What Can I Do While I'm Waiting on God?

guest post by Terry Powell
Puzzling. Frustrating. Get-wrenching.

When we’re waiting on God to act, those words often describe our attitude toward the delay. We may be waiting for provision of a new job; for God to woo a grown child back to faith; for Him to open the womb for a baby desperately wanted, to bless us with a wife or husband, or for the end of a debilitating bout of depression. Delay has been a core course in God’s “divine curriculum” for my own life. From my experience and from God’s Word, here’s what I’ve learned to do while waiting.

Persist in Praying

I know. When God has repeatedly answered with silence, this is easier said than done. One catalyst for my continued praying is that Jesus commanded us to do it, and when I figure it’s no use, I’m trusting Him on this matter. Jesus emphasized the need for persistence (Luke 11:1-13). He employed a verb tense calling for continued action: “Everyone who keeps asking, receives; and he who keeps seeking, finds; and he who keeps knocking, it shall be opened” (verse 10, emphasis mine). 
Delay is a core course in God’s "divine curriculum."
Study the Lives of Biblical Figures who Waited on God

Abraham (Genesis 12-21) waited twenty-five years for God to give the promised heir through Sarah. The delay not only tested his faith, it also deepened his trust as he learned the hard way that God keeps His promises.

Joseph (Genesis 39-41) unjustly languished in jail for a couple years before God catapulted him to prominence and his administrative destiny was fulfilled. Though Joseph’s imprisonment stemmed from a morally upright choice, the Lord apparently knew that his future leadership role required a more polished character. In reference to Joseph, “They afflicted his feet with fetters; he himself was laid in irons, until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him” (Ps. 105:18-19). The term “tested” means “refined,” referring to the process of removing coarse elements of mineral ore to purify it and prepare it for usefulness.

David waited twenty-five years from the time Samuel anointed him to be king until he assumed the throne in Judah (1 Samuel 16—2 Samuel 2). One positive outcome of David’s delay is his writing. While dodging King Saul’s spears, we know he wrote Psalm 18, 34, 52, 54, 56-57, 59, 63, and 142. When you read their stories, ask: What did God accomplish in and through their lives while they waited? Their lives reveal the truth of V. Raymond Edman’s remark: “Delay never thwarts God’s purpose; it merely polishes His instrument.” 
“Delay never thwarts God’s purpose; it merely polishes His instrument.”
– V. Raymond Edman
Camp Out in Biblical Texts on the Theme of Waiting

Among my favorites: Psalm 13; Psalm 27:13-14; Psalm 62:1-8, and Lamentations 3:22-25.

Ask: What traits of the Lord do these passages cite? In times of delay, what effect should awareness of these traits have on our faith? What do these verses suggest we do while we wait? (Look for what the texts illustrate and imply, not just what authors directly state.)

Memorize either Psalm 27:13-14 or Lamentations 3:22-25.

Thank God for His Past Faithfulness

What specific prayers has God answered for you in the past? How have you grown through past afflictions? When you look over your shoulder, what evidences of His past faithfulness to you and your family can you spot? When did He provide for a financial need in an unexpected way? What relationships has He salvaged? What did He do in your heart and character during past episodes of waiting?

In Psalm 106:7-22, three times God lamented Israel’s forgetfulness of His past deeds on their behalf. Psalm 145 repeatedly tells us not only to recall His past deeds, but to tell others about them. Remembering and testifying of His faithfulness shifts our focus from our current excruciating delay to who He is (and who He has been) for us. Fuel for our faith flows through the conduit of a keen memory of our past as a Christ-follower.

One way to utilize this tip is using the hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Go online and listen to a rendition of the hymn. Then digest the lyrics from a hymnbook. Ponder this question: Which words/phrases in the lyrics mean most to me right now? Why? Then sing the hymn back to God aloud.

Another exercise that instills gratitude is to examine Psalm 103 and Ephesians 1, then list all the benefits we have as Christians. Examine these texts, and you’ll reach the same conclusion I did:

What you are waiting for pales in comparison to what he has already done for you.
What you are waiting for pales in comparison to what he has already done for you.
Ask the Lord to Use Your Delay for a Redemptive Purpose 

Invite Him to expose unconfessed sin, or areas in which you need to grow. Invite Him to show you meaningful avenues of service to fulfill while you wait.

When we’re in a waiting mode, we’re usually more teachable and more responsive to the Holy Spirit’s whispers. In effect, you’re saying to Him, “Father, don’t waste this difficult delay. Use it for my long-term benefit, and in a way that gives You more glory through my life.” Think of an incident of God’s past faithfulness to you, and identify a person with whom to share it.

What would you add to this list of things to do while waiting on God?

If you’re currently in a time of delay, which of these suggestions do you most need to implement now? 
Terry Powell
Terry Powell teaches Church Ministry classes at Columbia International University in South Carolina. His books include Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants and Now That’s A Good Question! How To Lead Quality Bible Discussions. Terry blogs frequently about depression and faith at penetratingthedarkness.com.
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