Together in the Waiting: Getting to Know the God Who Waits

Laurie Thornton

A few weeks ago I went to a Captivating retreat (yes, you should go) and I came away with my heart meditating most on this question: “How do you want to live?”

Here are my answers, in their rawest, truest form:

I want to live brave.
Unhindered.
Unencumbered.
Immoveable.
Free.

I want to be a hope-bringer. A life-changer.

I want to live in such a way that when I meet the saints on the other side, I walk in to a standing ovation and applause, and then I collapse—exhausted—into Papa’s arms as he whispers, “Well done, my girl. Well done.”

I want to live a life in which I am present, alive, joyful, accessible, vulnerable and inviting.

Yes. Yes. Yes. This is how I want to live and it’s how I want to be remembered.

But truth be told, in the midst of all that bravery something else happens, and it usually comes at night or when I’m alone:

“Oh yeah, You’ll live free. You’ll live from your heart. You’ll live with your desire and your dreams out in front of you. And then you’ll be crushed. Your family will be crushed. You’ll never survive. And all of this will all come to nothing.”

And with that, I’m out. All of the courage goes out the window.

That’s the whisper that comes when I’m woken up by a croupy cough coming from the kids’ room in the middle of the night. The unknown. The what-ifs. The threat of something terrible right around the corner. And then I turn on the news, which never helps. There’s war. There is slavery. There’s disease. There are tornados that you can kind of predict but then there are earthquakes that no one can predict. And then there are Christians getting torn to pieces, literally. And children being bought and sold and worse.

At those moments, my instinct is to retreat. Like my kids do when a car comes by and they yell, “Hide!!!!!!” and they run up on the porch and hide behind the wall until the pretend threat has passed.

Isn’t that, indeed, what we all do? Hide our hearts away until the threat has passed? Turn to things that will give us a false comfort, keep us from feeling whatever that is, and give us a way to escape, even if just for a moment? We put our heads down. We power through it. We hold our breath until it’s over and hope that maybe we’ll get a breather before the next one hits.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

Don’t we generally hate waiting? Wouldn’t we feel so much better if we could just know what the outcome will be? What the diagnosis is? When we’ll find that house? Whether Ebola will take our country down? Don’t we fear the process? The not knowing?

We all feel it. We feel it on a natural level. We feel it on a spiritual level. We feel it individually, as families and worshipping communities, as nations, as humans.

The truth is, the human life is a life of waiting. We are all waiting. Waiting in hospital rooms, waiting for friends. Waiting for our food at a restaurant. Waiting to find out if our loved one will survive. And it’s all over the Bible, too. Phrases like “wait on the Lord,” “the time is drawing near,” and “in just a little while” remind us that life is a process, a journey, a collection of times of waiting. Whether you love Jesus or not, whether you do the right thing or not, you will spend your life waiting.

We are all waiting. Why? Because we have a God who is waiting, too. Because the story you are caught up in isn’t just about you. Because there is more happening here than you can see with your own eyes. It’s a grander story, and it doesn’t begin or end with you.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9

He is waiting, too.

You must understand, friends, that there is a greater purpose—there is a greater kindness, there is a greater evangelist and a greater friend—at work here, and none of this will be over until his purpose is accomplished on earth as it is in heaven. And he is not slow in doing it. He is intentional. He is purposeful.

Out of his love he waits. Out of his desire for YOU, he waits. In his justice, he waits.

He is not uncomfortable in the tension of waiting. He is not unaware of the devastation around us. He is not surprised. He is not stressed out about it or taken off guard. In fact, he is the one sleeping in the boat while the seas are rocking around him. I’d like to sleep with him there, too. Wouldn’t you?

Why is he so comfortable with waiting? Because he knows his own victory. He doesn’t question it. He was there when it happened. He knows the end of this story and he is immoveable because of it.

It’s where his faith is.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

You see, Jesus had faith, too, and Jesus’s faith—what he was convinced of, expecting and living from—was, and is, his own victory. His belief in himself and his work is through the roof and all his promises are based on that faith.

