“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” (Lamentations 3:25)
There are many seasons in our lives where we must wait. We desire answers to questions that trouble us, the healing of a disease or sickness, a steady job, a spouse, children, a decent car to replace that one that proves so much trouble, a loved one to return home from an extended period away; the list goes ever on. For some, waiting has become a lifestyle–it seems that we’re always waiting, never obtaining what our hearts desire and are set on. It’s easy to become frustrated and even resentful–towards God, or others, when it’s not in our own power to do something. And the stronger our desires are, the harder and more difficult it can be to wait.
To use my own life and experiences as an example, I have had the longing and desire to find a godly wife and become a husband and father for many years–twelve to be exact. But as I look back over those years, I grieve, because mine is an example of impatience, and waiting, not for the Lord, but for the fulfillment of my own interests and satisfaction of my own desires. In other words, I worshipped at the altar of my own self-glory. I followed a path of sin and wandered in deep darkness, believing I would eventually obtain what I wanted.
I certainly prayed time and time again for God to give me patience, especially with regard to finding a wife, but what I have since come to realize, is that my attitude was much like James 4:1-4 describes,
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Take note particularly of verse three where it says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (or desires).” It never crossed my mind that even in my asking God for patience, I could have had the wrong motives. After all, patience is something that is good, a fruit of the Holy Spirit! Only, I lived as though patience were a means to the end (the goal of my own desires). If patience is a fruit of the Spirit, it means it’s the fruit of living by the Spirit.
John Piper describes it this way,
“Impatience is a form of unbelief. It’s what we begin to feel when we start to doubt the wisdom of God’s timing or the goodness of God’s guidance. It springs up in our hearts when our plan is interrupted or shattered. It may be prompted by a long wait in a checkout line or a sudden blow that knocks out half our dreams. The opposite of impatience is not a glib denial of loss. It’s a deepening, ripening, peaceful willingness to wait for God in the unplanned place of obedience, and to walk with God at the unplanned pace of obedience—to wait in his place, and go at his pace.”
But to avoid any misunderstanding in what I am saying, I believe with all my heart that God gives His children very good gifts. James also writes in 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” And specific to my own desires, Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” And not only does He give good gifts, He delights to do us good (Jeremiah 32:41). But as long as the presence of sin remains on this side of Heaven, we will face the temptation to “exchange the glory of the immortal God (Romans 1:23)” for other things, or worship and serve what is created, rather than the Creator.
A friend of mine recently said that in our “waiting” we might be tempted to act as though we need what we are asking of God (or others), or demand the fulfillment of our desires. In my own life, and to my deepest shame and regret, this insight could not be more true. Do we receive the good gifts from our Heavenly Father with a grateful heart, acknowledging how undeserving we are and how good He is? Or do we take His blessings for granted and become resentful and complain when we don’t receive what we want, when we want it? I know I can look back over the years and be grateful to God for how He did not give me what I wanted in my flesh, but I truly desire to live out a life of trust and delight in God, so that I can walk more faithfully and gratefully today.
Psalm 37:4 is perhaps the most well known and used Scripture verse to encourage singles in waiting for their future spouse, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
While this psalm is not specifically about marriage, it is a psalm of exhortation and encouragement to those who are righteous that they might be faithful and do good–even in the midst of being persecuted–and to turn away from evil. It is a psalm of assurance of salvation from the LORD and His deliverance from our enemies.
Now by pointing this out, I don’t at all mean that we should not delight in the Lord and continue to seek Him for that godly wife or husband, but I know that I myself have used this verse again as a means to my own end. I’m fixed on the “desires of my heart,” namely, a godly wife, and reason to myself that in order to find her I need to delight in God. There is some truth here, but thinking back to what James said about asking wrongly, I would have to confess that I have even sought to “delight” in God so that my desires would be fulfilled. In other words, I had no idea what it meant to really delight in God! I did not love God for who He is, nor did I set my heart to seek Him because I want to know Him.
There is no doubt that waiting for the fulfillment of my hopes and desires in this life can be very hard (those who know me best can certainly attest to this), but something that has recently caused me to really examine my own heart as I have complained about the wait, is the suffering and persecution of my own brothers and sisters throughout the world. The more I read about patience in Scripture, the more I see how closely it is tied to suffering.
Every day thousands around the world are imprisoned or beaten, made to go without food, publicly humiliated, spit upon and even killed. They know what it really means to suffer for the sake of Christ. And most of the time Scripture exhorts us to wait patiently for the Lord, it is in such contexts of suffering.
What right do I really have to complain against God or others when my desires are not fulfilled? It grieves my heart to see so much self-centeredness in me. And I know it grieves the Holy Spirit. Change my heart, O God!
In all of this, there is a better way. Praise be to God! And praise Him for His unending grace and mercy and faithful work of sanctification in me!
Waiting for the Lord
I think it is right to ask the Lord for good things, to seek Him for a spouse or children, or a good job. He delights in doing His children good! But in all of our waiting, no matter what it is, there is something very significant that we must do–we must wait patiently for Him. This is where delighting in God is especially important. Being still before the Lord and waiting patiently for Him is actually a very purposeful and intentional act.
How did this man of suffering in Lamentations 3 demonstrate his “waiting on the Lord”? I encourage you to go back and read this chapter entirely, but to give a brief context to verse 25 I shared at the beginning, the author describes himself as a man who has “seen affliction.” He goes on for the first twenty or so verses to describe his sufferings–ways in which God Himself has set His hand against him. Yet for all the pain he is going through, he proclaims his deep-rooted hope in God Himself: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’”
This is a soul that seeks God, even in the midst of God-ordained sufferings. Later on he says, “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” This is some rock-solid faith and fear in the living God!
In my own personal life, what I am learning is that I have a great opportunity in the midst of my prayers for a godly wife to turn my waiting for her into a waiting for Him. In other words, my waiting should not be fruitless and consist solely of “trudging on” until God brings her into my life and opens the door to pursue her, but rather it ought to be, can be, and should be full of sweet fellowship with the One who has so graciously loved me and saved me, and for whom I am ultimately waiting to see face to face! I can pray and open up His precious Word and meditate on His commandments and His ways. His Word is living and active–it reveals who He is. I want to know Jesus. Paul said that he “[counted] everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8)
I have to ask myself, do I place more value and worth in knowing Christ Jesus than in finding a godly wife? What about you? Do you want to know Christ more than anything–more than what you are waiting for in your own life?
Do you see the implication of this truth? Our waiting is often for something other than Jesus Himself. If knowing Jesus is more to us than anything else (a spouse, children, a job–even deliverance from physical suffering), then waiting with patience is not only possible (Philippians 4:13), but joyful (James 1:2-4).
We don’t have to wait to know Christ. We can seek Him right now, and as we do He will not only delight in doing us good and giving good gifts to us, but even greater, He will give of Himself as He promises His strength (Isaiah 40:29) and peace (Philippians 4:7) and grace (2 Corinthians 12:9), and He will transform our lives (Philippians 1:6).
The waiting doesn’t have to be painful; if we delight in Him it will be beautiful.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)