Eight years ago, my niece Amy married Nathan, a great guy. They moved into a starter home in the country. Over time, and with the addition of a son and daughter, the small house felt smaller. With a third child on the way, they decided to sell their house and find a larger home, a place closer to town with neighbors for the kids and a garage for the cars.
They put their house on the market late last October, and within four days they had signed agreement. Which meant they’d better start looking for their replacement home.
Two weeks later they fell in love with a house in their preferred neighborhood, at the right price in the perfect size, and with an attached garage. (It usually takes only one Michigan winter to make the most frugal-minded puritan lust for a garage. They endured seven winters.)
Their bid was accepted. But the inspection uncovered rotted roofing, siding, and windows, and substandard plumbing. All of which was going to cost them more than $40,000. The owners wouldn’t budge on the pricing, so Amy and Nathan reluctantly released the house. They moved in with Nathan’s family a few weeks before Christmas.
Imagine an extended time of suitcase-life with two kids, living in someone else’s home, and pregnancy. (I can imagine all but the pregnancy myself.) Their family-host was gracious, but weeks of this lifestyle took its toll, as though they were imposing on friends. They searched, and searched desperately, for their next home.
They soon found another house that thrilled neither of them (except for the hope of living on their own again); they made a bid that was accepted; the inspection turned up arsenic in the water; the owners refused to re-negotiate; and Amy and Nathan decided again to wait.
And they waited and waited, and weeks turned into months.
Patience Is a Pain We Try to Avoid
We all know the value of waiting. Aphorisms abound that extoll perseverance: “Patience is a virtue,” “Good things come to those who wait,” and even “April showers bring May flowers.”
But we all hate the wait. And we’re not alone:
- When Abraham grew sick of waiting, he tried to accomplish God’s supernatural promise of a son through natural means, and trouble flourished (Gen. 16);
- The Israelites rewrote history as they waited in the desert, dreaming of Egypt “where the meat and fish was free,” conveniently forgetting their suffering-slavery (Num. 11);
- King Saul lost his kingdom when he refused to wait an extra day for the prophet Samuel to preside at a celebration sacrifice (1 Sam. 13).
Why the Heck “The Wait”?
“The vision is yet for an appointed time … though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come” (Hab. 2:3 KJV). God says there is an “appointed time,” and it will “surely come.” We think we know both what we need and when we need it. God says, “Nope! My ‘appointed time’ also means my ‘perfect timing.’”
So what do we do while we wait? Oswald Chambers says,
The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the surrounding influence and qualities produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to give our attention to.
We think we know the “what” and “when” of our lives, while God says our greatest need is the “who.” The“who” that is him always provides what we really most need when we most need it; he gives us exactly what (and when) we would ask for if we knew all that he knows.
The Perfect Home
When the arsenic-water-house deal fell through, the housing market just dried up. Nothing captured Amy and Nathan’s interest—and believe me, they were interested! —so they continued to live like the third-wheel on someone else’s bicycle. I’d love to say they waited patiently, but at least they persevered.
In early March their realtor called them with “the perfect home.” And she was right: it was far more beautiful than anything else they had seen; they made an offer that was accepted; the inspection passed with flying colors. And two weeks ago they moved into a house better than their dreams.
My niece’s comment on this entire episode of their life was simple. She said, “It was worth the wait.” What are you waiting for that will someday be worth the delay?
Wait for it.
I love this story, Sam!! Thanks for sharing. It’s hard to wait, but God’s timing is always perfect. 🙂
I think “waiting” (or patience) is one of the hardest virtues to grow in. I want more action oriented virtues, something I can do.
And “waiting” is hugely important. We are faced with it every day; sometimes we wait for hours and other times we are asked to wait for years. Abraham waited for decades.
I want the Christian virtue of waiting. And I want it NOW!
Thank you Sam. I am just experiencing a story of my own like this. Waiting on God for His timing has resulted for myself and my fiancé an amazing relationship put together by God and will become a marriage on May 22nd. DEFINITELY worth the wait!!!
Congratulations! I hadn’t heard. Until now.
Great post, Sam! I knew Amy and Nate’s story, but you heard what the Lord was teaching through it. Have you considered writing something on hearing God’s voice?:)
This year I have been waiting for different things to take place and different sticky situations to subside. It has been all wait for me. What God is teaching me with this is to trust in Him, have no fear for the future, to cast all worries onto Him. And it has been the best thing I have learned all my life- they teach nothing like this at school…Another waiting started this monday, and the situation has not been cleared yet, so pray with me, that I can be patient and not concentrate on the finish line, but on the relationships with people and God during the wait!
Thanks Sam, again for the story. And thank you for evangelisation with love, rather then with a rod- some people like to go with..
Thanks for your thanks. Yes! I agree, it’s the best lesson in the world, and so contrary to our nature.
“What are you waiting for that will someday be worth the delay?” Nailed me Sam. Thanks. I needed this today.
After I nail myself, I love to nail others. Misery (and joy) loves company.
Thanks, Sam. Timely post.
