Any Christian who has remained single longer than they would like — to be honest, any Christian who has waited for anything — likely knows the first part of Psalm 37:7: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”
For much of my life, I think I have pictured “waiting on God” as the same kind of waiting you do in the dentist’s office or a restaurant: biding time until someone calls you or brings you what you want.
That doesn’t mean that I literally sit around twiddling my thumbs as I’ve waited for God to bring marriage and family my way. But now that I can look back on my 20s, I see that back then I lacked a seriousness and intentionality about my life and choices. I tended to wait for life to happen to me, and I avoided making decisions.
I know I’m called to wait on God. But not like this.
The wrong way to wait
“Waiting on God” is a clear spiritual concept — a directive, even. But not all waiting is equal.
One definition of “wait” says to “remain in readiness for some purpose.” That lines up with Peter’s instruction to always be “prepared to make a defense” for the gospel and Paul’s charge to Timothy to be “ready for every good work.”
Both commands paint a picture of a soldier standing at the ready, waiting for the order to jump into action. No soldier can remain ready for action very long by simply standing around all the time. He must sleep, eat and exercise to be prepared to obey his commanding officer’s next order.
But my default idea of “waiting” lines up more with the passive definition: “not participating readily or actively; inactive.” That sounds more like the proverbial idler King Solomon wrote about: “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.”
We know that God doesn’t call His people to be lazy. Paul reminded the Thessalonians that he wasn’t idle when he visited them, and he admonished them to stay away from Christians who were idle.
These verses prove that, though we are all called to wait at some point, we aren’t called to wait passively. A solder standing ready for action is not passive, even though he waits.
Living as stewards
Jesus told His disciples a story about a man who went on a long journey. Before he left, he gave his three servants differing sums of money to steward while he was gone.
The servant who received five talents went out, invested it, and doubled what he had been entrusted with. The servant who received two talents did the same.
But the third servant — who received only one talent — dug a hole, dropped the money in it, and simply waited. Without doing anything else.
When the master returned, he praised the first two servants. Interestingly, even though the second servant earned a smaller total than the first, the master commended and rewarded the two identically. But after the third servant attempted to rationalize his actions — “I was afraid” — and returned the original amount, his master threw him out.
As a single person, I sometimes feel I’ve been given less than my peers who are married with children. We probably all feel like that sometimes, regardless of our life stage, and the point here is not to quibble over comparisons. But whether we feel we’ve been given five talents or just one, what do we do with it?
Do we leverage our time, energy and circumstances toward serving God and others? Or do we bury our one talent, twiddling our thumbs as we wait for more?
We’re called to wait, yes. But not passively.
So what do we do while we wait? How do we wait actively, ready for whatever God brings our way?
“Only one life, twill soon be past,” wrote missionary C.T. Studd. “Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
When our Master returns, or brings us to our forever home, what account will we be able to give of our waiting times? Did we invest whatever He gave us in multiplying riches in heaven?
We will always be waiting for something. The weekend, the big vacation, our next life stage. But as we wait, we are also called to action: preparing ourselves for what God may call us to next, fulfilling the responsibilities we know He has already given us, and serving God and others however we can. We can make decisions and take steps toward the life stages we desire, yet trust that God ultimately rules over our life circumstances.
“Do the next thing,” Elisabeth Elliot often said, quoting a poem. Until God reveals our next steps, we have much to keep us busy while we wait.
Copyright 2023 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.