I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lam 3:19-26)
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Ps. 5:3)
Sometimes — perhaps most times — waiting can be hard work. It can feel like doing nothing, being left in limbo — or worse — in pain. I may wait voluntarily, or because I have no other choice. However I do it, how I wait has significant implications for my spirit, my attitude, my witness, and even the outcome.
God has many purposes in my waiting times, most of which I can’t imagine and may never see. I’ve become convinced that learning to wait is part of my spiritual growth. To wait well, I need some wait training.
Inspired by Jeremiah’s revelation, it seems to me that to wait well, I first have to actively acknowledge that
- God is sovereign
- God is good
- His purposes are right
- His love undergirds everything He is and does.
Active acknowledgement is what Jeremiah does here. His mind reeling from bitterness and depression (this book isn’t called Lamentations for nothing), what does he do? He intentionally calls to mind God’s unfailing love and compassion. He takes action to turn his thoughts to life’s most vital truth. Knowing that every morning brings fresh evidence of God’s compassion and faithfulness, Jeremiah makes a decision on which to base his thoughts and actions for that day. He puts his decision into words as a commitment: “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
This is a profound statement. My portion is my share of something; what I have been alloted. Most of us like to think we’ve been given what we deem as our fair share of good things, and not more than we think is our fair share of bad. It’s far from an objective measurement. Here Jeremiah, who by almost anyone’s standard had more than his fair quota of torment, declares that God is his share in life, a portion that outweighs every other consideration. Though his circumstances are awful, his portion is awesome. Therefore, he decides, he will wait for God. He doesn’t present this to God as a time-limited offer, because Jeremiah has decided that all day and every day, the portion he wants from life is God. Other things, people or feelings may intervene, but God supervenes them all.
Jeremiah doesn’t just wait for God. He does it quietly. A quiet spirit in the midst of trouble, grief or uncertainty is evidence of real trust. It comes from the peace that passes understanding, the peace only God can supply. This alone can be a powerful witness to others that God is at work in the waiting.
Waiting quietly allows me to rest instead of tossing and turning. It leaves me with the physical and mental energy to do what is needed while I wait. Waiting quietly attunes me to hear God more clearly and absorb His word more readily.
David offers another tip for waiting well in Psalm 5: wait expectantly. Sometimes, as with an expectant mother, the longer the wait, the more obvious that something is being accomplished. Often, however, the reason for the waiting isn’t evident, but that doesn’t mean I can’t wait expecting God to be working.
What is crucial about waiting expectantly is to ask myself exactly what it is I’m expecting. If I’m expecting God to do what I think is best, I’d better back up in a hurry. God will accomplish what He knows is best. My expectations have to be based on God’s character, attributes and purposes, and not on my feelings, opinions or aspirations.
We all have expectations for our lives, ways we want things to work out for us and those we love. When we’re young, the picture we have of our lives unfolding is usually idealized. Even as we mature, our expectations can continue to override reality, and end up generating bitterness, resentment, depression, and other rotten fruit.
A major enemy of waiting well is the expectation that if I wait long enough, God will give me what I expect. What Jeremiah learned is what we all need to realize: the waiting time is for me to move into line with His expectations, not for Him to meet mine. He has greater things in mind — eternal things — that He wants to accomplish through my life than any of my rose-colored views of what my life should look like.
What steps do I need to take in my wait-training? These, I think, will get me off on the right foot:
- Start each day with profound gratitude that whatever else the hours may serve up, God is my portion. He is the greatest, most nourishing, most life-sustaining portion I could ever be given.
- Make a commitment that when negative thoughts, people or situations arise, I will take each one to God and leave it there. Today, I will decide to wait for Him, and to wait well.
- Commit to waiting expectantly for for God’s will, and not my own. I will pray for His perfect will instead of asking HIm to bring about my solution.
- Ask God to mature me in my waiting skills, expanding my trust, patience and peace.
- Praise God for His great mercy that He is in charge, and not me!!!