Waiting is a battlefield

Part One of this blog established that Christian believers are a waiting people – ours is the task of living in the “not yet” as we wait for our King to return.

Though it may be a part of our calling, waiting in general can seem so boring and uneventful. To state the obvious, nothing seems to happen. But I wonder if the experience of waiting is a bit like the classic duck metaphor. On the surface, a duck on water appears motionless, but underneath its webbed feet are fully engaged and hard at work.

Waiting may seem inactive, but the opposite is true. Waiting is really a battlefield – and battlefields are rarely quiet and dull. So pick up your armour and prepare to get busy!

Why describe waiting as a battlefield? For two reasons.

First, waiting exposes where we run to for cover. The tension of not knowing is often a catalyst for moving us somewhere – either towards the Lord or away from him. When the agony of the “not yet” makes you squirm, where do you seek refuge?

All too often, I turn to food. Something sweet will make me feel better. Waiting is hard; I deserve this. While I’m certainly not against enjoying food, asking a chocolate bar to soothe my hurting heart in seasons of waiting is a recipe for failure.

But waiting is hard and the lure of our refuge of choice can be all too strong. Will we run to the Lord when this battle is raging?

Second, waiting reveals who’s in command. We all want to have our hands on the steering wheel of our lives, but God graciously uses seasons of waiting to remind us that we are not (and have never been) in control. But trusting God when we don’t understand is no easy thing. How quickly the lies and distortions of his character come in! God is withholding X from me. God is cruel.

With such dangerous, rebellious thoughts whispering in our hearts, it’s incredibly tempting to elevate our experiences above the Word of God. It’s a battle to submit to God and take Him at his Word and lay down our accusations against his goodness.

Waiting also has the tendency to make us think life is about us, when all of Scripture remind us that the focus of our waiting ought to be the Lord. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning (Psalm 130:5-6).

This doesn’t question the legitimacy of longing for a job or a spouse or clarity over a big decision, but to submit to the loving, all-wise and gracious rule of our God and long to know him more than you long for his blessings – that, too, is a battle.

Here are a few things to do as you wait.

  • Pray: Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil. Make no mistake: waiting is a war zone, and we need the grace of God to guard our hearts and enable us to fight well. Pray for that grace. Pray for the full armour of God. Pray for repentance when you seek refuge elsewhere. Pray that you would taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).
  • Draw others in: It’s generally inadvisable to stand alone on a battlefield. Tell good friends and family where you are struggling to trust the Lord’s timing or his ways. Ask them to pray for and with you, that you would stand firm in the hope of the gospel.
  • Remember: When the way ahead is unclear, look back on past mercies. How have you seen the Lord at work in previous seasons of waiting, both in your circumstances and in your heart? But don’t stop at looking back. Look ahead too, to the sure and certain return of your Saviour. That is a hope that will not be put to shame.
  • Witness: Waiting well can be a significant witness to those in and outside the church. We can quickly grow complacent and dull in our waiting for our Bridegroom to return, so let the sharp edges of your waiting witness to your fellow believers that this world is not all there is. But waiting well also witnesses to our world of the satisfaction and abundant life found in Christ alone. When you say no to engaging in lifestyles the Lord does not permit, when you resist temptations that waiting seems to exacerbate, when others ask why you won’t compromise – you are living out the truth that Jesus is more than enough and knowing him is infinitely greater than receiving his good gifts.