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The Work of Waiting

By Dena Johnson

I never wanted to be divorced. Many of my hopes and dreams crumbled with my marriage. I lost my family, my financial security, my ministry. As I faced the days ahead, I was filled with fear. I was looking for hope, for any sign that there was a future for me. I found it in Psalm 37:4-7.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. 

As I meditated on this scripture day after day, my heart began to calm. I knew that if I delighted in God—if I searched for him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength—that he would give me the desires of my heart. He would give me a future filled with hope. He would redeem the mess and make something beautiful from it.

One day as I repeated this scripture yet again, the truth suddenly struck me: While God says he will give us our heart’s desire, he tells us in verse 7 that we have to wait. I wanted God to reach down, intervene in my situation immediately. Instead, he told me that I had to be still and wait patiently for him to act.

Over the last few years, I’ve kept this passage posted on my bathroom mirror. I read it daily. I continue to cling to the promise that God knows my heart and he wants to fulfill my greatest desires. As I’ve pursued him intentionally over the last few years, I’ve seen my desires change. In the early years, my greatest desire was for a husband. As I’ve sought the heart of God and allowed him to change my heart, my greatest desire is now to be used by him. My heart still longs for a husband—and I believe God will fulfill that desire. But, that desire is no longer at the center of my heart.

Through the years, I’ve scoured scripture looking for guidance on waiting. I’ve found four very specific instructions from God.

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act (Psalm 37:7).

I used to think that I was a patient person. The truth is, I live in a society that values instant gratification. Why wait? Opportunities to obtain what I want now are all around me. Fast food, credit cards, microwaves…much of our lives is designed to eliminate the need to wait.

I recently heard a quote on the radio that struck me: Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object upon which we are waiting. How true is that? How often do we decide to go to a restaurant and find an hour wait time for a table? Are we willing to wait? It depends upon how badly we want to eat at the restaurant. Contrast that wait with a fast-food restaurant where you aren’t supposed to wait. I’m willing to bet the value of the food at the first restaurant far outweighs the value of the fast-food joint.  

The same is true for other desires. I could sell myself short, date anyone who might be acceptable, step into a ministry situation that isn’t designed by God specifically for me. Instead, I find that those desires are far too valuable to short-change. I would much rather wait for God to open doors to the man and the ministry that he has designed specifically for me.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him (Psalm 62:5).

Last year, I had laryngitis for seven weeks. I’m not talking about a hoarse voice; I mean no voice. I was put on complete vocal rest. I carried around a white board, and I communicated with my children by text messaging. It certainly gave new meaning to the phrase wait quietly.

So often we want to talk and talk to God about our desires. Perhaps as we wait, he is trying to get us quiet, to teach us to distinguish the still, small voice giving us guidance. He wants us to become so attuned to his voice that we never doubt that it is he. He wants us, his sheep, to know his voice. It’s while we wait quietly that we get to know the sweet sound of our Savior.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me (Micah 7:7).

As the years have passed, God has faithfully provided for my every need. He has healed my heart. He has heard and answered my prayers. He has been more than enough at every turn. My faith has grown as I’ve seen his mercies, new every morning. As he has patiently reassured me in my doubts, I have reached a place of confidence in my God.

God has called us to put our faith in his unchanging nature. He tells us that he does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). He tells us that he always keeps his promises (Joshua 23:15). He promises that nothing can ever separate us (Romans 8:38). As I get to know my Savior better each day, I find that I grow more confident that he will keep his promises to me. I find that I am able to wait confidently for him to act.

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly (Psalm 5:3).

I am entering a season in my life where I sense that I am on the cusp of the Promised Land, that I will soon see God’s promises to me fulfilled. My prayers are no longer begging him to act; instead, I find myself rejoicing, thanking God for hearing and answering my prayers. My confidence in God boils over and I am looking around, expecting to see his hand move in response to my prayers. I no longer hope God will answer my prayers; I expect him to answer my prayers.

As I look back on this season of waiting, I realize how much work God has done in me through the waiting. I entered the season with fear and trepidation; I will emerge with a deep faith and confidence in God and his promises. I entered with selfish desires; I will emerge with desires purified by my time in the wilderness. I entered as a sheep on the fringes of the fold; I will emerge as a sheep who knows her Savior’s voice intimately. It is through waiting for my Savior that he has produced the patience, the confidence to trust him to answer my prayers in his time.

From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened, no eye has seen any God except You, who acts on behalf of the one who waits for him (Isaiah 64:4).

I must admit that the closer I get to seeing my desires become reality, the anticipation grows. Each day my longings intensify, and I wonder how much longer I can wait. My heart is bursting with excitement to see how God exceeds my wildest imagination! But, I now understand the work God has done in me while I wait. I now understand the value of waiting.

Dena Johnson is a busy single mom of three kids who loves God passionately. She delights in taking the everyday events of life, finding God in them, and impressing them on her children as they sit at home or walk along the way (Deuteronomy 6:7). Her greatest desire is to be a channel of God’s comfort and encouragement. You can read more of Dena’s experiences with her Great I AM on her blog Dena's Devos.

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