The Weight of Waiting

This year I’m following a chronological Bible reading plan. This morning I finished reading Genesis (because I’m about 80 days behind the plan but that isn’t the point), and I’m overwhelmed with the sense of waiting ushered in with those last few verses of chapter 50. Jacob/Israel has died, and his sons have buried him and mourned for him. Joseph lives out his life, and makes his relatives promise to take his body back to the land of his ancestors. And then we wait.

Through all of the reading so far, I cannot escape the feeling of waiting. Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of situations where people waited:

  • Adam and Eve, promised redemption after their sin, never saw it with physical eyes.
  • Noah built an ark in preparation for a flood in a land where it had never rained, without knowing when the storm would hit, how long it would last, how long they would have to stay in the ark…
  • Abram and Sarai, following God to an unknown land, waiting for His promises. They waited their whole lives for Isaac. And while God promised to make Abra(ha)m a great nation through the promised child, the Bible doesn’t even say if he saw Isaac’s twin sons born.
  • Hagar, the pregnant slave girl sent back to an abusive mistress, waited 13 years to be set free with her son, Ishmael.
  • Jacob working 14 years to pay off a debt to his father-in-law, the whole time dreading the reunion with the brother he cheated.
  • Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, never thought he would see his family again. He lived, survived, worked, thrived in Egypt for at least 10 years. He he was waiting for something he never dared to hope would happen – seeing his father again and being reconciled to his brothers.

Waiting isn’t just an activity or a “season.” Sometimes waiting can be weighty. Whether it’s the excruciating not-knowing how something will turn out, or the weight of the burden you carry while you wait for someone or something else to change, waiting can be exhausting. Prolonged waiting preys on your hope and your courage, and makes you question “am I in the right place” or “did I miss God’s leading somewhere.” I’ve been there, feeling the weight of waiting for something to change, someone (me, maybe?) to improve. Waiting for God to act. Wanting my efforts to show some visible, tangible impact. Wanting to see the ending of whatever chapter while I’m still in the middle of the introduction.

Waiting is a common theme in Scripture because it’s a common part of the human experience. Regardless of religious affiliation, we’ve all felt the longing to have something change in our circumstances or in ourselves, something for which we do not have the resources or the power to create change. All we can do is hope, wish, pray, imagine, for a different tomorrow. And when tomorrow looks the same as yesterday, it is discouraging. When all we can see for our future is an unbroken line of days that look the same, we despise the waiting. We may look for inspiration in quotes and Scripture to “help us get through” but the reality is that our hearts hate to wait.

Today is Holy Saturday, the Sabbath between the cross and the resurrection. For the disciples, it was a day of rest without relief from their grief. The crushing weight of the waiting, His promises for tomorrow warring with the facts of the yesterday they had faced. They couldn’t see resurrection coming. They couldn’t see an end to the waiting. They each had their own failures to ponder, to wonder if they could have done something to change events.

But what they couldn’t see is that the waiting had to happen. That all their failures, the things they would have changed, were part of the small steps in bringing about God’s fulfillment of the promise He made to Adam in Genesis 3, to Abram in Genesis 12, to David, to Isaiah, to Mary and Joseph, to each one who believes.

I don’t know what you’re waiting for today. It could be physical, spiritual, financial. It could be a relationship that needs to be restored. It could be an apology or forgiveness.

I don’t know what you’re waiting for today. And I don’t know how long the waiting will last. For some, the waiting is brief but intense. For others, the waiting lasts their whole lives, and we don’t know why.

I don’t know what you’re waiting for today. But let me encourage you with this: waiting is part of our human experience and God uses it as part of our service to Him. It is faithfulness defined. I pray that it will lead you to look for Who God is and who He wants you to become, not when the waiting ends, but right now.

Because everyone is waiting for something. And in this earthly life, even when one season of waiting ends (because praise God sometimes they do end!), we can know that another time of waiting will arrive. But in Christ, we know that ultimately everything we wait for in this life will cease to matter. Wrongs will be made right, all needs will be met, every tear will be wiped away. The waiting will finally come to an end. We can wait with hope, knowing that we’re not alone. Resurrection is coming!

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