Waiting, Waiting, Waiting
I turn the tap. Shower time. Come on body, come on mind – wake up – it is Monday after all, even if it feels like another Blursday. The alarm has roused me. Time to get moving. Shower done. I wander down the stairs. Turn right. Office. Right, I’m here – commute completed. Who knew working from home could be so difficult? Who knew that the world’s shortest commute could also be the most painful one? I’ve been homebound for weeks and weeks now. Many more days to come, no doubt. Come on motivation. Come on mind. Get in gear.
Routine can become boredom. Boredom can become monotony. Monotony could be the end of us.
Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Waiting can be tough. That is for certain. We live in a modern world with modern solutions – if something goes wrong, we fix it. If we need something, we tap an app and await a delivery. We are used to quick fixes and rapid answers. But no longer. This time of lockdown – and of extended confinement at home in many countries – is a true test of our patience for many of us.
How can we wait well? Hoping in hope alone is not a good place to start. This can fizzle out, it can easily dry up. This can even leave us in a vacuous space of hopelessness. Thankfully our belief in the risen LORD is a ground for true hope. Deep hope. Grounded hope. That motivates and moves us. That can work to animate our daily words, our daily works.
True hope keeps us taut and joyful. Hoping in hope alone is loose, lacking in resilience. True hope gives us a strong and focused sense of the future. Hoping in hope alone is relative and changeable. True hope takes the clutter out of our lives. Hoping in hope alone can crush our spontaneity. True hope is dominated by truth, and moves us to live in purity and in peace.
Eugene Peterson, writing in the Message translation of the Bible, posits:
“The way we conceive the future sculpts the present, gives contour and tone to nearly every action and thought through the day. If our sense of future is weak, we live listlessly. Much emotional and mental illness and most suicides occur among men and women who feel that they “have no future”. The Christian faith has always been characterised by a strong and focused sense of future, with a belief in the Second Coming of Jesus as the most distinctive detail. From the day Jesus ascended into heaven, his followers lived in expectancy of his return. He told them he was coming back. They believed he was coming back. They continue to believe it. For Christians, it is the most important thing to know and believe about the future. The practical effect of this belief is to charge each moment of the present with hope. For if the future is dominated by the coming again of Jesus, there is little room left on the screen for projecting our anxieties and fantasies. It takes the clutter out of our lives. We’re far more free to respond spontaneously to the freedom of God. All the same, the belief can be misconceived so that it results in paralysing fear for some, shiftless indolence in others. Paul in the New Testament often writes to correct such debilitating misconceptions, prodding us to continue to live forward in taut and joyful expectancy for what God will do next in Jesus.”
How then can we wait well?
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word ‘qaveh’ is translated as wait for us in English. Its original linguistic context has a richness and depth which invokes renewal and expectancy. In Hebrew, the concept of waiting is tightly bound with finding strength in the LORD. As we wait, our strength in God is renewed.
The Hebrew word ‘qaveh’ also implies struggle and tension. The waiting implied by this verb is not a passive, limp sort of waiting. Rather it is taut and expectant. The same word is used to describe a cord (rope) which is strong and taut. The verb, therefore, has a figurative image of a strand of rope lingering within it, implying the tension of enduring. This waiting is hopeful, eager, and expectant.
If we consider the prophet Isaiah who writes that ‘this is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “in repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength”’ (Isaiah 30:15, NIV) this becomes clear. Unlike the mantra of the world calling us to be self-sufficient and self-confident, Scripture calls us to find our strength in God. This comes through a quietness of spirit and a deep trust. The action of repentance moves us to a place of rest. It is here that we discover and live in the salvation story.
Consider these texts from the Old Testament that call us to draw a clear link between our waiting and our hope (in the LORD):
- Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
- Psalm 37:34 (NIV) “Hope in the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.”
- Lamentations 3:24-27 (NIV) “I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’. The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man [sic] to bear the yoke while he is young.”
This is continued in the Psalms, songs for pilgrims and worshippers, as we read and echo these songs of hope and patience:
- Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV) “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.”
- Psalm 27:14 (NIV) “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
- Psalm 62:5-6 (NIV) “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”
- Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV) “I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the LORD, more than the watchmen wait for the morning, more than the watchmen wait for the morning.”
- Psalm 123:1-2 (NIV) “I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy.”
Again, in the Old Testament we find countless references to the genuine value of waiting – establishing our trust in God, leaning on his deliverance, and resting in his ways, not our own:
- Proverbs 20:22b (NIV) “Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.”
- Isaiah 8:17 (NIV) “I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my trust in him.”
- Hosea 12:6 (NIV) “Return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”
- Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 (NIV) “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”
- Genesis 8:10 (NIV) “He [Noah] waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark.”
How can we make these words from the Psalms our own during this period of waiting and watching?
- Psalm 33:20 (NIV) “We wait in hope for the LORD, he is our help and our shield.”
- Psalm 145:15 (NIV) “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.”
- Psalm 37:3 (NIV) “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.”
The Scriptures call us over a hundred times to wait on the LORD.
How then can we wait well in this period of extended lockdown and limited mobility?
How can we wait on God, find our strength in Him, and lean on him with a quietness of spirit and depth of trust?
If you would like to read up further on the Hebrew meaning of the word ‘wait’ have a look at this extended essay on Isaiah 40:31 (waiting on the LORD): http://www.spwickstrom.com/wait/
photo: Andrik Langfield on Unsplash