Learning to Wait

Every once in a while, I find that the various ideas I am reading and learning about and discussing in Bible studies and in the weekly DivorceCare class that my husband and I facilitate begin to weave themselves together to teach me something more about trusting God – His plan, His timing, and His methods. This has been one of those weeks, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you, particularly those of one of my favorite authors, Paul David Tripp.

In my Tuesday morning women’s Bible study, we are reading and discussing Tripp’s book, Broken Down House. I’ve mentioned this book on ESI before, and that I believe this is one of the more helpful, accessibly-written books I’ve read for understanding how to productively live out your Christian faith.

One of the chapters of this book discusses those times and seasons in life when God calls you to wait. As Tripp defines it, waiting is “living through those moments when you do not understand what God is doing and you have no power to change your circumstances for the better.”

One of my favorite things to read when life has the upper hand is the Psalms. Within the pages of that book of the Bible, there are real emotions playing out in real lives, and it never fails to comfort me that at any point in my life, no matter the details, I can find the expression of emotions that I am wrestling with. In several psalms we read those very words, “Wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14; Psalm 37:9, 34; Psalm 130:5-6) God’s Word encourages us to wait for Him. God’s Word is constantly calling us to trust Him as He reveals His plan in His timing.

This is exactly the encouragement I need, because I’m not very good at waiting. It doesn’t come naturally to me. In any given difficulty, my natural inclination is to begin looking for ways out, to ways to solve the problem, or at least minimize the pain associated with it. I need to be reminded that there is much that God is doing that I don’t understand, and that ultimately, there is very little I have the power to change.

It strikes me that Tripp’s definition of waiting could well be applied to what one goes through during the break-up of a marriage, as well. Divorce, I think, can easily be defined as something you are called to live through, filled with very painful moments when you do not understand what God is doing, and you often feel powerless to change your circumstances for the better.

In this chapter of Broken Down House on learning to wait, Tripp suggests there are several reasons why God uses situations and events in our lives to cause us to wait within circumstances beyond our control, like divorce. The primary reason, I believe, has to do with God’s merciful grace in our lives. Tripp says it this way:

Waiting is one of God’s most powerful tools of grace. God doesn’t just give us grace for the wait. The wait itself is a gift of grace. Waiting is not only about what you will receive at the end of the wait. Waiting is about what you will become as you wait.

In calling us to wait, God is rescuing us from our bondage to our own plan, our own wisdom, our own power, our own control. In calling us to wait, God is freeing us from the claustrophobic confines of our own little kingdoms of one and drawing us into the greater allegiance to his Kingdom of glory and grace. Waiting is about understanding that you and I desperately need to change and that waiting is a powerful tool of personal change. God is using the grace of waiting to change us at the causal core of our personhood, the heart.

To someone going through a separation or divorce, this season of waiting, of pain, of powerlessness, it hardly seems like grace being played out in their lives. It’s very difficult to believe that this painful experience is a good thing.

Tripp goes on to say this of waiting:

We are called to wait because everything that exists, exists not for our comfort and ease but for God’s glory. The whole redemptive story is written for one purpose and one purpose alone, the glory of the King.

Waiting is hard for us because we tie our hearts to other glories. We so often live for the glory of human acceptance, of personal achievement, of power and position, of possessions and places, and of comfort and pleasure. So when God’s glory requires that these things be withheld from us – things we look to for identity, meaning, and purpose – we find waiting to be a grueling, burdensome experience.

The marriage relationship was originally designed by God to reflect His sacrificial love for His people, but we often turn to our relationship with our spouse to provide us with identity, meaning, and purpose, rather than turning to God. If we believe what the Bible says about our sin nature (Romans 3:11-18), about our deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), and about how we run after other gods to our detriment (Psalm 16:4), then any situation that God brings or allows into our lives to draw us back from those paths leading to death is an act of His mercy.

Divorce is obviously not the only painful life experience where you might be called to spend time waiting. In your life, maybe you are right now called to wait in a different situation. For you, it might be a serious health issue has recently been diagnosed, and you are waiting for the prognosis. Maybe this economy has left you unemployed and your family’s finances are uncertain, and you’re being called to wait in a place of joblessness. Perhaps, rather than choosing separation or divorce, you are being called to wait within your marriage through a painful situation. Or maybe you want to get married but have been single for longer than you’d like, waiting for the right person.

Whatever the details, this season of waiting is not “down time” or a wasted period of your life. In everything, God has a purpose (Romans 8:28). He is calling us in every situation to actively seek Him (Jeremiah 33:3). As we wait for the Lord, we can learn to actively lean on Him. We can learn to more deeply trust in His plan, His timing, and His methods for making us more like his Son. Will you allow Him to use your seasons of waiting for good?

Psalm 130
My Soul Waits for the Lord

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!

O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive

the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

that you may be feared.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the LORD!

For with the LORD there is steadfast love,

and with him is plentiful redemption.

And he will redeem Israel

from all his iniquities.

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