God Gives Our Waiting Purpose
Waiting for the Lord.
Hoping in his word.
Watching for the morning.
Those phrases from Psalm 130 still bring me to tears. They describe how I lived for years, after my once-comfortable life dissolved in front of me. I waited, hoped, and watched for life to be good again.
I wanted the wait to be over quickly so my life could return to normal and I could move on. But those years taught me that in God’s hands, waiting is not a meaningless pause, an empty space to be rushed past. No, waiting has a purpose, much deeper and more refining than I ever would have imagined.
Songs That Taught Me Stillness
The psalms showed me how to wait. In my desperate longing, I read them over and over and over again. They gave me words when I had none. They gave me hope when hope was gone. They taught my heart how to trust God even in my darkest hours.
The psalms named the ache in my waiting and gave me words I could offer to God. Through the psalms, I learned that waiting is a holy exercise, one that requires my full attention. I learned stillness and silence, hope, patience, and trust.
Stillness (Psalm 37:7) and silence (Psalm 62:5) let me hear from God, without the noise of technology and the chatter of people vying for my attention. God’s still small voice spoke to my inner being when I intentionally stopped and listened. I wanted to be busy while I waited, to distract myself from the pain of the present empty moment and my overwhelming longings, but God invited me to bring those longings to him instead. Instead of busyness, I found my rest in him. Instead of distraction, my eyes and ears fixed on him.
Waiting patiently for the Lord (Psalm 40:1) is a common theme in the psalms. In those years of waiting, I was often impatient, ready to move on and move past my pain. If impatience is being discontent with the present moment, then patience is embracing the present and letting God meet me in it. I can enter into a holy experience with God in the deepest pain as I breathe in and out his presence. When all I had to hold onto was his presence and his promises, I discovered that he was and is more than enough.
God Works in Our Waiting
The psalms also showed me what God was doing in my waiting. They pointed me to the goodness and grace of God as the psalmists put their hope in him even when everything was falling apart. Sometimes I’ve received what I was waiting for, and the psalms have taught me to look back with gratitude for God’s kindness. Other times, God has not given me what I asked for, and the psalms have taught me to be equally, if not more, grateful for how God met me and transformed me.
At times, I have mistakenly assumed that nothing is happening in my waiting. Yet God works in our waiting, answering both spoken and unspoken requests, molding us into his likeness. He is preparing us for his work and teaching us his ways.
“God works in our waiting, answering both spoken and unspoken requests, molding us into his likeness.”
In our waiting, God is growing our roots. I once transplanted a beloved camellia bush only to put it in a spot with too much sun. It was quickly scorched by the heat of summer. I cut the bare twigs down in the fall, convinced the plant was dead. But over the winter, its roots expanded; what we thought was dead was teeming with life about to emerge. In the spring, green leaves sprouted at the base and our bush came back to life.
That’s a picture of what happens in our waiting. Life looks dormant on the surface, but God is strengthening and expanding our root system to tap into his streams of living water. When we turn to God, we become stronger and more confident in God because of our wait.
More Than the Morning
Finally, the psalms taught me what I was waiting for. I was not waiting for a particular outcome, though I initially thought so. I was waiting for God himself. At first, I was waiting for clarity or direction, the answer to my questions and an outcome for which I had long prayed. But just as Job discovered, the answers to my deepest questions were found in the person and character of God himself.
While we wait, we are not just biding our time, hoping that life will eventually change. We’re putting our hope in the one who will never disappoint. We wait for the Lord, hope in his word, and watch for the morning.
I learned so much about God through seemingly endless dark years as I watched for the morning. Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning,” but my weeping lasted more than a night, more than a thousand nights, before I saw the night slowly give way to dawn.
At first, all I wanted were glimmers of light indicating my prayers were answered and the wait was over. I was waiting for the outcome I wanted, or at least for an indication of where life was headed. Was life going to get better, or would it continue to deteriorate? Would I get what I’d earnestly prayed for, or would God’s answer be no? I wanted to know which outcome to put my hope in.
That’s when I learned that my hope wasn’t in an outcome. It was in God alone. I needed to trust in the goodness of God and lean into him as I waited. I wasn’t watching and waiting for the morning; I was watching and waiting for God.
As Surely as the Dawn
That realization brought profound change in me. The night was still pitch black as I learned to wait for God more watchfully, more attentively, more expectantly than watchmen wait for the morning (Psalm 130:6). Before sunrise, watchmen see shadows dimly in the receding darkness that become clearer and clearer as the night turns into day. They are looking closely, attentive to the details. And they have no doubt about the outcome.
“Can we wait for God and be satisfied in him alone without insisting on the outcome we want?”
All the psalms echo this earth-shifting revelation. We are waiting for the Lord. For God alone, our soul waits in silence. We wait patiently for the Lord. What we wait for is certain. As Hosea 6:3 says, “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
So as we wait, we can ask ourselves:
- Can we be still and know that he is God when everything in us wants to fix the situation?
- Can we embrace the present moment, with its suffering and sorrow, its pain and imperfections, or are we just waiting for our problems to disappear?
- Can we live with uncertainty, trusting that God is doing something in what appears to be an empty silence?
- Can we wait for God and be satisfied in him alone without insisting on the outcome we want?
The psalms are songs of hope. Not hope that our situation will change immediately or even in this life. But hope in the God who makes all things new, who cares fiercely and tenderly for us, and has all of eternity to show us what he did in our waiting. Our hope will never disappoint because it is not in an outcome but in the living God. Our hope is in him (Psalm 39:7) and from him (Psalm 62:5), and we wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7), more than watchmen wait for the morning.
He will always come to us. As surely as the dawn.