We have all waited at some point. We wait in line at the bank for the next available teller. We wait to checkout at Walmart—behind the frazzled mom with the screaming child. There’s the unnerving sock-footed wait for the TSA screening as we pass through airport security and, yes, there’s the slow wait for our fast food.
Over the past several months, I have drifted into a pit of despair. It is a dark, lonely place where I’ve been waiting on God. Like the woman seeking favor from the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) and the man asking his neighbor (11:5-8) for bread, I have been persistent in sharing with God the desires of my heart. It is said persistence pays off, but I’m still waiting.
What I am seeking is not selfish. One of my closest friends has drifted into a world of rebellion and drug abuse. He has become distant as he edges ever closer to personal and spiritual destruction. Didn’t Jesus come to seek and save the lost? Isn’t it true that God doesn’t want anyone to perish? Why are my attempts to reach out met with bone-chilling indifference, my friendship spurned? Where is the redemption and transformation I have earnestly sought for my friend? I feel like I’m waiting in deafening silence as Scriptural promises remain unfulfilled. In the agonizing wait for the Lord, my hope was failing.
Was it ironic or providential that I was asked to write an article that explores David’s admonition, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14)?
David knew what it was like to wait for the Lord. As a young man, he was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to succeed Saul as king of Israel. His ascent to the throne was delayed by 15 years of promise and victory, hardship and adversity. David waited.
In those waiting years, David was called to serve as minstrel to the king. His musical skill allowed him to soothe Saul’s tormented spirit while David gained experience in palace politics. His encounter with Goliath in the Valley of Elah made him a national hero with immediate name recognition among his countrymen. Becoming commander of Saul’s army solidified his reputation. Yet, David waited.
God was in no hurry to put David on the throne. He was more interested in using experiences and connections to prepare David for that throne. God’s perfect calendar may be totally different than any schedule we have in mind. David was content with God’s calendar and waited.
Richard Larson is an operations researcher at MIT and the world’s leading expert on waiting. In his book, Skin in the Game (Kregel Publishers, 2015), Larson claims we tolerate “occupied time” far better than “unoccupied time.” If we have something to do while we wait, the wait becomes endurable. Instead of bemoaning his coronation delay, David occupied his time doing. Minstrel, giant-slayer, military commander all made him a better king than if he simply ascended to the throne from the shepherd’s field.
God’s delay is not the denial of our heart’s desire. Just because he has not stepped into our circumstance does not mean he is ignoring us. It doesn’t mean he does not feel our pain. It does mean he has a plan by which he will be glorified in the future through the very thing that we are facing today. We need to see waiting as an opportunity to meaningfully occupy our time. Like David, we have talents and skills we can utilize to bide our time and gain practical insight into the issues we are facing. Walking in faith, we should look for the occasion to step out and slay the giant that is tormenting us. There will even be tasks to grab hold of that will enable us to excel when our wait is over.
For me, I have been researching the cause and effects of addiction to help me understand my friend. I have spoken to a counselor to grasp what role I might play in his recovery. I took a part-time job to have money to help if he decides to enter an aggressive rehab program. I’m still waiting, but now I’m waiting with hope.
Then we read: “And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David” (1 Samuel 18:9). “A close eye”?The NIV is kind with its description of Saul. TheNASB says that Saul “looked at David with suspicion.” Saul possessed a “jealous eye” according to the NLT. Waiting in the palace is one thing. Waiting under pressure is something else. Saul’s “close eye” compelled David to cry out to God, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1) and “Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (10:1). Reading other psalms of David reveals a distraught and conflicted man.
While waiting for the throne, David fled the wrath of Saul, pledged loyalty to a foreign king, feigned madness, lived in the wilderness, and took up residence in the cave of Adullam. Richard Hendrix noted, “Second only to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher and trainer in godliness, maturity, and genuine spirituality most of us ever encounter.” David’s character was so pivotal to the kingdom of God that suffering was added to his wait.
David’s wait reached its lowest point when he escaped to the cave of Adullam. Psalm 142 reveals the depth of his despair: “Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me. I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me” (vv. 3a, 4 NLT). In the dark solitude of a cave, David felt separated from everyone and everything important to him. He felt there was no escape and no one who cared.
David knew what Corrie Ten Boom discovered centuries later: “No matter how deep the pit, God is deeper still.” Psalm 142 begins, “I cry out to the Lord. . .I plead. . .I pour out my complaints. . .(I) tell him all my troubles” (vv. 1, 2 NLT). David’s example reveals four keys to surviving times of waiting.
Communication is first and foremost. Don’t clam up or hold back. Our communication is not for God’s benefit, it’s for ours. Communication is our acknowledgement that he knows, he cares, and we can trust him.
Be emotional. Waiting gives us the opportunity to cry out, shout, and weep. We are invited to come with confidence to the throne of grace, so speak with boldness.
Be honest about how you feel. David felt there was no escape, but God already had his escape in the works. David felt no one cared. First Samuel 22:1 tells us his brother and all his father’s household joined him in the cave. The following verse tells us 400 men, including many who became his “mighty men,” found their home in David’s cave. Even though David was wrong, he shared how felt.
In your honesty, however, don’t lose your respect for God. In Jeremiah’s painful wait he exclaimed to God, “You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails” (Jeremiah 15:18, NIV). Jeremiah’s honest, emotional communication might have stepped over the line.
Finally, be optimistic. Before God answered his prayer, David noted that his loneliness and despair would come to an end because, “The godly will crowd around me, for you are good to me” (Psalm 142:7b, NLT).
Waiting in difficult days brings us to the place where, like David, God can mold us and make us into the servant he needs for the kingdom.
Pat Fahey recently began his 41st year of ministry. He currently serves the Windsor Christian Church in Illinois.