Our son was out of control. Mania had gripped his mind and overpowered his ability to manage his thoughts, his actions, his choices. Our pleas and our proddings to let us take him to where he could get help were vehemently rejected. Our attempts to engage others to intervene were thwarted. Our anguished prayers had gone unanswered.
In desperation I called a friend whose family had dealt with mental illness much, much longer than we had. I told her all the different attempts we had tried and how each had failed. I told her we had done all we knew to do. “So what do we try next?” I whispered. She paused before answering, and then quietly but firmly, said, “Catherine, your next step is to wait.”
No. No. No. That couldn’t possibly be true. Surely we’d missed a creative solution. Surely we’d not yet discovered the right formula. Surely there was a communication technique we hadn’t learned yet.
But in the end she was right. In time, intervention happened apart from us. The help came, the treatment began, our hope rekindled.
That experience forced me to dig more deeply into my own understanding of waiting, of what it means to be totally helpless, useless, powerless. Here’s some insights I gained from that leg of our journey.
On what do we wait?
Whether we think we are waiting on an event to happen, for a situation to work out or for a solution to be found, the Scriptures tell us that we really are always waiting on God. We are always waiting for His will to unfold. We are always waiting for Him to act on our behalf.
In the book of Ruth, Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, are widows—destitute and desperate. Naomi sends Ruth to appeal to Boaz, a relative with the means and the right position in the family to help them. After Ruth returns and reports back to Naomi how Boaz responded, Naomi says this, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.” (Ruth 3:18 ESV).
Naomi and Ruth were helpless and powerless, but they entrusted their situation to the One who could help, who did have power. Their next step, as Naomi wisely knew, was to wait.
How long do we wait?
In that story, they were confident the wait would be short. That’s not often what I have experienced. However, I have learned that wrapped up in God’s will for the answer to our prayer is His will for the timing of the answer.
So, not only do we wait always for God, we also always wait on His timing. And not only can we trust His answer will be perfect, so His timing will be perfect, too—even if it really doesn’t seem so at the moment. God’s timing seemed to be too early when a virgin, Mary, conceived a child. God’s timing seemed to be really late when another Mary and her sister Martha wanted Jesus to come and heal their brother but instead Jesus tarried and Lazarus died. However, we were told in Romans that it was at just the right time when Christ died for us.
God has a plan for the right moment for His will to be revealed. It is just as important that we trust in His sovereignty over the timing of the answer as it is that we trust in Him for the answer. Over and over in the Scriptures we’re told that God took action:
- at just the right time.
- when the time for fulfilment came.
- in due season.
- at the appointed time.
What do we do while we wait?
Keep praying. We do this, not because God didn’t hear us the first time we asked, but because prayer is the way we keep reminding ourselves that just because things seem out of control doesn’t mean no one is in charge. It puts us in the posture of humility that acknowledges our dependence on God.
Offer praise. This may be a time when praise and worship are the last things on our minds, but filling our hearts and minds with appreciation for who God is anchors us in His presence. As we focus on the goodness, greatness and glory of the One on whom we wait our faith is strengthened and our hope is restored.
Stay expectant. We look for God to act. We watch for Him in the little and big things of our day, with faith that believes, the “man will not rest but will settle the matter.” We daily believe God is working it out: “Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3, NLT)
Be faithful. There are many situations when we must wait on our marching orders. But that doesn’t mean we are idle. There are many things we already know we are to do. Get up in the mornings, tend to our responsibilities at work and in the family. Look into options for our loved one. Pray for other people. Often it is in the faithful attention to the routine matters of life that we uncover the will of God.
Watch and learn. In every answer to prayer, in every act of God, in every revelation of His will, God is exposing truths about himself. Don’t be so focused on the having the situation resolved that you miss the opportunity to know Him better, deeper, truer. “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.” (Hosea 6:3, NASB)
Rest. If we truly trust our Heavenly Father to be working out his perfect will, then we can join the Psalmist in saying, “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” (Psalm 131:2 ESV)
What happens as a result of waiting?
It seems that waiting isn’t just a patience-building exercise. It is actually a character-building discipline. As you find yourself in a waiting mode, be encouraged that God is doing amazing things in your heart. Consider these promises and wait well.
“Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” – Isaiah 40:31 NASB
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James, 1:2-4 NASB
“Without becoming weak in faith he [Abraham] contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.” – Romans 4:19-20 NASB
“My soul waits for the Lord.” – Psalm 130:6 ESV