Learning to Wait

Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, says, “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”

The psalmist describes this kind of deep person as being…

like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither… (Psalm 1:3)

As Foster pointed out, the number of firmly rooted trees on the Christian landscape is growing smaller, and it’s largely because of an unwillingness to wait on God. We tend to replace waiting on God with hurried attempts at pursuing growth on our own. And so we settle for shallow roots destined to yield only mediocre growth.

Carl Jung once said, “Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil.”

And the more we graft this attitude of hurry into our pursuit of God, the more it stunts the growth of our inner being. Our physical stature may mature over the years, but there will be only a few rings of maturity in our godly character.

Old King David helps us with a line from one of his poems,

“My soul waits in silence for God only” Psalm 62:1

The literal Hebrew sentence reads almost backward from the English translation: “Only for God in silence does my soul wait.” The word translated “silence” comes from the Hebrew verb that means “to whisper softly.” It’s the idea of whispering a secret to somebody you love—not loud enough for anyone else to hear. In this case, it’s only for God to hear. For David, there’s no one else but the Lord.

Some of the best times in prayer are wordless times. I stop speaking, close my eyes, and meditate upon what I have been reading or upon what I have been saying, and I listen inside of myself. I listen deeply. I listen for reproofs.

I think of myself as a home with many doors.

As I am meditating—and often it helps to close my eyes so I won’t be distracted—I unlock doors and open them as I wait. It is here that the Holy Spirit invades. Then, I take circumstances before Him and I listen with doors open.

Please be assured that I have never heard an audible voice. It isn’t that kind of answering. It’s a listening down inside. It’s sensing what God is saying about the situation.

It’s like what you do when you’re in love with a person. Isn’t it true—the deeper the love, the less that has to be said? You can actually sit alone together by a fireplace for an hour or two and say very, very little, but it can be the deepest encounter and relationship you know anything about.

My brother and I were enthralled by all things Native Americans when we were boys. One day my dad asked if we wanted to learn to make a rope like the Indians used. We did.

So, Dad taught us to cut the green fronds from a Yucca plant that grew on our property. We would gently pound the fronds with a rock until the plant fibers would appear. We pulled out those single plant fibers, which were not were strong at all, by the way. Then we would twist them together between our palms to form long “twists” of plant fibers. We would add another link of twisted plant fiber and twist them together at the ends to create a flimsy fiber cord. Then we would braid three of these fibrous cords together. Then we braided the braids together to make a strong rope.

It is still tied up in a tree at our house in our boyhood home.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us,

But those who wait on the Lord
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.
Isaiah 40:31

In this instance, the word “wait” means “to twist or to stretch in order to become strong.” In noun form, it means “a line” or “a rope.” In other words, it’s the idea of stretching or twisting strands of hemp so that, in the process, far greater strength comes.

Someone has called this “the exchanged life,” where we trade in our weakness for God’s strength. I take my strand (like that of a little Yucca plant fiber) and wrap it around a steel cable of His character (via the waiting process), and then my strand is as strong as His character. I exchange my weakness for His cable-like strength. It never gives way in the heat of the fight; it holds firm.

Those who wait (those who exchange their weakness for His strength) upon the Lord will gain new strength. But remember: The key to the Lord’s strength is waiting.

We live in an age of headlines, Twitter posts, and sound bites. It is easy to spend our time scrolling a screen. At best, we see the world through a glass of darkly if this is our primary soul food; at worst it lulls us into a superficial lethargy that creates a soul-stupor that makes us shallow, dull, and reactive.

We were meant for greater things. Deeper things. Wiser things. Jesus is calling us to live moment by moment wrapped around his great love. This with-God life is ever so fulfilling. It changed the world once; it can do it again.

Wait and see.

About Joe Chambers

I am the beloved of the Most High God. I am an avid reader and writer and have been a continuous learner since my college studies in Ancient Literature and English. I live at the base of Mount Princeton in the Colorado Rockies with my wife of over three decades. I believe I have been put here to tell people that God is not mad at them and to show them the way Home. I am the father of three sons, three beautiful daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. I love to read, tell stories, and spend time in the wilderness.
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