Climbing into the driver’s seat, my sixteen-year-old son started the car and drove us out of the parking lot. Staring at the road ahead, he said, “No offense, Mom, but I can’t wait ‘till I can drive places by myself. It feels like I’m the only one in my grade who doesn’t have a license yet.” He still had a few weeks to go before his driving test and was itching for the freedom his classmates had.
I smiled, remembering my own impatience to take the drivers test on my sixteenth birthday. Much to my humiliation, I failed it not once, but twice. The ongoing waiting and practicing seemed endless to me. Finally, six months after I turned sixteen, I passed the test and could drive on my own. I was a much better driver than I’d been previously. Although I hadn’t liked being humbled and forced to wait, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
I don’t know anyone who likes waiting. In fact, our society seems consumed with finding ways to shorten or eliminate waiting altogether. Advertisements abound with promises of delivering goods and services faster. We are being conditioned to become a culture of impatient people. We want instant gratification and we want it now.
There are some things, however, that just take time. We are forced to be patient as we wait for a pregnancy to come to term, a job offer to arrive, or a home to be remodeled. We must be patient waiting for physical or emotional healing. Sometimes we have to be patient while we wait for someone else to make a decision that impacts us. But while we wait, a process is unfolding and God is at work. I like to think of it as a flower blooming. A tightly closed bud that is forced to open early will be ruined. Only time and patience will reveal the beauty of the flower as its petals slowly unfurl.
The Bible is filled with characters that had to wait. And while they waited, God was at work in their hearts, minds and circumstances. He was preparing them for His plan and would not reveal it until the time was right.
One of my favorite examples is King David. We learn in 1 Samuel 16 that the God directed the prophet Samuel to anoint David as the next King of Israel at the age of twenty. However, David spent the following ten years of his life hiding in the desert, fleeing from the murderous threats of the current King of Israel, Saul. It was not until David was thirty that he finally took the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 5).
Were those years of waiting a waste? I think not. David had a lot of maturing to do. God used that time to teach him, to humble him and to develop his skills as a leader. David won over the hearts of the Israelites as they saw his character, his integrity and his devotion to God. Despite the people’s love for him, he refused to harm King Saul or usurp the throne, even when others goaded him to do it. He waited until Saul’s death to claim what had been promised to him. And during that time, he wrote many of the Psalms that people have been reading for thousands of years since. David poured out his emotions to God in the lines he wrote. Think what we would have missed if he hadn’t been forced to wait on God. We are blessed by his words because he waited well. Knowing this makes reading the psalms he wrote even more encouraging:
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14 NIV)
“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5 NIV)
Waiting on God is not waiting in vain. We can live each day knowing that God has placed us where we are for a reason. He has things to teach us at every step of our journeys. Learning to wait well means looking to God to refine your character, to smooth out your rough edges and to build your trust in Him.
After months of waiting, the day of my son’s driving test finally arrived. By the time he pulled into the DMV, he had logged numerous hours behind the wheel practicing in a variety of situations– crossing bridges during rainstorms, navigating the streets of San Francisco at rush hour, crawling down a two lane country road behind painfully slow tractors, driving fast on freeways and slow in suburban neighborhoods. His wait for the freedom of driving alone had been filled with opportunities to learn and improve his skills.
He approached the test with cautious optimism. Being one of the last to turn sixteen, he knew friends who had passed and others who had failed. He was ready for the wait to end and hoped the DMV tester would agree.
The grin on his face when he returned from the driving test told me all I needed to know. It was a satisfying end to a wait that seemed like an eternity to him.
Many of us have been waiting much longer for much bigger issues. If you are in a season of waiting, let me encourage you to spend your energy seeking God and learning to trust Him. If you endure a wait with your focus on your circumstances, you are likely to become anxious, impatient, or bitter. Instead, I encourage you to use the time to pursue God. You’ll find a deeper understanding of Him, an appreciation for His Word and a more thankful heart when your season of waiting comes to an end. Wait well and watch how He uses it to produce wisdom, maturity and faith in you.
The band Tenth Avenue North has a song called “Stars in the Night.” It uses the metaphor of sailors charting their course on the high seas by using the stars. It is an encouragement for Christians to use the promises of God as the “stars in the night” to light their paths and give them hope in dark and confusing times of waiting.
For additional encouragement on this topic, see my post from January 2014 “When Praying Expectantly Wears Thin.”