I had to wipe the tears out of my eyes as I wrote. My heart felt raw and exposed. Waiting for a child was so hard, but I waited with hope, So I began to write letters to my child. I didn’t know if I was writing a little boy or girl, or a teenager waiting for a home. The letters shared my hope and the joy I would someday have. I shared the struggle undergirded by my faith in God. As I wrote, I prayed – not knowing what the answer would be or how it would come.
Last week, we looked at how hard, necessary waiting can be. But what does it mean to wait? Do I do nothing or something? How do I know!?
Twisting and Stretching
Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.
Psalm 25:3 NKJV
A few years ago, I went to physical therapy to regain strength after long periods of bed rest. When I started, I could barely do the basic stretches they wanted. I am certain my face held an expression of terror the first time I was asked to hold a plank. “Planking” is an exercise to strengthen your core where you keep your body straight while resting on your elbows or up on your arms in “push-up” position. Resting is probably a laughable descriptor to use because you are certainly exerting effort not to faceplant. The held tension of the plank strengthens arms, legs, glutes, core. It’s a simple but extremely effective strengthening exercise.
In the beginning, I gave everything I had to even hold a 30 second plank on my knees and elbows. After a few weeks, I worked up to three 30 second planks in a row. The therapist asked me to try full leg extensions. Ha. But finally, after time I could plank with legs extended. Next, she asked me to try on my hands. My wrists were so weak, it took me a year to accomplish, but I did. Over time, I pushed myself to hold the plank position longer and longer, until I was texting my macho guy friends with records they could not beat.
The root of “waiting for you” in Psalm 25:3 means to make strong by twisting. (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers). Passively waiting is never truly passive. No more than planking is resting. The act of waiting is just that: an act. Waiting is an exercise. It strengthens your muscle of faith. The held tension of waiting develops your dependence on God. You have to trust Him with the outcome: good, bad, or ugly. Waiting acknowledges that God is in control, not me. Waiting makes my faith strong. It twists me to use parts of my faith that I’d otherwise ignore. Waiting is ‘a simple but extremely effective strengthening exercise.”
The Next Right Thing
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You.
Psalm 25:21 NKJV
Have you ever walked into a mess so big that you have no idea where to start? The overwhelm that comes with an endless list of tasks is paralyzing. Or maybe you’ve started a new task that doesn’t have instructions, and you have no idea what you are supposed to do?
Waiting can paralyze your decision-making, especially for a planner like me. I like to know what is coming and line everything up accordingly. But we rarely get a roadmap of the future. In the waiting and trusting, we still have to live. We have to go about day-to-day life and decision-making without knowing what is coming. How can we honor God in the waiting? How do we make choices without messing it all up?
Do the next right thing.
Before “The Next Right Thing” was a Disney tune, it was a book and podcast by Emily Freeman. She will freely tell you the idea didn’t start with her either. It’s how I tackle overwhelming situations or begin when there’s no roadmap: do the thing in front of me through the principals I already know. Looking at Psalm 25:21, this means acting with integrity and uprightness. Some translations say integrity and honesty. This means to do the work in front of you. You don’t have to know what God will do in the next year – do the work of today.
But Don’t Do That
Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
Proverbs 20:22 ESV
Waiting and trusting means remembering that God is in control. This necessarily means that I am NOT in control. I’m not very good at not being in control. As a prosecutor, I naturally long for justice, and usually get to have a hand in it. Waiting on God means that when unjust things happen to me, I don’t always get to be the one to make it right.
Doing the work of today means doing the task in front of us and letting God look after the big picture. You don’t have to set the record straight. You don’t have to make sure everyone knows how horrible that person is. God is in charge of that. This one is really really hard for me. It’s the part of “turning the other cheek” that I don’t like. But faith in God means recognizing that I’m not God. His job is justice, not mine. And when I try to set it right, I step away from faith and waiting. I take things into my own hands and put myself in the place of God — a place I’m neither equipped for nor worthy of.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.
When you wait on the Lord, you wait with hope for what is coming. But the gift of waiting on the Lord is that the process becomes the destination. Waiting in faith allows our heart’s unmet longings to be satisfied by the knowledge that God is using this time to grow and strengthen us. Salvation comes at the end of waiting, but through faith, salvation is IN the waiting.
Acknowledge the tension of waiting.
Look at where it strengthens your faith.
When you don’t know what to do, do the thing in front of you.
Trust God to handle justice.
Wait on the Lord.