I hate waiting.

Why? Well, by definition, waiting means I don’t have something I want or need. Oftentimes, to obtain that thing I’m lacking, I need to stop doing other things. Like waiting in line to check out at the grocery store, to see a bank teller, or to pass through security at the airport.

According to Factsite, “The average person throughout their lifetime spends five years waiting in lines and queues where roughly six months of that is waiting at traffic lights.” That’s horrifying.

On one family trip, we took our kids to Disneyland for a few days. On day one, Shauna bumped into a Disney cast member who gave our whole family Fast Passes, which meant we pretty much skipped the lines for the rest of our adventures there. I still remember my feelings of triumph and superiority as we marched past hundreds of people on each ride, saving countless hours of standing in sweltering sun to ride before they did. It was epic. 

It’s been said that we live in a ‘microwave culture’ that’s indoctrinated us to expect things to happen quickly. When they don’t, we bail. “Time is money,” we say, leading us to pay premiums for goods and services that whittle down our waiting times—and the more, the better.

The spirituality of waiting 

Unfortunately, waiting is also part of the spiritual life. And it’s not just a necessary evil. Waiting is a key catalyst for spiritual growth. A few verses to consider here:

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

“We wait in hope for the Lord. He is our strength and shield” (Psalm 33:20).

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1). 

“How long must your servant wait?” (Psalm 119:84).

“Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway” (Psalm 8:34).

Why waiting matters

A few weeks ago, God said to me, “You can’t walk with me without waiting.” I think this is because God rarely moves too quickly for my liking. Most times, we wish he’d pick up the pace. When we don’t see God working, we’re tempted step in to make things happen, meet our own needs, and secure our own future. I can relate to this passage all too well:

“They believed his promises and sang his praise. But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test” (Psalm 106:12-14).

Waiting exposes our wanting. It purifies our desires by burning off the chaff of what we say we want, or think we want. In the end, what we truly want is left. And many times, it’s not pretty. If we give in to that lesser desire, we give ourselves to a lesser life. Jesus wants to deliver us from lesser desires, and the only way to get at them is to make us wait. 

The devil knows this. It’s why he tempted Jesus after forty days of waiting for food (we call this kind of waiting fasting). These tempations were aimed at undermining Christ’s trust in his father by playing to his desires. In the end, Jesus demonstrated what he wanted more than food, more than water, more than a shortcut to authority and accolades, more than life itself, even: unbroken communion with his Father.

A waiting reality check

We’re willing to wait for what and who is important to us. The longer I’m willing to wait for something, the more important it is to me. The longer the wait, the fewer things make the cut. If I’m meeting someone for coffee and they don’t show up right away, I wait. At the twenty minute mark, I fire off a text: Hey I guess we missed each other. Then I leave. But if Shauna, my wife, is coming, I wait until she arrives. She’s always worth the wait.

We might see a long line for a restaurant or a movie and think, “Not worth the wait.” Or we might wait for awhile, then bail when it takes longer than we thought. We only wait for what and whom we think is worth waiting for. 

Part of the issue when we wait is that we could be doing other things. We wait because we believe what we gain by waiting will be more valuable than what we’re forfeiting in the meantime. When we bail in our waiting, we’ve reached the limit of what we’re willing to ‘pay’ in exchange for what we hope for. 

That moment gives us crystal clarity about our actual values and priorities. God makes us wait because he wants us to see where we bail, and why. If we’re waiting on God and the waiting becomes unbearable, causing us to bail on him, that says something important. We’ve found the price we’re not willing to pay for him and what he promises.

In contrast, Jesus essentially said, “I’d rather die out here than not wait on my Father.”

God wants our waiting to purify our wanting. Jesus didn’t need purifying, but look what happened when he passed his test: “Angels came and attended him” (Matthew 4:11).  The writer of the Hebrews put it this way: “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). 

What about you?

What are you waiting for? Hoping for? Is it an answered prayer? A breakthrough? A healing? God’s provision?

These are important, but waiting on God himself is the most important. When you ask him to speak, do you give him more than two minutes to respond? When you wait for his presence, are you willing to sit for as long as it takes?

And most of all, I need to ask you this: If there are longings and desires that will never be satisfied this side of heaven, are you willing to wait until glory to see them fully bloom and fill you? Do you believe the best is yet to come, and it will always be worth the wait?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this post.