Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me. (Micah 7:7)
Most of us have, or will, at some time or another in our lives, find ourselves in what could be called the ‘winter place.’ We long to hear God’s voice, to receive the response to our prayers, yet all we seem to encounter is a silence as deep as that after new-fallen snow. That’s the point when our heads – helped along with great enthusiasm by the enemy – stir up all kinds of unbelief, questioning ourselves, our prayers, our worth and, most of all, our God.
It’s not an easy place to be, and is usually accompanied by the ‘lonely seranade.’ Have you noticed how many people around you seem to be receiving answers, guidance, blessings and even miracles – while you’re still hanging in there with something close to grim determination and doing your best to be happy and excited for them. But inside, the sense of loss and loneliness seems to grow, and the nagging voice keeps reminding us that God isn’t listening. If He was, surely He would have answered by now? It’s a sentiment that is common to all believers at some point.
We can spend the rest of our lives asking the numerous ‘why?’ questions and never fully understand this part of our faith walk. Living in a society that is strongly built on ‘everything instant’ doesn’t help much. Humans aren’t creatures that handle waiting well at the best of times, and particularly when the issue is a really important one. I cannot presume to have all the answers. Only God knows, but what I do know is that He has a very good reason. Always.
One of the funny things about having to wait is that faith grows. The longer we hold on to Him, the more our faith will develop. Waiting, in a sense, is actually faith in action. Our faith doesn’t grow if we don’t exercise it, and one of the best ways to exercise it is to use it while waiting. This is one of the common misconceptions about waiting. It feels like we – and God – are doing nothing. The truth, however, is that in waiting for Him we are exercising faith – the belief that He can and will respond. We are using faith to believe for the final outcome. Faith used is faith grown.
Another odd thing about waiting is that it often gives us plenty of opportunity to rethink what we’re actually asking. As an example, we may start off asking Him for guidance between plan A and plan B. Then we wait and receive no response. This part may take a good long while, because we tend to see things only from our perspective. After waiting and waiting, desperation starts to click in. We find ourselves asking Him what He would like us to do. We set aside our plans and ask simply that He reveal His will without providing options. This is the point, usually, when God answers – and it’s usually plan G, the one we never even thought of or seriously considered.
It may be a question of timing, and experience has shown me that this sometimes has two sides. First, the actual answer comes at the perfect time. I’ve often been awed by the sense of this – and had to repent of my impatience – when I look back and see just how minutely perfect the timing is. Second, I’m honest enough to realise that often God had to take the time to ‘grow’ me into the answer. I simply wasn’t ready. Had I received the answer before I’d been guided through the process of waiting and relying on Him, I would not have been prepared for everything that was to come.
Another possibility – and one I’ve had to learn about the hard way – is that we hang on to things. This is usually when we receive the eleventh hour, fifty-ninth minute anwer. It’s only at the very last moment that we release the situation fully and allow God to move as He wills. The world has taught us well – we are so concerned about being ‘in control’ that it’s really hard to relinquish things completely, to surrender them utterly to God and trust His will and His goodness. Yet, in some things, this is the only way.
Waiting can be a really difficult thing to endure. Yes, it teaches us endurance, perserverance, patience – all the things we’d much rather skip and ignore but which are so important to us as believers. But beyond all these there is one treasure that the process of waiting reveals. That is constant fellowship with God. As we reach out in faith, as we continue in prayer and keep our eyes fixed on Him, He draws us closer. These times are the moments of presence rather than hearing His voice. Out of hanging on to God comes a deeper knowledge of Him, a closer walk with Him. It is at times like these that He reveals Himself in ways that are so much more than simple answers.
When the ‘winter wait’ is long and cold, keep hold of this truth: Waiting is faith in action, and God always honours faith – exceedingly, abundantly, far more than we could ever ask or imagine. His Word is eternal, just as He is, and His faithfulness without end.
Thank You, Lord, that You are here with us, even when it seems You are silent and far off. Help us to exercise the faith You have given us. In those times where we must wait, help us to keep our eyes on You, teach us what You need us to know, and guide us to the place where we are ready to receive Your perfect response according to Your grace and perfect will.