A woman is waiting for the bus

The Secret to a Beautiful and Not Bitter Wait

Recently, I was waiting for a parcel from overseas. One of the major cons of living in a tiny paradise at the bottom of the world is it costs a million dollars to ship anything, and it TAKES a million years for things to arrive.

I obsessively tracked the shipping updates for my parcel. France. Dubai. Singapore. Then it hit Australia, and the little icon turned red. An email came to say it was delayed in customs.

I took a deep breath, because this always happens.

Finally, it arrived in New Zealand. At last! Only. . . red icon again. Customs delay.

After a day or so, I rang the shipping company because I hadn’t heard anything and suspected I had duty charges to pay.

“Oh yeah, you do,” the lady said, saying she’d email me a form so I could apply for a number I needed to pay my duty charges. I got the form, filled it out immediately and sent it back.

Two more days passed, and I emailed asking if everything was okay.

“Oh my gosh, sorry. I somehow lost your application,” she said. I filled it out again and sent it off, getting a bit annoyed by this point.

A day and a half later, I called to see if they’d processed my number, which I was told would take just half a day to do. This time she said: “Oh, we needed the invoice to state your name at the top of the address line, not on the contact name line. . .”

By this stage, my patience had become paper thin, and I’m ashamed to say I got really cross.

After a growly exchange, I felt guilty and sent a box of red velvet cupcakes with a “sorry for being grumpy” note. The lady emailed me saying thank you, and that she understood, and a day later I got my parcel. 

Why do we even have to wait?

We know waiting is a part of life, but it doesn’t stop us from getting a bit cross when things don’t happen soon enough.

At the bottom of it all, we simply don’t get why we need to wait. Why can’t God just snap His fingers and make the thing happen for us?

Recently, my daughter has started learning piano and practising together has been a total nightmare.

“You’re too good!” she literally sobs when I try to help her, “I’ll never be as good!”

But I’d been playing the piano since I was her age (four and a half), and I’m now nearly 33. “I’ve been playing for longer than you’ve been alive,” I told her, “and if you practice and keep playing, you’ll get as good as me, probably better.”

Of course, Gigi doesn’t want to have to wait and be patient to master the piano. She wants to have aced it already, playing on stage in a concert.

“All the best things,” I told her, “take time.”

Everything worth doing in life will have some degree of waiting involved.

On the grand scale, our entire lives are caught up in waiting—for Jesus’s return. Romans 8 talks about how the whole of creation groans in anticipation of it, and we are encouraged to eagerly look forward to the coming of God’s Kingdom and the reward of Heaven. Romans 8:24-25 says: “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Hope carries with it an air of uncertainty—not that we’re uncertain about the “what”; it’s the “when”. But even though we don’t know “when”, we know “what” will come; we can be sure of it, and that gives us reason to wait patiently.

This holy training ground

Waiting—persevering—is a helpful tool in the refinement of our faith.

Because in our waiting, things can get messy. We can become disengaged with what is in front of us—for example, “putting up” with the “job for now” in anticipation of the “forever job”, which means we’re kind of checked out on the daily. We can also become disillusioned with any progress we’re making because it’s not what we’re holding out for.

We can become bitter with how others seem to have things come so “easily” to them—even when we know it’s not true.

The worst is, we can lose sight of what God is doing in our lives and what He has already done—the blessings already in our hands—because we’re too busy longing after something else.

God isn’t making us wait to frustrate us, but to purify us. The Epistle of James talks a bunch about persevering, particularly through trials, as described in James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy my brothers and sister when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete.”

God is active and creative in our waiting. I think back to these examples in Scripture:

Joseph received a promise in a dream where he saw his brothers and even his father bow down to him. He was sold into slavery, then spent years in prison, forgotten and alone. The long season of waiting whittled his pride, and eventually we hear Joseph proclaim what his brothers meant for harm, God made for good (Genesis 50:20).

Hannah, desperate for a baby. After years of longing for a child, she was so distraught in her prayerful grief that the priest thought she was intoxicated. And yet, even in her desperate longing, she saw children for what they really are—not hers but belonging to God (1 Samuel 1).

Even Paul, who wanted to go to Spain (Romans 15:24), but until God got him there, he worked hard on the missionary ground planting new churches and growing disciples.

Three helpful postures to adopt while waiting

In Exodus 23:29-30, God speaks to the people of Israel about the Promised Land: “But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate, and the wild animals would multiply and threaten you. Little by little I will drive them out before you until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.”

The Israelites had to wait patiently to inherit the Promised Land from the previous inhabitants because God knew they were not ready. The scale of the land and the presence of fierce animals would have been too much for them to immediately take on.

They had to listen to Him in their wait, and the same is for us.  In our waiting, the first posture to adopt is listening. This means listening intently to what God is saying to us. His living Word is found in Scripture, the wisdom of respected others, and in the revelation of His Holy Spirit.

We can also listen to our own hearts for things like pride, self-reliance, or bitterness, which will never bear fruit in the outworking of God’s plans.

When I completed my time as an intern at church, I expected to stroll into a job in ministry. “Doing what?” someone asked me, and if I were honest, I just wanted to be a Hot Shot Worship Team Extraordinaire.

Yes, God had put passion within me for His church, but I knew there was a fair amount of personal agenda too. So, in the waiting that followed, I learned to adopt a posture of listening.

A second posture is one of curiosity. In one of my seasons of waiting, I decided to be purposeful and learn as much as I could, so I can eventually minister to others in similar situations.

Likewise, I wonder if there are things God is wanting to accomplish within you, preparing you so that “you have increased enough to take possession of the land” (Exodus 23:30) God is leading you into.

Finally, a third posture we can adopt is looking back—to take stock of God’s blessings towards us. It is always easy to fix our eyes on the next thing and forget everything that God has already done for us. So challenge yourself to look back and be thankful for all He has done, instead of getting cross that the next thing you’re waiting on hasn’t come.

Sometimes, we wait . . . only to have nothing to show for it

The Apostle Paul never made it to Spain. Sometimes in life, we don’t make it to our “Spains”. Sometimes there are things we want and long for, that unfortunately aren’t in God’s ultimate plan for us. And that can sting.

In my case, a hefty amount of pride had to be relinquished before my heart was ready for any ministry. I had to give up my expectation of what it looked like to serve in ministry, so I could welcome whatever God would have in mind for me instead.

The secret to a beautiful and not bitter wait is to trust that God is our loving Father. This is a journey He is taking with us; He knows what we need (Matthew 6:8), and He is in control.

Dear friends, why not see waiting as a season to become even more dependent on God by surrendering control? And in turn, recognise that He will, in His time, bring everything into its fullness (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

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