So far, as we’ve considered the topic of waiting, we have thought about how sometimes the wisest thing we can do is nothing, and that often we have to seek God for the breakthrough in his time and his way. We have thought about God’s plan and what that means for us as we wait.
But what are we actually meant to do as we wait? Some of our waits can be long. Surely we’re not just meant to sit twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the moment to come?
I don’t think we are, so I looked at examples of people waiting in the Bible, and I want to share four suggestions I found there of more productive things we can do while we wait.
We can pray. When Nehemiah receives news that the situation is bad in Jerusalem, that the walls have been torn down and the gates have been destroyed by fire, his response is to pray. He mourns, fasts and prays for several days, and at some point God places a dream in his heart to see Jerusalem restored but he has to wait for the right moment to take action to move this forward. It is around five months from the time Nehemiah hears the news until he raises the matter with the King and asks for permission to return to Jerusalem, but in the meantime he has been praying. This challenges me that I need to pray more about the dream God has placed on my heart. Prayer can prepare the path for our dreams to become reality.
We can prepare. Before Nehemiah approaches the King, he has clearly thought things through and come up with a plan. He knows exactly what he needs to ask the King for: how much time he will need to be away from his role as cup-bearer, and what he will need, both in terms of practical resources for the building work and letters to various governors granting him safe passage through their territory. All of this means that when the right moment comes for Nehemiah to discuss the matter with the King, he is ready. As we pray, God may reveal to us practical steps we can take to prepare. (We do need to be careful though to make sure we’re seeking God and his plan and not just trying to make things happen by ourselves. That’s why prayer has to come first.)
We can be faithful. We looked before at the story of Joseph and his times of waiting as he worked as a slave and endured unfair imprisonment. In both of these waits, Joseph is faithful in fulfilling the duties assigned to him, and as a result he is put in charge of Potiphar’s entire household and of his fellow-prisoners. It would have been easy for Joseph to become angry and bitter about the treatment he received, but instead he remains faithful. God can use the wait to build our character.
And finally, we can look for ways God wants to use us. It is easy, when we’re waiting, to become fixated on the object of our wait, but when that becomes our focus we can miss the ways God wants to use us now. Joseph was open to how God wanted to use him in his time of waiting- both in his faithfulness in completing his duties and in his willingness to use his gifts to interpret the dreams of his fellow-prisoners. A song that has spoken to me on this subject lately is “The Very Next Thing” by Casting Crowns with its encouragement to look for:
“The very next words of love to be spoken
To the very next heart that’s shattered and broken,
To the very next way you’re gonna use me.
Show me the next thing.”
God has plans to use us now, even in our time of waiting, and sometimes, as with Joseph, those little acts of obedience and faithfulness can open the doors to our future in ways we would never have imagined.
For more thoughts on what we can do while we’re waiting, check out this great post by Bethany: Waiting Isn’t Passive.
Join me throughout November and December as we explore the topic of waiting. Click here for an index page of all the posts in the series.