We all endure seasons of waiting. Maybe, like me, you’re in the thick of one right now. I say “endure” because waiting can be full of suffering and difficulty. Waiting can be downright draining.
I came across a Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote from a sermon he gave on Dec. 2, 1928. (For those unfamiliar, he was a German pastor and martyr who actively opposed Hitler and Nazis.) Here’s what he said: “Celebrating Advent means learning how to wait.” He went on:
“Not all can wait — certainly not those who are satisfied, contented, and feel that they live in the best of all possible worlds! Those who learn to wait are uneasy about their way of life, but yet have seen a vision of greatness in the world of the future and are patiently expecting its fulfillment. The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer
We must learn how to wait.
We live in the tension of two realities. There’s the kingdom of God, and there’s the kingdom of darkness. Both are in operation. Jesus has come, and he is coming. He came the first time announcing, The kingdom of heaven is at hand! And he’s coming a second time to bring his kingdom in its fullness.
Jesus has come; Jesus is coming. This is Advent.
Let’s look at two scriptures. The first is Hosea 2:14-15. These are the Lord’s words through the prophet Hosea speaking to unfaithful Israel.
“However, in the future I will allure her;Hosea 2:14-15 NET
I will lead her back into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
From there I will give back her vineyards to her,
and turn the ‘Valley of Trouble’ into an ‘Opportunity for Hope.’
There she will sing as she did when she was young,
when she came up from the land of Egypt.”
When God draws us, when he woos us, into the wilderness, he has a good purpose. The wilderness is lonely, barren, lacking. When we’re in this place, we’re more likely to seek the Lord so we can hear his voice.
There’s a powerful promise in this passage: God will turn your place of pain into a pathway of hope.
The Hebrew word used here for “hope” is tiqva (tik-vaw’). Literally, it means a cord. It also means expectancy, hope, or thing that I long for. Remember Rahab? She relied on the scarlet cord to save her life (along with her family) as Israel was first entering the Promised Land.
Tik-vaw. Cord. Hope. It’s the same word! It’s a symbol of dependence. Think of an umbilical cord; it supplies oxygen and blood and nutrients. It’s a life-line!
Now let’s go to the second scripture: Isaiah 40.
John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, learned his identity in this chapter. When the Jewish leaders were questioning who John was, he quoted Isaiah verbatim: “I am the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord!’” (John 1:23)
John spent his life in the wilderness. He fed on the scriptures. It’s in the wilderness, in the waiting, that you learn how to depend on a supernatural source … or you shrivel.
I love this commentary from Corey Russell in his book Teach Us to Pray:
“Isaiah 40 was ultimately God’s message to a completely shattered and hopeless people who had lost connection to the promises of God. It was a message to people who had lost faith, yet God encouraged them that He who made and kept His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would fulfill every word He had spoken no matter how much it looked like His words weren’t coming to pass.”Corey Russell
When we’re in the valley of trouble, it’s easy to cry out, Lord, where are you? Don’t you see me? Don’t you care about the pain I’m going through?
When we’re suffering, sometimes it feels like it will never end. Despair and doubt can set in. Right now there’s a movement of people deconstructing their faith. But deconstruction is not the solution that I see in scripture. Consider the last verse of Isaiah 40.
But those who wait on the LordIsaiah 40:31 NKJV
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
You see, the answer is not to deconstruct or to disconnect. The answer is to wait. To remain. Stay connected. This kind of waiting isn’t passive or complacent or independent.
The Hebrew word for “wait” here is qava (kaw-vaw’). It’s the root word of tik-vaw! It means to bind together (perhaps by twisting) — and also to wait, look for, hope, and expect.
This is the opposite of deconstruction. Kaw-vaw is the action of binding yourself, of intertwining your life, with God Almighty! The One without beginning or end. The Creator God, who never grows weak. The One whose wisdom is unsearchable.
Why rely on your limited understanding? Why rely on the wisdom of man? Why listen to the critics?
The answer is to tether yourself to Jesus, to trust Jesus — the One who is Faithful and True. He’s the scarlet cord. He’s the life-line. He’s the vine. When we’re disconnected, we unravel, grow weary, and accomplish nothing.
So keep seeking Jesus in your shattered places. Lean on him in the wilderness. Abide. As you learn to wait on him and with him and in him, here’s what’s going to happen:
While you wait…
by Chelsea Bailey
You’re going to ascend and see
from a higher angle — aerial, eternal.
You’re going to run your race with endurance.
You’re not just going to talk.
You’re going to walk the walk
with exuberance, not weariness.
You’re going to sing,
Your praise and your words
and your whole, holy life will prophesy:
He keeps his promises!
The King has come.
The King is coming.
while you wait…
Questions for reflection
- Have you ever linked the spiritual practices of waiting and celebration? How could this combination move you into new areas of transformation?
- How do the Hebrew words tiqva and qava give you a deeper or different understanding of what it means to wait?
- Are you currently in a “waiting room” or wilderness? Meditate on Isaiah 40:27-31. What word or phrase is for you right now?