Every day we all find ourselves having to wait for something or someone at some point. We wait for packages to arrive in the mail, our Uber driver to show up, our paycheck to hit our bank account, or for friends to text us back. We wait in drive-thru lines for food, in gas lines to fill our car tanks, in traffic to get to work, and mall lines when shopping.
But, if we are honest, none of us really like to wait for anything. We can get impatient, restless, demanding, and even angry. And we typically have the same response when it comes to having to wait on God.
In this post, we will look at why we find it difficult to wait on God, and five key things the bible teaches us about waiting on God.
This post may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.
Why is it Difficult to Wait on God?
God answers prayers in one of three ways – yes, no, or wait. When our prayers are answered quickly with a ‘yes’, it excites us and even encourages us to further trust God. Getting a ‘no’, however, can be tough. It can leave us wondering why, and even feeling disappointed and angry.
Then there are the times when God says ‘wait’. And waiting can oftentimes be the answer that we find the most difficult to handle.
One of the reasons why waiting in general is difficult, is because we live in a fast-paced culture (especially in the US) that constantly promotes the pursuit of instant gratification. No one wants to have to wait for anything. We want things to happen in our timing, and according to our plans. Like crying babies, we want what we want, and we want it now!
When we have that type of demanding and impatient attitude as Christians, that is when waiting on God becomes difficult. In fact, it can seem extremely frustrating or even impossible.
Having to wait on God for answers to our prayers can translate into delayed dreams, unattained life goals, not having a need or desire met in the way we want it to be, or even watching the people around us “succeed and prosper” while we “fail and suffer”.
Waiting can really be a test of our faith. It can cause us to struggle spiritually, and even question if God hears our prayers or if He even cares.
Since we have identified why waiting is naturally difficult, let’s take a look at Scripture regarding the matter and answer the following questions in the process:
- Why is waiting on God so important?
- What does it mean to wait on the Lord?
- What are the benefits of waiting on the Lord?
- What are some examples of waiting on God in the bible?
What Does the Bible Say About Waiting on God?
In order to fully understand why we are sometimes called to wait on God and how to do it, it is important that we look at what the bible teaches about the very nature of God. It is when we start there, that we can equip ourselves with the proper spiritual mindset that will strengthen us not only to wait, but to wait well.
1. God’s Timetables are Different Than Ours
God is the one and only omniscient (all-knowing), eternal spirit. He has always existed and will always exist:
- I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. Isaiah 45:5 NIV
- Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:12 NIV
- “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 NIV
Because God is eternal, He does not exist nor operate within the bounds of what we call “time”. Peter gave a great illustration of this in his letter to the Christian believers of his day:
But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.2 Peter 3:8 NLT
Peter wasn’t saying that one day on earth literally equals a thousand years to God. He used this analogy to help them understand how vastly different our timetables are compared to those of our eternal God.
God indeed knows the time that we operate in (24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year), because He created time. However, what we consider to be a “long” timeframe is like a moment for God.
Our entire lives, regardless of how long we live, are simply moments in eternity to God. James illustrated this best in his letter:
Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.James 4:14 ESV
I think one of the best examples in the bible of waiting on God’s timetable is Abraham.
When God promised him that He would make him into a great nation and make his seed like the dust of the earth, Abraham was 75 years old, married to Sarah, and had no kids. Because they were such an old couple this promise was shocking and laughable to them, but also exciting in that it gave them something to look forward to.
Since they were already so old, I’m sure they were literally expecting Sarah to get pregnant shortly after this promise was made. After all, if God was going to bring forth a “great nation” through Abraham, they needed to get started on this reproduction process right away if they wanted to make up for lost time. But little did they know that Sarah would not conceive for another 25 years!
Most of us get irritated if we have to wait 25 minutes for something, let alone 25 years! Can you imagine how they were feeling throughout that entire waiting period? (Read the full story: Genesis 12:1-5, 15:1-6, 16:1-16, 17:1-27, 18:1-15, 21:1-6).
I remember when I had to move back to Virginia from Philadelphia and live with my parents. My prayer and plan was to stay for no longer than one year. Well, that was NOT God’s plan. I ended up living with my parents (while sharing a room with my son) for 5 years!
When it comes to waiting on God, expecting Him to do things on our timetables will only set us up for disappointment every single time. Yes, we can make the plans and set the goals, but we must keep in mind that God works in His timing, not ours. And we have to learn to be okay with that.
2. God is Sovereign Over Everything
As the omniscient eternal Spirit who knows everything, God is sovereign. He is the source of all things that exist, and the sustainer of the existence of all things. This means He always has complete and total control of everyone and everything:
- In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 NIV
- For through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Colossians 1:16-17 NLT
- Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. Psalm 115:3 NIV
- All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ Daniel 4:35 NLT
God is in total control over every creature, event, and circumstance at every moment in history. He is subject to no one and influenced by none. God always does whatever He pleases.
When we better understand God’s sovereignty, waiting for God to act becomes a matter of us trusting in His goodness, faithfulness, and love. After all, only an eternal God that knows everything (past, present, and future) could also know what’s best for us.
I love how my father says it in his book:
In Scripture God says this about Himself:
Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.Isaiah 46:9-10 NLT
God doesn’t just see the big picture, He is the author of our entire lives. And His plans for us are perfect and holy because He is perfect and holy.
- As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30 NIV
- But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Psalm 33:11 NIV
- And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT
When we truly grasp this, then we can trust that whatever He does, and whatever His timing is, it is also perfect, and ultimately for our good, because God knows best. And this will help make waiting on God not only less difficult, but even joyful.
