what we’re waiting for is tied to our self-worth.
But between Sarah, Rachel and Hannah, two let doubt choose their own way rather than God’s way, whilst the other chose God’s way rather than insisting on her own. Both Sarah and Rachel asked their husband to sleep with their servants so that their servant can bear them a child which they can call their own. Sarah feared she was getting too old and didn’t trust that God would keep his promises. Rachel used children as a power play against her sister.
Hannah, on the other hand, showed character and strength in her waiting. Even though her husband’s other wives taunted her and provoked her for her barrenness, Hannah continued to trust in the Lord, praying to him tirelessly.
All three women waited to have children.
All three women were pressured by society’s expectations of them.
All three eventually had children, but the difference is what they did when they waited.
Sarah and Rachel schemed… Hannah trusted in the Lord.
Waiting in the darkness
Coming out of waiting changes our perspective in life. We appreciate more of what we’ve received and won’t take it for granted. We also see who we are when it comes to dealing with things beyond our control. Our faith and trust in God also strengthens, knowing that he is faithful and provides for our needs, even if what we receive is not exactly what we’ve wanted in the first place.
But what if we’re still waiting?
When we’re waiting, we’re walking in the dark of doubts and uncertainty. We’re not sure how our lives would pan out and we’re not sure if we’ll ever receive what we’re waiting for.
And it’s true, sometimes what we’re hoping for is not what God wants for us.
In C.S. Lewis’s A grief observed, he talks about how when we wait in darkness, we think we are locked up in a prison, trapped and hopeless. But when we hear the sound of birds singing or trees swaying, we would realise that we are actually in the open air. We’re still waiting in darkness, but we know we’re not prisoners trapped and hopeless.
The reality is that no matter what we’re waiting for right now, there is a greater – and better – reality we can’t see yet but we’ve heard glimpses of what is to come. There is something better in the future, and even though we can’t see it at the moment, we can hear the sounds of renewal and restoration. The longer goal is waiting for the return of the King, and we’re not in this alone. All who love Jesus are waiting in the darkness together with you.
Rachel is a youth pastor at Northern Life Baptist Church. She also teaches SRE at a public school in Sydney’s North Shore. Besides working in ministry, Rachel loves studying at Morling College. She is about to finish her Master of Divinity there.