When We Don't Want to Wait

When We Don't Want to Wait

Where in the world is it? I couldn't find my electric beard trimmer. I opened the sink cabinets and moved around a few bath towels. Still nothing. Inanimate objects don't grow legs and walk away (my mother used to say), but this was gone. I decided to forget it and move on after searching around ten seconds.

But then it dawned on me...

I have mistaken accessibility as actuality. What I mean is, functionally, because the beard tool wasn't right there I acted as if it wasn't real. Because it wasn't accessible, I pretended it didn't exist.

The Problem with Impatience

It does exist, though. I really do own one. I've seen it before. I've used it. But because it wasn't right there when I wanted it — because there were a few hurdles inhibiting its immediate usefulness — I ignored it.

Do you ever do this? Something isn't easy and therefore we act like it doesn't deserve our time. Because it's not one click away, it might as well be false. Has our web-warped brains burned up what little patience we had left for simple tasks? And if so, are there any problematic implications? Say, for instance, in the Christian life?

The problem is that we don't like to wait. And the reason that's a problem is that the Christian life is essentially one of waiting. Paul says it in Romans 8.

Paul's Logic in Romans 8

If you are God's children, Paul says, then you are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ — "provided we suffer with him in order to be glorified with him" (Romans 8:17). Suffering is a reality if you are in Christ.

But in the case his readers are too discouraged here, the apostle continues. But don't get down about the suffering because the suffering we are bound to go through in this world is not even worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us in the next (Romans 8:18).

See what he did here: Our perseverance in present suffering is catalyzed by comparing it to our future glory. The future, eternal glory is so great that it dwarfs the present, temporary afflictions. Now after introducing the theme of glory, Paul has more to say. . .

There indeed is a future glory. The creation is waiting for it, longing for the revealing of the sons of God. Creation, after all, has been subjected to futility, tainted with the smudge of sin. This isn't because creation wanted it that way, but because of God who subjected it in hope. (Romans 8:19–20).

Now hope is very important.

The hope in mind here is the hope that creation will one day be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. The hope is the future glory. Creation has been groaning — and we who have the Spirit have been groaning, too! We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:21–23).

Christians are waiting, you see.

If It's Real, You'll Wait

In fact, Paul says something here that many of us gloss over. It is actually in the hope of future glory — in our eager waiting — that we were saved: "For in this hope we were saved" (Romans 8:24). Again, Paul's logic:

Hope that you can see is not really hope. No one hopes in things they can see. But if we hope in what we do not see — if we hope in the future of surpassing glory that we can't see right now — if we hope for that, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:24–25).

The Christian's future reality of glory is crucial to saving faith. Now please get this: it doesn't mean we are saved by anything additional to faith alone in Jesus alone. What it does mean: if you trust in Jesus for your best life now, you don't have the kind of faith the Bible describes. Your best life now is not the hope in which we were saved. Rather, the hope in which we were saved — and in which we rejoice — is the eternal reality of fellowship with God (Romans 5:1–2, 11).

Christians wait. To be saved is to be saved into waiting (1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Help in Weakness

And waiting is hard. It is especially hard for modern folks. The consummation of the new creation doesn't have an app. Siri doesn't offer any help. How do we do it?

Back to Paul: Waiting is hard to do, indeed. But the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We're not naturally great at this. In fact, we don't even know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

This help from the Spirit is a really good thing.

God, the one who searches hearts, knows the way the Spirit thinks because it is according to God that the Spirit intercedes for the saints. (Romans 8:27)

It is good that the Spirit intercedes for us because, essentially, God can read his mind. He gets the Spirit's way of thinking. And the reason the Father gets the Spirit's way of thinking is because the Spirit's way of thinking is according to God. The Spirit only always thinks in accordance to the purposes of the Father. And it is this very Spirit who is indwelling us and appealing to God on our behalf. This is who fuels our waiting. This is absolutely astounding. Astounding! Do you see it?

What this means is that the life of waiting is now intimately empowered by the God for whom we wait.

The Wonder of Waiting

The Christian life is out-of-this-world, hand-over-your-mouth supernatural. But do we live there? In all of our average existence full of plain hours and daily routines, do we experience this Romans 8 wonder? Or do we fly through everything acting as if this world is all there is? Is accessibility our new reality?

We are weak. But it's not left to our strength.

We have the Holy Spirit, the helper who has come to show us Jesus (John 14:26). We have the Holy Spirit, the manifestation of God's love poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5). We have the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (Acts 1:4; Ephesians 1:13–14). . . who intercedes for us according to the will of God (Romans 8:26).

The Christian life is one of waiting. We have to open a few sink cabinets and move around a few bath towels. And in his power, we can do it for more than ten seconds.


Recent posts from Jonathan:

Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.