“All we can do is wait.”
The use of this phrase is disingenuous to the word “wait.” In this case, “all we can do” is a container for sitting by passively until the awaited object is present. It implies that because the expected desire is not active in our lives, than neither should we be. However, what if “all” was a container for great preparation? For example, when a pregnant mother waits for her child, does she not visit the doctor, set up a bedroom, learn about birthing techniques and post-natal care, and purchase necessary items for the coming days? We would call this preparation instead of waiting, as if they are not one and the same.
The Hebrew word for wait, “qavah,” means “to twist, to bind; to be strong, robust; to expect, to await.” The expectation resident in waiting encompasses the preparatory activities to receive what is expected. In other words, the process of waiting is not passive, but active. We are told that a cord of three strands is not easily torn apart (Ecc. 4:12), for the same reason that this word contains the ideas of tying together and making strong. A rope is constructed to bear the weight of whatever it is binding, hauling, or hoisting. So also the process of waiting provides us the opportunity to prepare ourselves to steward the expected desire when it comes.
A few examples come to mind. I would not have talked about “waiting” for our trip to hike the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier. I would have said I was preparing. However, as I went to the gym to strengthen myself, studied the trail, and bought necessary equipment, I was waiting for the day to arrive when we would go. I was fully using the time between expectation and arrival to be ready to receive it.
The other image that comes to mind is of a servant who waits upon a lord. The servant may be standing at attention, doing seemingly nothing, but he is ready to anticipate and meet the needs of his lord. There is a certain sense of partnership between ruler and servant in this way. The effectiveness of the lord is limited to the obedience of the servants. In extending this image to our own service of the Lord, we are called His friends as well as his servants. He invites us not only to serve Him, but to partner with Him. The intimacy that we are allowed to have with Him empowers a loving willingness to emerge in the place of waiting upon Him. He allows himself to limit His activities for the sake of partnering with us as beloved ones who are invited to do His works and see His will done on the earth.
To take it further, He calls us His “ecclesia.” Commonly translated as “church,” this word was originally used in reference to a governmental assembly with legislative authority. When we wait upon Him as our ruler, we are not only given direction and wisdom in how to conduct His works, but authority to carry those directives out as ones appointed by Him.
Several weeks ago, I felt that the Lord said this would be a year of learning to wait upon Him. In the moment, I related this to reapplying myself to the place of prayer and to cultivating a listening ear attuned to His voice. Moments later, I considered that this could have implications for situations in my life, and a comfortable, peaceful idea suddenly turned into a potentially challenging one.
Like the servant, I would need to wait for Him to move. Whether this would be in a place of receiving direction in how to pray and how to live, or in bringing requests to Him for prolonged situations in my life, the place of waiting is an active posture of preparation and strengthening to be ready and willing to move at His command.
In Psalm 27, in the midst of trouble and longing for deliverance, David determines that His one desire is to seek the Lord. As he wrestles through the challenges He faces, he resolves himself in this way,
“I would have despaired unless I hadPsalm 27:13-14
Believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.”
In the second to last stanza, the encouragement to be strong seems to be an added supplement to the drudging place of waiting. But if we apply the definition above, to “be strong” is actually a rephrasing of the command to wait. Waiting is to have expectation, to prepare, as a soldier awaiting battle, as a mother readying for birth, as one who trusts that the promise will come soon.
In whatever we face, may we use the elapsing time to its fullest and do “all we can do,” that we may be strong enough to carry the weight of the awaited desire, and attend to the Lord with full obedience, wisdom, and love.