The idea of waiting has been a constant struggle throughout my journey of faith. Bible pages are covered with this word—as a command, as a virtue, as a source of pain, all over the story of Israel and the church, all over God’s rhythm and relationship with his people. All over my life.
What does it mean to wait on God? Does it mean sitting around and doing nothing until he shows up? Does it mean doing business-as-usual, hoping that my work will intersect with his timing? Does it mean prayer?
Waiting is particularly present in our lives at this time of year, as many Christians celebrate and observe Advent, a season of waiting for Christ.
One of my most memorable periods of waiting came when I asked my mother if I could get my ears pierced. She said no. Then, through much arguing, we struck an agreement. If I waited one full year and still wanted my ears pierced, then I could have them done for my next birthday. I made my mom sign a contract agreeing to these terms. Then, I waited. When the one year mark came around, I still wanted my ears pierced, of course, so we went and had them done … with much rejoicing!
Unfortunately, waiting rarely looks like this. Somehow, waiting is easier when you know the exact date your season of waiting will end. Waiting seems less confusing when you know exactly what you are waiting for. Waiting is less scary when you trust the person who is asking you to wait.
Advent is a season of waiting. We stand in solidarity with the feelings of longing and anticipation of our ancestors who waited for the arrival of the Messiah. They did not know exactly how or when this season of waiting would end. They just believed that God, who was asking them to wait, was worthy of their trust and would come through for them.
This last word, trust, has been the most convicting and helpful product of my struggle with God about waiting. I trusted my mom to follow through on her promise and that made it easier for me to wait to have my ears pierced. I am often sobered by how little I trust the Lord, making my seasons of waiting for him to answer exceedingly difficult.
Right before these verses in Lamentations 3, the author goes on and on about his affliction, persecutions, darkness, and captivity (cue serious lamenting). But then his tone shifts.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
It is so helpful that Advent comes right after Thanksgiving. Because, if trusting makes waiting easier, remembering makes trusting easier. The practice of looking over the past for evidence of God’s provision reminds us of God’s character, which is worthy of our trust even in the waiting. As we remember that God abundantly provided for us through the birth of Christ, we can believe with more assurance that he will come again to make all things new. We can believe that he will provide in our everyday periods of waiting.
In this season of Advent, as we try to figure out how to wait, let our remembrance bring us trust and hope. God’s character is consistent. God has always come through for us. He will surely show up again as we wait for his salvation, both in our everyday needs that we cannot fulfill ourselves and in the salvation of our world making all things new.