Being naturally a very patient person, I often struggle with wondering about when to wait and when to take action. I am reading a biography of Winston Churchill, and it says action was his life philosophy…that he believed things tend toward decline apart from bold and decisive action and that passivity was a sin. Certainly if he had been more patient and waited like the other leaders of his time, the world would have been worse off. I wonder if you could comment on that Sam: any thoughts on discerning waiting vs passivity? In your niece’s case, they didn’t really have a choice, they were forced into waiting. What about the times when we have a choice?
You always (ALWAYS!) ask the best questions.
I don’t think “waiting” and “action” are opposites. Spiritual waiting has to do with an attitude of trust in God and a kind of obedience. When God told Moses to cross the Red Sea, Moses had to ACT; but when God told Abraham the God would give him a child, Abraham was supposed to “actively” wait in obedience.
I’m not all that sure that patience is exactly the same as spiritual waiting, but I’ve never thought about it before you comment. We can be “patient” when our passions are lower, expectations lower, or even to protect ourselves from disappointment. I think the truest (and therefore hardest) waiting is for areas we MOST want, and want NOW, and think will solve all our problems, and we think we need it; … and then we trust God to bring it about in his timing.
My niece had it relatively easy; she only had to wait for four or five months. I’ve known situations (some in my own life) which involved years and even decades of waiting. It’s not that we do nothing; but we don’t trust our doing.
Thanks for your wonderful question.
Thanks for your thoughtful answer. I think you are saying that in a sense we are always meant to be taking action, either to do something God told us about or to actively wait for God….I think I’m tending toward the “protect myself from disappointment” kind of patience, not confident God will come through on my behalf, so trying to have lower and lower expectations…or else take things into my own hands.
I think we frequently apply spiritual fruit terms to our lives that actually are other things:
We think we are humble when really we are ashamed; we think we are patient when really we are just checked out; or we think we are gentle when really we are just afraid! (And the list goes on.)
May God grant us all the real fruit. (NOW!)
I am waiting these days for a new ministry vision/opportunity, so this was very timely. God also brought this gem across my path from Henri Nouwen:
How do we wait for the promise to be fulfilled? We wait with patience. But patience does not mean passivity. Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise. It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the fullest in order to find there the signs of the one we are waiting for.
A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior, which means “to suffer.” Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the fullest in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. When we know that we are God’s beloved and we are free to live in the house of love, all patience is co-patience— suffering with the suffering God, thus suffering and compassion that give birth to new life. “You will be weeping . . . you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy” (John 16: 20).
I love your response. A good translation of patience is “long suffering.” As you translated the Latin. And I love your ending–your conclusion, if you will–to long suffering: joy.
Your writing is always so excellent – and packs such a good punch. I’ve done a bit of waiting – waiting for my first date, which finally came at age 25 with my now wonderful husband, then waiting a year while planning our wedding, separated by an ocean. While waiting for the wedding day and being reunited geographically with my fiance I was reminded on a daily basis of how the glorious Bridegroom (Jesus) is patiently waiting to come and take His bride (us) home. It was such an encouragement to know that my wait is nothing compared to His, just as my love for my fiance is nothing compared to His love for me.
Another thought that struck me as I read this was something I’ve noticed in human nature: We have a hard time living in the NOW. Waiting is part of life, and once we accept that, we’ll be able to move past the frustration of it and enjoy where we are. I’ve noticed that it’s easy to live in the waiting… Waiting to marry, waiting to have kids, waiting to graduate, waiting to buy a house… and be so distracted that we don’t live in the NOW with God. I’ll never forget the folktale about the man who hated to wait, and a witch gave him a silver spool that he could use to speed up time. Every time he had to wait, he tugged on the cord and time went faster. The problem is, he sped so quickly through life that he didn’t take time to savor it and suddenly he was just an old man with nothing but regret. Let’s wait, be patient, and savor every precious breath God has given us. LTS – Life’s too short!
I love how you connected living in the “now” with waiting; the truth is, most of our UNspiritual waiting is NOT living in the now. We dislike the “now” until we have whatever we’re waiting on.
Real living in the now is content in the now, which means we’re also content in the wait.
May God grant us this, learning to “abide” in him.
I just discovered your website and this story completely resonated with me! I have been waiting for months for God to move and give me my dream job working for my church. It’s hard because I don’t know if it’s in His plan for my life. I pray, ask, and seek…and I do my best to keep my faith that the answer will be yes. I also know that my God is Soveriegn and it’s His perfect will that I truly want most of all. It would just be nice to know what that will is!! 🙂
Terrific example of the process of waiting for God’s will. We can ALL relate.
God is so multi-faceted. Sometimes I want to know if I should do X or Y (change jobs, where to go for vacation, what to write about, etc.) and later I hear God tell me to repent to my wife for ignoring her. I want to say, “Hey, that wasn’t one of the options!”
But we always know that part of his will is simply waiting for him. For all we know, that is exactly his will for you now, to learn to lean into him (more); and maybe it will be a lesson he teaches you today so that tomorrow you can teach it to others in your dream job! Maybe he is preparing you right now for that perfect job!
It is SO SO SO hard to trust that God knows exactly what is best for us in the moment.
But he does 🙂