Let me remind you of a few of them:

He brings good news to the afflicted. He binds up the brokenhearted. He proclaims freedom to the captives and comforts all who mourn. You will have oil of gladness instead of mourning. You will have a mantle of praise instead of fainting. You will be called an oak of righteousness. You will be called priests of the Lord and his Kingdom. You will have a double portion instead of shame. And instead of humiliation, you will shout with joy (Isaiah 61; Revelation 1).

Jesus could promise these things because he didn’t have faith in the outcome; he had faith in HIMSELF and that he had already secured the outcome! He had faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and that he is who he says he is. This is the anchor that let him sleep through a tumultuous storm. This is the anchor that compelled him and ignited his ministry with power and authority. This is the anchor that keeps his promises trustworthy and secure no matter what circumstances look like.

Friends, our faith cannot be in outcomes or results. We cannot live outcome to outcome, afraid of the waiting or the process or the journey, without relegating ourselves to a life of fear, isolation, and ineffectiveness. Our faith—if it is to have impact and power—must be in one who won the victory!

This is a decision you are going to have to make because there is another force at play here. God is not the only one who is promising something. Satan is making promises, too. Remember the one he makes to me?

“Oh yeah, You’ll live free. You’ll live from your heart. You’ll live with your desire and your dreams out in front of you. And then you’ll be crushed. Your family will be crushed. You’ll never survive. And all of this will all come to nothing because God is not who he says he is.”

Two whispers. One promising life; the other promising death.

Don’t be naive here. You are going to have faith—conviction, assurance, expectation—in something. What’s it going to be? Who are you going to believe? What are you going to believe?

I have heard several times recently of people tired of waiting on unfulfilled promises that God had spoken long ago. I get it. I have felt that, too. But here’s the question: What we going to wait on if not on God’s promises? It’s not like giving up on the promises would stop the waiting period, so what would we exchange the promises of God for? If we stopped believing in HIS promises, whose promises will we start believing? Think about it.

I recently saw this tweet from Kris Vallotton, whom I love to listen to: Fear is faith in the wrong thing.

In letting your fear take up your heart and mind space, you are exercising a kind of faith. Did you know that?

If your faith—if what you are assured of, convinced of—is that at any moment the other shoe will drop just like you always knew it would, then your “faith” is actually bringing you down and will quickly take you out.

If your faith—if what you are expecting—is that in your waiting God will be revealed as a fraud and you will be revealed as a stooge, a fool, or an idiot, you are giving your heart away to something that wants to destroy you.

So, what are you waiting for? What are you expecting? Are you expecting life? Or are you expecting death? Are you waiting for redemption, or are you waiting for destruction? Will you see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, or will you one day realize that it was all a big joke and you were the butt of it?

Why give your heart away to that which cannot save you? Why waste your belief and your expectancy on that which has already been defeated?

You are going to have to decide how you want to live.

I know we just want to know the outcome, like we said earlier, and I have some great news for you: YOU DO!! You know how this ends, and now it’s time to start anchoring your faith to the one who has already done it.

Let me encourage you with the words of the writer of Hebrews:

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY. BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul (Hebrews 10:36-39).

Friends, we are not of those who shrink back to destruction. We are those who have faith to the preserving of the soul!

If you live like Jesus lived and you put your faith where his was, if you take his faith on as your own—you are, in and with Jesus, unstoppable. Anything could come at you.

This is how we can join with Paul when he says that he’s been afflicted on every side but not crushed. Beaten but not destroyed. This is how we, too, can be content in all circumstances. Because our belief, our expectancy, our hope, our trust is not in the outcome but in the one who has done it.

With this kind of faith, there is no fear in the process and you can invite the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into the waiting with you. You can embrace the longing, the desire, the unknown with an assurance that your heart is secure, that he is who he says he is and that he is waiting too—on purpose—and that he will see it through to the end. It does not depend on you. He is not behind schedule, but right on time.

As we move into Advent, a season where we celebrate longing, desire yet to be realized, the hundreds of years of silence met with the birth of a Savior, and the current thousands of years of longing until that Savior comes again and makes everything right, it’s the question of the hour: How are you going to live inside the waiting?

I believe there is a fresh anointing, an invitation from God himself, to raise your horizon line. To lift your head, “for momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (see 2 Corinthians 4:17-18). There is joy for you in the process. There is peace that passes all understanding there in the process. And the righteous will receive it in faith.

November 18, 2014