What to Do
in the Waiting
Most of life is anticipation.
You look forward to the weekend. To the completion of a project. Vacation. The big career break. Rest at the end of the day. The Lord’s return. The day you meet “the one.” Or if He should tarry, (the Lord, that is) the day you feel completely content. “One of these days . . .” you say to yourself.
With varying intensities, the list goes on. Right now, I bet you could list five things you are waiting for.
To live with expectation is to be human. Just as sure as the sun rises and sets, so has anticipation always been terra firma. Since only God knows the future, you wait. In the meantime, you live your life. You press toward the goal, as the apostle Paul described. And by pressing on, sometimes by sheer grit and determination alone, you travel further down the road.
This perseverance is what separates the men from the boys. The track star and the faint. The faithful and the castaway. I don’t know about you, but I’m no quitter. I want to stay in the race, keep at the task. Before you applaud, however, I must confess that too many times I limp across the finish line.
“I didn’t think it would take this long . . .”
“The challenges were tougher than I expected . . .”
“I never thought I’d have to do it alone . . .”
Too often, my endurance has been eclipsed by my perspective. This hopeful track star settled for finishing . . . rather than finishing well.
With his usual earthy philosophy, Mark Twain once quipped, “The only way you’re going to go through it is to go through it.” The question that’s been on my mind lately is how do you not just get through the waiting stuff but how do you do it with joy?
There once lived a community of Christians that had exhausted almost every bit of grit and perseverance they had in them. They suffered an extensive loss in their families, to their careers, to their safety and health—all because they professed their faith in Jesus Christ. Just about when they were planning to give up on their new-found faith and go back to their old way when they felt like they had no hope, no anticipation, no expectation other than death, they received a letter that helped them stay in the race.
The writer encouraged them, “Don’t lose heart . . . consider Jesus.”
Keep looking to Jesus. That community and writer lived two millennia ago, but the letter to the Hebrews living in the first century Rome can help you stay in the race too.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross . . . Consider Him who endured . . . so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12: 2-3
Jesus lived His entire life in the shadow of the cross. From eternity past, His choice was determined; His mission defined. Be the bridge back to God. His course was set even before the Bethlehem’s fields rang with “for unto you is born this day, a Savior . . .”. For Jesus, each day’s anticipation was for the cross.
That being the case, you would easily expect to find a very sullen, even morbid Jesus. But that’s not the picture the Gospels paint. Instead, you meet someone whom children loved and whom people would walk for hours just to listen to. A man whose close friends lingered at His side.
Did Jesus’ expectation for the cross dim His joy? I don’t think so.
I bet His laughter frequently carried across the Sea of Galilee. And I’m sure He and His disciples burst into worship songs many times as they walked Palestine’s paths. Can you imagine the poignant moments He experienced in the synagogue as He read Old Testament Scripture about Himself? And how many tender times with friends did Jesus store up in His memory? Imagine the God-man Jesus that the Gospel writers describe and there’s no room for a morose, single man plodding His way to the cross. For sure, there was a time in a garden that He felt the weight of His decision, but He surrendered that as He did everything else to His Father. No, the Jesus you discover in the Bible is a man who waited expectantly.
Hebrews tells us that “for the joy set before Him, He endured . . .” The word endure means “to live under.” To stay attached, like a branch is attached to a tree. From the same root word, we get the word persevere. But persevere has an extra nuance—“to live under courageously.” To encourage the first-century Christian community, the writer to the Hebrews said, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Should they ignore the pervasive stress and persecution? Of course not. But they should “abide under it.” Could this be some kind of Pollyanna positivism? No. Hebrews said that He endured the cross. The cruel implications aren’t masked by positive thinking. Jesus endured the worst experience of all time. Not only did He suffer merciless torture, but what’s worse, He bore your sin and my sin in the process, separating Him during that time from His eternal relationship with His Father.
Why did He do it? for the joy set before Him.
