Are you waiting for something?
The unknown of a job or grad school application.
The anticipation of a vacation.
The longing for a partner or long-term friends.
Been there, I feel you.
Christians have this phrase “waiting on God.” Which usually means waiting for him to act, lead, respond, direct, or provide. It’s not killing time; it’s actively paying attention to God.
I’m learning that waiting on God is actually very important in our relationship with him. It plays a key role in our spiritual development.
Waiting does not have to create bitterness, anger or loss of hope: it can establish a deeper trust and knowledge of who God is and his love for you.
Here are five things that waiting on God has taught me:
When I joined staff with Power to Change, I entered into a season of trusting and waiting for God to provide financially so I could work on campus. It was not easy and at times I felt frustrated that reaching my goal was outside my control.
I searched the Bible for guidance and stumbled upon Psalm 130:5, which is now the framework for how I view my life, and specifically, waiting on God.
It says, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” (ESV).
As you wait on God, your hope needs to be in God’s promises and not in circumstances, people, or yourself. The reality is, God’s Word will never change nor fade away. Whatever the Bible says (hopes and promises) will happen because God cannot be unfaithful to himself. The Bible is true, trustworthy, and dependable for all of life and it will not be altered.
Waiting on God feels scary because we lack knowledge about our future, but with the Bible as our foundation, we can be more certain of who God is in a very uncertain world. That always helps me feel more grounded.
Moses was a leader in the Bible who faced much discouragement and loneliness in ministry. The people he led grumbled, rebelled, and needed saving from destruction multiple times. Moses needed to wait for the Lord to lead and direct him so that he could lead and direct those wayward people to the promised land.
God responded to Moses: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). God reassured Moses that he is not alone in his leadership: God himself will go with him. Moreover, God’s presence brought deep rest to Moses who desperately needed it.
In the midst of waiting on God, you too can experience that same rest and peace that comes from God’s presence. You are never alone in the waiting, no matter how scary or isolating the unknown future feels.
If you have placed your faith in Jesus as Lord, you have been promised the Holy Spirit who dwells in you at all times. He gives you access to God the Father, refreshment, joy, and peace.
In times of waiting, God is always with you; he promises to never leave you, nor turn his back on you (Hebrews 13:5). As God is faithful and cannot deny himself, he can never withdraw his presence from you. He even walks with us as we wander and in “dark nights of the soul.”
The moment you place your faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord, God begins working in our lives to mature and grow us to become more like Jesus. This development begins when we receive the Holy Spirit at conversion, and Jesus promises that he will complete his good work in us (Philippians 1:6).
This spiritual character development (“sanctification”) is the work of the Holy Spirit in us to make us more like Jesus. It strips away the old, sinful nature, and purifying us. God longs for us to grow to become more like Christ—wouldn’t it be awful if we never changed but stayed in the same broken and sinful place as when we first realized our need for the gospel?
I’m realizing that it’s the periods of waiting on God that my dependence and trust in God deepens. It’s in waiting on God where I experience him in fresh and intimate ways. When I turn to him and seek his guidance, I hear his voice more clearly.
It’s in the periods of waiting that my tangible sanctification takes place. Therefore I’m learning to be grateful and accept these seasons of waiting, because they are a spiritual investment in my future holiness, a future me that’s more like Christ.
Read more: I want to grow, but how?
When I experience a period of waiting I am tempted to feel as if God has forgotten about my happiness. Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Shouldn’t he just give me what I want?
I need to remember the truth of who God is. In his wisdom and compassion he is dedicated to our sanctification. For God, the highest good and ultimate happiness is for us to become more like him. I am grateful for this! The truth is: God is a good father who longs to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11).
Often those good gifts come in a package different than what we may expect. The training program that God designs for each of us to become more like Jesus isn’t easy or carefree. Like anything of true value it comes with bumps, challenges, and unfulfilled desires. Just because you may feel disappointed or discouraged with the path God is leading you on, doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:28,
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
All things (even painful waiting) can work together for God’s good in us. God does not call us to brush off the painful, raw, and emotional aspects of waiting, pretending that to have faith in God we must ignore our heart. No, we are to choose to believe that even in the hardest moments of waiting on God, he can transform it into his good, for his purposes—which is always a blessing.
Part of choosing to believe can sometimes look like a journey of lament.
In Matthew 6:5-13 Jesus instructs his followers how to pray to God and there is one line in verse 11 that always stood out to me: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Essentially it means that we need to take life day by day, praying for God to provide just enough for what we need that day.
This also reflects God’s daily provision to the Israelites when God would provide for them everyday in the wilderness by sending bread from the sky (Exodus 16). God doesn’t send us bread from the sky these days, but through the presence of his Holy Spirit he sustains us each moment, as we walk with him in total surrender.
Naturally I hate this. I want God to give me my “life loaf” of bread, the whole thing, not one tiny slice at a time. I want to know each detail of my life story so that I can know what’s coming. In a period of waiting on God, it feels painful to not know how things will turn out.
I think though, if God were to tell me my whole life plan, I would most likely run the other direction out of fear. Having to wait and depend on God for an unknown future, in God’s grace, is the best thing for me to do.
Waiting on God to provide, act, lead, and direct is normal and part of the Christian life. You have all the resources you need to wait on God well, through his Holy Spirit inside of you. Praise God! Waiting can bring pain and frustration, but waiting well and trusting God each moment of each day will birth new spiritual fruit and blessing in your life.
Waiting on God is active, not passive. So here are some action items to help you wait well:
Identify: What are you waiting on God for? Write it out.
Pray: Ask God to provide all your needs and entrust your circumstances to him.
Trust: God is good, loves you, and will complete his work in your life.
Wait: Surrender each moment and ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit’s power and ability. He will empower you to wait well for God’s glory.
Celebrate: When God answers prayer or leads you in your waiting, grab a friend and praise him together! God is worthy of all praises. If he answers your prayer in a way you didn’t expect, surrender your expectations and choose to trust God fresh again.
[Editor’s note: Article updated July 12, 2022]
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