“To be a believer is, by definition, to be one who waits.” Ben Patterson in Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent
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I’ve been trying to develop a “next steps” approach to supplement Nouwen’s more conceptual approach to “waiting on God.” My goal is to train myself to see failures in my day as “triggers” to bring me back to a place of waiting.
Hopefully, after I’ve “waited quietly before God” (Psalm 62:5,6), I head back into the world with a renewed sense of equilibrium and peace. But as soon as I do, it’s guaranteed that many of my circumstances will conspire against me and try to spoil the peace and sense of preparation in my heart. The following are reminders to me of what to do when this starts to occur. Hopefully, these further reminders clarify the idea of “waiting” and made it practical in a different way. Here are my examples:
ANGER – I practice waiting as I refuse to … take matters into my own hands (like revenge). I wait upon God to do as he sees fit. (cf. the Psalms!)
DESPAIR – I practice waiting as I refuse to … indulge in despair or cynicism. I choose to look with hope for God’s present and coming Kingdom.
HURRY – I practice waiting as I refuse to … forge ahead as if I know what to do. I admit my limitations and really try to slow myself down.
LETHARGY – I practice waiting as I refuse to … do nothing. From the outside “waiting” may look like “doing nothing”, but it’s not. Waiting is giving God space and time to do things his way.
TEMPTATION – I practice waiting as I refuse to … give in to temptation. I “refer the problem” to God, and instead of insisting on what I want, or feel I need, I wait for what he wants to give me or do in me.
COMPLAINT – I practice waiting as I refuse to … complain bitterly (or worse) curse angrily. In my anger over the fact that things aren’t going as I planned, I remind myself that things aren’t necessarily supposed to go as I planned. I can wait to see what God wants.
SADNESS – I practice waiting as I refuse to … make my happiness my primary motivation for the day. God undoubtedly has better things planned for me – and it’s not about me anyway.
WORRY – I practice waiting as I refuse to … worry. I remind myself that he is at work for good. My worrying won’t add anything to that, but my patient waiting can keep me from messing it up and creating needless anxiety for myself.
I find these pairings helpful because succumbing to revenge, despair, cynicism, arrogance, lethargy, complaining, cursing, temptation or worry become “triggers”, reminding me that something is happening – I’m drifting away from waiting and into some type of nonsense. I started my day well, and with the best intentions, but it’s beginning to get the better of me – and it’s guaranteed to drag me downhill from there. These unproductive behaviors (sins) can act as triggers, ministering to me, reminding me to return to my original and best intentions.
Why work so hard at waiting? Let me offer one more quote from Ben Patterson: “What we become as we wait is at least as important as the thing we wait for. To wait in hope is not just to pass the time until the wait is over. It is to see the time passing as part of the process God is using to make us into the people he created us to be. Job emerges from his wait dazzled and transformed. Abram becomes Abraham and Sarai becomes Sarah.” As we wait, we will be transformed also.