The Expectant Life: Or, a Theology of Waiting

The Expectant Life: Or, a Theology of Waiting July 9, 2007

I’ve been doing a good bit of thinking about this topic lately, as I’ve been thinking about the need to wait in my own life. Waiting is tough work. It touches every one of us in some way in every moment we live on earth. We might go so far as to say that waiting is our calling as Christians.

I will not be doing a biblical exposition of texts on waiting in the next few posts. That’s not my style on this blog, though it certainly would be in a Sunday School class or even sermon series. We can quickly say, though, that waiting is a key part of the lives of biblical figures. We see this particularly in the Old Testament. Waiting is a part of Adam’s pre-fall life. Waiting is therefore not necessarily a bad thing. Adam had to wait for a wife. He may not have known what he was missing, but it is clear that he was alone, and that there was not “a helper suitable for him.” This would not have caused him to sin, obviously, but it would have appeared before him as a matter of trust, if indeed he himself did understand himself to be alone. Thus we see that waiting ought not to be seen automatically as a matter of deprivation. Instead, we ought to think of it as a matter of expectancy. When we wait, then, we ought not to concentrate on our lack, on our unfulfilled desire. We ought to focus on the hope that is before us. As Israel hoped for deliverance from God, as Hannah hoped for children, as Abraham hoped for a son, so ought we to hope. Many of the biblical figures, of course, did not wait perfectly. There were indeed many times when hope crossed into the dark land of despair. But this does not negate the central idea here, that waiting is not necessarily a bad thing, and that our waiting should be hopeful.

The term I used in the title is expectancy. Speaking representatively, I am not desperately unfulfilled in the present and waiting for my desires to be granted at some future hour. I am expectantly trusting in the Lord to reveal the fullness of His sovereign plan in time. When He desires to incorporate definitive action on my behalf into that plan, He will do so. Until then, He desires to incorporate definitive waiting on my part into His plan. In accepting this reality with gracious trust, I am walking in the old ways, treading the path carved out by the feet of so many believing Israelites. They waited centuries for a Messiah. They trusted that God would bring a deliverer, though He made no pre-appearances. The Lord taught Israel to trust, to wait expectantly, and to look for His coming.

How ironic that this is our lot as well, and that things really haven’t changed all that much. We still await a Savior. We await the Messiah. We wait on His return. He is coming soon. In this, the ultimate desire of our life, we wait with patient faith, and so teach ourselves about all of life. We are to wait on guidance and restored health and church restoration in the same way that we wait on our Savior: trusting that the Lord’s hand will move at the right time, knowing that it is not wrong or unkind of the Lord to leave us to wait. No, so far from this, it is in this season of waiting, this life of expectancy, that we are trained to understand God Himself. Though we wait, we do not despair. We have not strayed from our calling. We have found it.

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