We all want to characterize grace under fire. We want to be poised, calm, cool, collected and faith-complete. We don’t want to let ’em see us sweat. When it comes to waiting, however, we all have our limits. When I go to the doctor’s office, I have a built in patience alarm. I’ve set aside some time for this visit and feel no pressure to get it over with quickly. About 30 minutes in, an alarm must go off somewhere because, like clockwork, I find myself saying or thinking things like, “This is getting ridiculous!” and “I don’t know why we already bother making appointments!” and “My time is valuable too!” These thoughts show that I’ve reached the edge of my expectation and my true feelings about waiting are now exposed. The past “feelings” of patience I had were not authentic, but merely ordered to stand-in for my natural impatience with waiting.
If we are in touch with our spiritual side, we might be tempted to believe that all waiting, whether it’s waiting for relief, resolution, reward, or any other thing, should be done with the calmness of a Zen master with nowhere to go. Or that if we are in agony while we wait, we’re clearly not very spiritual. This is simply not true! The Bible uses three separate Hebrew words for “wait” that have distinctly different body postures. Perhaps you’ll recognize one or more:
Chakah – (khaw-kaw) is a neutral information for waiting. It reminds me of friends hanging out together with no agenda, no need to hurry by the activity of being together. The passing of time method little; there is no anxiety or pain, it may already be pleasant. This is the kind of waiting God does with us. An interesting scene is pictured in Isaiah 31:15-18 where God’s people are under imminent attack and looking for their own way out. He tells them that their salvation lies in quietness and rest (in Him). But no, they wouldn’t have that! “We will ride on fast horses!” they said. So, “you will ride on fast horses,” God says. He goes on to describe the day they will realize they have no strength of their own. And he says ” I will wait to show you the graciousness I want to show you.” God waits on us to begin waiting on Him, and somehow, I don’t get the idea that while he waits, He is perturbed. He knows we’ll ultimately discover the end of our own solutions. We can wait this way too, as long as the time has not in addition come where we are uncomfortable.
Qavah – (kaw-vaw) is a more active information for waiting. It method to bind together by twisting. It reminds me of a boy hanging onto his father’s leg, going for a ride. While he may be having fun, he has to actively participate by holding his own weight to his sustain. He twists his arms and legs around his father’s leg; he engages all his strength to hang on. This is the information used in Isaiah 40:31, perhaps the most famous of all scriptures on the subject of waiting: “Those that wait upon the Lord (bind themselves to him by twisting) shall revive their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” Sometimes we can only continue our cool while waiting if all our effort is focused on the Lord instead of on the thing for which we wait. What we want is far too important to allow casual or pleasant repose, but we keep it manageable by actively clinging to God.
Chuwl – (khool) is a grueling depiction of waiting that method to writhe in pain, and to bring forth. That makes me think of childbirth! This is the information Job’s friend Elihu used to describe Job’s waiting (Job 35:14). This is waiting that is not only very painful, but which has a purpose. Something is being born in us. Nobody looks calm and cool while having a baby! I often find that the early days of waiting peacefully for something give way to this kind of waiting as the reason for the wait begins to surface. For example, if I lose my job but have $5,000 in the bank, I will be far more patient about finding a new job while I have that buffer. As the savings decrease, my fears and insecurities start to rise. When my balance hits $0, I’m positively panicked, and in hard labor. That might be the very thing God is waiting for. As long as there’s money in the bank, I can say that I trust Him. Perhaps He wants to use my job loss to show me that I truly do not trust Him with my daily sustenance. It takes a while to bring forth this realization and the later surrender of that without of trust. The beauty of this is that something beautiful is coming into existence. With my decision to trust Him may come a whole new career I would never have found without that job loss and torturous wait.
The reality is that all three kinds of waiting are connected to one another, sometimes acting as a progression, other times working in tandem. The ones giving birth (chuwl) have the greatest need to be bound to God by twisting themselves around Him (qavah). Their strength can be renewed to a point where they return to the pleasant tarrying as with friends (chakah). in any case stage or phase of waiting you are in, give up expectations of how you should be doing it. Watch for what may be trying to surface in you. Cling to God. These are the essence of waiting well.