How Do You Wait?

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.

James 5:7-8

Do you wait well, or do you wait poorly? It’s a question that applies to both little things like waiting for a bus, or for your spouse to be ready, as well as to big things like waiting for a promotion, waiting to get married, or waiting for Jesus to return. How well do you wait?  And what does it produce in you when you’re forced to wait much longer than you feel is necessary?

Advent, by definition, is all about waiting—waiting for promises, yet unfulfilled, to be realized.  It’s a time when we are invited to re-establish hope, especially concerning things that we are still waiting for. And, as we all know, that’s not an easy thing to do.  To wait is a test of our faith.  The question is not whether we have to wait or not.  It’s more a question of how we wait for the things we long for.  Do we wait anxiously, or in the security of faith?

Scripture is full of stories of people dealing poorly with their unfulfilled needs.  The prodigal son is perhaps the best known example of someone who is impatient with the slow progress of their lives.  We know what we need.  God is taking too long.  We find ourselves becoming restless, or tempted with despair.  And after a short period of waiting we give up on the hope of God’s initiative and resort instead to our own agenda.  But there’s a whole world of faith that lies just on the other side of giving up.  The person who sets out to “wait on the Lord” must first learn to resist the type of despair that causes us to prematurely give up on hope.

Waiting is related to hope in that it presumes that God is faithful, and that it is worth waiting for what He brings.  Growth in this type of discipline leads to an open-handedness where we no longer cling to our own expectations of what, how or when we will receive whatever God has in store for us.  To practice waiting is to practice spiritual detachment.  Like all forms of detachment, waiting means deferring to God—humbly letting go of control, in this case control of time and outcome.

On the second Sunday of Advent we light the candle of peace.  It is the disposition we are to seek in the midst of all that we know is still lacking in life.  We wait in a posture of faith while honestly accepting the predicament of where we are in our journey.  We are still far from home. Like the Israelites in Babylon, we too are in a place of exile from which we yearn for the courts of the Lord.

Advent is also a time to establish hope with all that still seems to be lacking in our relationship with God.  Jesus has come to us, but not yet fully. We know there is more. We have been promised greater things than we have yet received and, in faith, we await that which is still to come.  In this we identify with the waiting ages before Christ was born.  We enter the condition of those who have not yet received what they long for.  We make their hopes and their aspirations our own as we sing their words, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.”  As to the degree that we do so in a posture of faith, we honour God with our confidence that His promises are not only sure, but they are also well worth waiting for.

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

Psalm 5:3