God’s children are always waiting on him for something.
We wait for God to fulfill particular promises (Hebrews 6:15), deliver us from our enemies (Psalm 27:11, 14), provide our material needs (Philippians 4:19), rescue us when we’re in trouble (Psalm 40:1), deliver us from all kinds of fears (Psalm 34:4), renew our spiritual strength when we’re weary (Isaiah 40:31), deliver us from depression and despondency (Psalm 88:1, 6), bring about righteousness and justice when wickedness and injustice surge (Isaiah 26:8), redeem our broken, failing bodies (Romans 8:23), and finally grant Jesus’s return (Titus 2:13).
Learning to wait on God is a crucial faith-development exercise and faith-displaying showcase. That’s why we experience it frequently. But because the things we’re waiting on God for are often things we deeply desire, we can become so preoccupied with them that we neglect things God has given us to do now.
So, what are you waiting for?
Keep Things in Perspective
Psalm 37 is a song of soul-counsel for waiting saints. It was composed by King David, an experienced wait-er. In it, he describes the potentially debilitating anxiety and confusion we experience while waiting on God.
“God’s children are always waiting on him for something.”
The context of the psalm is the perplexing experience of the “righteous” (those who love, fear, and trust God) who linger, or languish, in some experience of deprivation, or injustice, waiting for God to act. Meanwhile, the “wicked” (those who do not love, fear, and trust God) are prospering. But we don’t always merely envy the prosperous wicked; we also can envy the prosperous righteous. So, the psalm can be applied anywhere we are tempted to be sinfully anxious or envious in our waiting.
The first thing David says is this: “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb” (Psalm 37:1–2). Variations on this point repeat throughout the psalm. David’s point is keep things in eternal perspective.
Life will be over quickly — for the righteous, as well as for the wicked. Soon all the things we’ve waited for here will be in the past. “The wicked will be no more” and “the righteous shall inherit the land . . . forever” (Psalm 37:10, 29). Fretting and frustration “tends only to evil” (Psalm 37:8) — evil envying of the wicked whose prosperity will vanish like smoke (Psalm 37:20) or evil, “unspiritual” and “demonic” envying of other Christians (James 3:14–15).
The truth is, most of our lives are actually spent attending to lots and lots of things God wants us to do while we’re waiting on him for a few significant somethings. We don’t have much time in life. We don’t want to waste any of it being unnecessarily anxious and preoccupied with what we do not have or have not done.
Call to Trust
When it comes to waiting, here is what God wants us to do:
Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. (Psalm 37:34)
The New Testament equivalent says it this way:
Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6–7)
“The most important fruit ever produced in our lives may come from faithfully doing good while we wait.”
Humble waiting looks like this: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7). And, yes, this can be difficult. God knows this. That’s why the Bible is chock-full of examples of what difficult waiting looks like. God wants us to know that he understands, and he wants us to believe that “all things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23). It is possible to wait in the patient peace of faith.
Trust God, Do Good
But God has much more for us than merely waiting for him. He has a lot for us to do right now, right where we are:
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. (Psalm 37:3)
Trusting the Lord — casting, not carrying, our anxieties — frees us to dwell contentedly, whatever our situation (Philippians 4:11–13), and faithfully “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). When we take our eyes off what we’re waiting for and look around, we’ll discover more opportunities to do good — right now, where we are — than we could possibly do!
There are God’s own words to store up in our hearts (Psalm 119:11), overwhelming needs around us to pray for (Ephesians 6:18), afflicted and grieving saints to comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4), discouraged saints to encourage (1 Thessalonians 5:14), a local church’s mission to embrace (1 Peter 4:10), neighbors to love enough to pursue with goodness and mercy (Galatians 5:14), the poor not to forget (Galatians 2:10), and missionaries to support (2 Corinthians 9:10–12).
It might feel to us like the things we’re waiting on God for are the main things. But someday we might discover that the most important fruit ever produced in our lives came from faithfully doing good while we waited.
Delight Yourself in the Lord
So what are you waiting for? And how are you waiting?
These are good questions to ask ourselves. Where God has called us to wait for him, are we waiting in the patient peace of faith, or with a sinful anxiety that’s eating up time and energy God wants us to spend elsewhere? If the latter is our experience, David gives us the antidote, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
“When God is the desire of our hearts, we can be sure God will give us the desires of our hearts.”
Delight in God delivers us from anxiety-filled anticipation because it shifts our focus from what we’re waiting for, to whom we’re waiting for (Psalm 39:7). “O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul” (Isaiah 26:8). When God is the desire of our hearts, we can be sure God will give us the desires of our hearts.
Waiting on God is a part of the Christian life — a constant part. We want to learn how to wait well. And part of waiting well is not allowing our waiting for God to distract us from the good God wants us to do while we wait.