God’s way of transformation
We all do it.
Everybody knows the experience—without exception. It is part of our daily life. Small children are familiar with it, just as older people and everybody in between. No matter whether you are a student, a successful businesswoman, or unemployed, you have to deal with it. Nobody is exempt. Men experience it just like women, single persons the same as married couples. Divorced people have to live with it, and widowers as well. You encounter it when you are healthy or when you are sick. It does not matter where you live on this globe or what color your skin is. It is a universal human condition. I am not talking about sin. And yet I hardly know anybody who looks forward to experiencing it. What am I describing the whole time? I’m talking about waiting.
We All Wait
Every human being waits.
We hope and dream—and wait.
We are hungry and thirsty—and wait.
We yearn for change and look for happiness—and wait.
We experience suffering and are in pain—and wait for relief.
We study and work—and wait for the results. Some things we hope for are delayed—and keep us waiting. We pray—and wait for answers. We wait in line at the supermarket and the gas station. We wait in traffic jams and at airports. We wait for the mail to arrive. We wait so good things will happen and bad things will go away. Some wait at night to fall asleep, and some even wait to die.
We all wait because God's grace has not yet ended.
It seems as if our entire life, from birth to death, is characterized by waiting. Some waiting appears short, and time passes quickly. For other things we wait our whole life. It appears that waiting makes us aware that often the most important, most essential, most beautiful, and most lasting things in our life are things beyond our control and power. And so we have to wait.
I have reflected on the dynamics of waiting in my own life during the past two years, particularly when my wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I have waited a lot in hospitals before treatments began and after they ended. We had to wait for the results to come in and for new appointments with the doctors. And where did we wait? In the waiting room, as the place is conveniently called.
I don’t know about you, but I hate to wait. I don’t like long lines or traffic jams or delayed appointments. I don’t like tardy people or processes that prolong. I want to get things done fast and efficiently. I want to move forward. And normally I know how best to go about it quickly and easily. I know what I need to accomplish, and I know how to get it done. Often waiting appears as a meaningless delay of something that I want to reach much faster. But as long as we are not in heaven, God calls us to wait. There is no human life without waiting. Waiting is part of our human existence. It characterizes us as beings, which exist in time. Waiting is part of our story, our history. There is no historical succession without waiting. There is no life without waiting. The person who lives—waits! The person who waits—lives!
Waiting Upon God
Even the biblical writers knew about this experience. The prophets often expressed waiting with the question: “How long, O Lord?” (see Hab. 1:2; Dan. 8:13). The biblical authors employed several word pictures that can be understood adequately only when waiting provides the background to them.
The Bible speaks about hope. The wonderful Advent hope of Jesus’ soon coming (Titus 2:13). Hope has to do with waiting. The person who hopes—waits!
Then there is the patience of the saints. “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Rev. 14:12, NASB).* Perseverance and patience have to do with waiting. The person who is patient—waits!
Scripture also speaks about the longing of the believer for God. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God” (Ps. 42:1, NASB). Longing has to do with waiting. The one who longs—waits!
Consider Scripture’s take on suffering. Suffering has to do with waiting. The suffering person asks: “How long will it last, Lord Jesus?” The person who suffers—waits!
In the Bible, God also calls us to be alert and to be awake, so that we are ready when He returns (see 1 Peter 5:8; Luke 12:37). The person who is alert—waits!
In the final analysis we all wait because God’s grace has not yet ended! Even God, in His great mercy and patience, waits. He waits for us. He waits for you, and He waits for me. God does not want to lose anybody who could be saved. And so He waits to extend His grace and mercy.
Waiting is difficult. Waiting without hope and without meaning is almost unbearable. Only a person who has a worthy and meaningful goal in view can be patient and perseverant while waiting for it. The temptation in times of waiting is to focus on the things we wait for. We tend to focus on the obstacles that need to be removed, or the good things that will bring change. But remember: waiting isn’t just about what you are hoping for in the future. From a biblical perspective waiting is also about what I will become as I wait! Waiting always presents me with a spiritual choice: Will I allow myself to question God’s goodness in what I experience, or will I embrace the opportunity of exercising living hope in times of waiting?
Living hope is a hope that is alive because it is grounded in God’s faithfulness and trusts His never-failing promises. If God has allowed me to live, He is using my waiting as an opportunity to change me into somebody I would never be if I didn’t have to wait. Rather than being a meaningless drag and a hindrance, I am learning to see that waiting actually is fundamentally about what I will become as I wait. In this sense waiting is an expression of God’s goodness. It is restorative because it is one of God’s unique tools to develop my character so that I can become the person He wants me to be.
* Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Frank M. Hasel is a dean and professor of the Theological Seminary atSeminar Schloss Bogenhofen, Austria.