3. God Has Appointed Times for Everything
Since we know God’s timetables are different than ours and that He has total control over everything, then it should also make sense that God has appointed times for everything. That includes everything from our conception and birth, to our death and day of judgement, and every single event in between:
- You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:13-16 NLT
- And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. Acts 17:25-26 NIV
- And just as it is appointed and destined for all men to die once and after this [comes certain] judgment, so Christ, having been offered once and once for all to bear [as a burden] the sins of many, will appear a second time [when he returns to earth], not to deal with sin, but to bring salvation to those who are eagerly and confidently waiting for Him. Hebrews 9:27-28 AMP
- For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Acts. 17:31 NIV
Since we do not know what God’s appointed times are, it is only natural for us to wonder and ask God ‘when’ or ‘how long’:
- How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors? Psalm 119:84 NIV
- My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Psalm 6:3 NIV
- How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2 NIV
If Jesus was physically here in person with us today, I have no doubt he would respond to us the same way he did in his final conversation with his disciples when they questioned him about God’s timing:
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? ”He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”Acts 1:6-7 NIV
Knowing that God has an appointed time for everything, and remembering that His timing is always perfect, should encourage and strengthen us while we wait.
4. Waiting on God Develops Our Faith and Trust in Him
When we fully understand and embrace all these things that Scripture teaches us about God and His timing, it helps us to develop the biblical and spiritual mindset that is required to wait well. It helps us to better understand that one of the key purposes of waiting is to develop our faith and trust in God.
If God gave us everything we ever asked for, how would that build our faith? If we never got a ‘no’ from God or never had to wait for an answer to prayer, what type of Christians would we be? Think about it.
As parents, what type of kids would we produce if we said ‘yes’ to everything they ever asked us for? That sounds like a recipe for developing arrogant, spoiled, demanding, and entitled children.
Now think about the character and skill it builds in children when they don’t always get their way; when they learn to accept the word ‘no’ or ‘wait’. They may get frustrated or angry, but they eventually learn to work through it and even develop some patience. Then all the future ‘no’s’ and ‘wait’s’ become easier over time.
It’s the same when it comes to waiting on God.
When we learn to lean on God and His Word, to focus on who He is, and remind ourselves of His sovereignty and the fact that He always knows best, then we develop spiritual “waiting muscles” that build our faith and trust in Him. In fact, when we learn to wait well, God constantly renews our strength throughout the waiting process:
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31 ESV
And the more we go through this waiting process, we will find ourselves reacting less and less with frustration, anger, fear, stress, worry, and doubt. Instead, while patiently on God, we will look to Him for strength, and trust confidently in His promises:
- I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6 NIV
- In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV
- Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14 NLT
- Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14 NIV
- We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:20 NIV
- Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7 NIV
- Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4 NIV
God may not answer us when we want Him to or even how we want Him to, but there is always a benefit to waiting well. The joy, peace, patience, and strength God develops in us when we wait, is something we wouldn’t get otherwise.
- Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV
- Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18 NIV
There are so many great examples in Scripture of people who waited on God.
Job had to wait for God after losing everything precious to him (his kids, his home, his riches, his health). But at the appointed time, God blessed the second half of his life even more than the first (Job 42:10-17).
Joseph had a dream in which he was a ruler over his brothers. From the time of the dream until fruition, he was sold into slavery by those same brothers, and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. But at God’s appointed time, Joseph was set free and made second in command to the very ruler who imprisoned him. Joseph became very successful, and was even used as God’s instrument to bless his brothers during a time of famine (Genesis 37-50).
David was anointed to be king over Israel, but from the time of the promise to the time he actually became king, he spent years on the run for his life and fought many battles with enemies along the way. But at God’s appointed time, David became king and set a great example of righteousness and good leadership for all future kings to follow (1 Samuel 16-31, 2 Samuel 1-8).
When Jesus got news of his friend Lazarus’ sickness, he stayed where he was for two extra days instead of going right away to heal him. In fact, he responded to those who brought the news as follows:
But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.John 11:4 NLT
Scripture records that Jesus waited for Lazarus to die and be buried before going to where he was. Can you imagine how Lazarus’ family felt after sending for help from Jesus (knowing he was a healer), only to have him take his time and finally show up after Lazarus’ death and burial. But, if you know the story, you know that Jesus goes to Lazarus’ tomb and raises Him from the dead (John 11:1-44). Before raising him, Jesus reminded them of what he had told them days earlier:
Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”John 11:40 NLT
Oh, the process that God takes us through in the waiting period! He builds our faith and trust in Him, and brings glory to Himself in the process.
When God finally does answer our prayers, He often does it in a way that is so much better than we could have imagined. He does it in a way where we KNOW that it’s all Him, and not us!
5. God Has Equipped Us to Wait Well
Knowing about the nature of God, His timing, and the purpose behind the waiting doesn’t automatically make the waiting any easier.
In fact, let’s be clear, the waiting process is NOT easy. Waiting goes against everything that our sinful flesh wants and desires. Human beings are not patient by nature. We do not like to wait, and we are not equipped to wait well on our own. Period.
But thanks be to God, that He did not leave us to figure it all out ourselves. Through the power of His Holy Spirit that lives within us we can develop patience. And the more time we spend in His Word getting to know God more, the more we will be equipped for godly living, which includes being able to wait on God:
- But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
- His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3 NIV
We have everything we need to be able to wait well on the Lord.
Yes, we may stumble along the way, get scared, worried, frustrated, angry, or even doubtful. But, ultimately let us remember to reflect on who God is.
Whether you are waiting on God for a spouse, a college degree, a financial breakthrough, healing, a promotion at work, a fresh start in a new town, or a rebellious child to return home, let us wait in hope like Abraham did:
Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have! And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.Romans 4:18-22 NLT
We know that our God is NOT a liar:
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?Numbers 23:19 NIV
So, let us always speak the words of David with confidence:
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame.Psalm 25:3a ESV
Encourage someone else today by sharing: