Our daughter, like many sons and daughters, loves Christmas. One December, when she was three, she asked us if Christmas was here yet . . . every. single. day. “Just wait,” my husband and I would say. “It’s coming.”
To her delight, we assembled and lit our Christmas tree early in the month. She went to bed eagerly that night. The next morning she ran downstairs, full of expectation and hope. The tree was dark and empty. Her face crumpled, and she turned to me with a wail, “I have waited and waited and Christmas is not coming!” I smiled, but she had my full sympathy. I have waited many a day, sometimes with hope, and sometimes not.
Waiting for What We’ll Be
All of us spend most of our lives waiting, whether for “big” things like a job, a spouse, a baby, or healing, or something that feels “smaller,” like summer vacation or for little ones to grow to maturity. Waiting can be good, and hard, and it isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Often when we’ve received something big that we’ve waited for expectantly, we assume happiness will follow, and our desires will be permanently satisfied. Instead, we quickly find ourselves waiting for something else — and sometimes several things at once.
“All of us spend most of our lives waiting.”
Waiting is a standard part of life in a finite world. Regardless of whether our waiting feels easy or hard at the moment, how we wait is shaping the people we are becoming. Worship is essential to that wait because a Godward perspective helps us to persevere with patience and hope. Endurance, Paul tells us, “produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:4–5).
If we long for the endurance that produces character and leads us to hope, we must be fueled by Godward worship. Psalm 27 illustrates this principle in action so beautifully. Though the psalm opens with the confident question, “Whom shall I fear?” we find that the psalmist actually has much to fear, as he waits in a seemingly endless season for deliverance. He faces evildoers, adversaries, and foes (Psalm 27:2), an army encamped against him in a rising battle (Psalm 27:3), and enemies all around him (Psalm 27:6).
In our waiting, fear longs to ensnare us, replacing faith in our hearts. The psalmist feels the oppressive nature of this temptation; he is not blind to what assails him in his wait.
And yet his eyes can see more than the distressing nature of his circumstances, and worship makes all the difference — such a difference, in fact, that the psalmist requests that God might let him “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).
His time of worship in God’s dwelling place is so powerful that he leaves enraptured with God’s beauty (Psalm 27:4), reminded of God’s promise to be a refuge for those who fear him (Psalm 27:5), to answer the prayers of those who cry out to him (Psalm 27:7), and to not forsake those he has committed to save (Psalm 27:9–10). This time of worship is so eye-opening, spiritually speaking, that he proclaims joyfully in the midst of all his trouble, “And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord” (Psalm 27:6).
The end result of his worship is courage and confidence in the Lord — and a willingness to wait for God’s deliverance, and to wait with hope. “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13–14). The psalmist exhorts those around him with renewed trust in God’s character, promises, and even timing.
What We Really Need
You see, what my daughter needed most that morning wasn’t a Christmas tree loaded with presents. The fact that we had taken the time to set the tree up and adorn it, not to mention our track record of trustworthiness in general, could help her recall what was true of us in that moment when she could barely wait for what she dearly wanted. What she needed most was to trust us, our character and our promises. And that is what God’s children need, too, in moments of waiting: to recall who he is, what he has done, and what he has promised to do.
“In moments of waiting, recall who God is, what he has done, and what he has promised to do.”
During worship, God opens our eyes so that we are able to see him — to see all the resources available to us in Christ. We have been bought by his blood. He has us, and he will not let us go. During our times of waiting, let us not look to false saviors, but rather to our good Father whose heavenly host surrounds us every moment, even while we wait and wait.
When, in our worship, we catch a bigger vision of the strong and kind heart of our God, then we are well prepared for the waiting that lies before us as long as we live on this earth. We will not stagnate in our waiting, but grow, and be blessed by it. In corporate worship, as we turn our eyes heavenward, we wait together for the one we long for most: our God who brings salvation (Hebrews 9:28). This is a hope that will not disappoint. When the waiting is over, we will worship the one who fulfills our expectations beyond what we could imagine.