And what was that joy? Presenting you to the Father. Their debt is paid, Father. Receive them as You receive Me. Every day of Jesus’ earthly life, up until the moment of His death, Jesus anticipated satisfying God’s cost for redemption—and thereby, enabling you to live with Him eternally. The thought of it allowed Him to endure courageously. And the reality of what He was doing for you brought Him joy.
So when Hebrews’ writer tells us to “Consider Jesus,” what should you and I do? How can we follow His example in living a joyful, expectant, single life today? I hang my hope on three principles. Just like Jesus, I want to:
1. LIVE IN THE PRESENT.
Instead of only looking to heaven for God’s plan to be unfolded in your life, anticipate Him at work today. Look for clues for His goodness. Let the reality of His presence and His joy give you a second wind in your commitment to living a godly, purpose-filled life.
Read Hebrews 12:2 again, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Break that verse down into its two parts and you’ll find two things to do in this waiting time.
Throw off everything that hinders you. You have a personal list of those hindrances. Though it’s different from mine, our lists share the same result—they trip us up. Did pride make your list? It did mine. Independence? Are you determined to make it on your own with no help from anybody? (Yes? Put it on your list too then.) Or self-pity? Been bitten by this poisonous snake? Or isolationism, perfectionism, anger? A sharp tongue? A critical spirit? Perhaps you’ve lost hope in ever marrying and now you can’t find hope anywhere or in anything. Like a rope laced between our ankles, these entanglements prevent you from getting into stride.
Run with perseverance the race marked out for you. What two encouragements do you see here? How should you run? With perseverance. Here’s that “living under” again, that dependence on God for strength for the next step. It’s not a once for all kind of dependence, but a moment by moment. “I’m trusting You this moment, Lord, for the next thing.” As our confidence in Him builds our stride and pace increases, without ever losing sight that we are living with eternity in view.
Before we jump to heaven, however, we’ve got a course to run here on earth. Look at the last part of that verse: “the race marked out for us.” Did you know God has a customized course for you? Its turns, hills, and hurdles are unique from anyone else’s. Don’t bother comparing or questioning why His choice for your life has included ______, (you fill in the blank.) God has customized it purposely for you and for His glory.
This sounds great . . . but how do I do it? The clue is in the next phrase, “let us fix our eyes on Jesus.” How did Jesus “abide under” the difficult stuff?
2. LIVE UNDER THE PROTECTION OF HIS HAND.
Are you facing something insurmountable? Has the waiting been too long? Answers or resolutions scarce? Do what Jesus did. First Peter 2:23 says, “He kept entrusting Himself to His Father...to the One who judges righteously.”
When you think of Jesus, somehow it’s easy to forget that not only was He rejected and despised of men, as the prophet Isaiah predicted, but He also felt rejected. He felt humiliated. He felt deserted. He grieved. He was cut off from mercy from any source. So what example did He set that we can follow?
Peter said it, “Jesus kept entrusting Himself to His Father...to the One who judges righteously.”
Now Peter should know. An eyewitness to Jesus’ life, as well as to His death, Peter loved the Lord. With the perspective of a couple decades, Peter described Jesus’ response to injustice to the recipients of his letter, another group of people looking at the quittin’ side of faith.
Entrust that injustice to the Father. Remember the children’s game “Hot Potato”? When you catch that unfair treatment at church because you are divorced, or face those feelings of loneliness or isolation, treat them as hot. This is too hot for me to handle, Lord. I throw it back to you. You hold it for me. That’s entrusting.
What do you need to entrust to the Father today?
3. LIVE WITH THE JOY.
The joy of Jesus’ entire life was rooted in the future. He had a perspective that we can only guess at, though we’re certain of its reality. Jesus’ focus was on giving you a future. Perhaps the place we find the joy is giving Him our present.
What should you do in the waiting?
Find joy in the anticipation. Today isn’t all there is. Your expectation is in Christ alone.
AND Find joy in the present. Today is what He’s given you. Your life is in Christ alone.
The waiting and anticipation has continually driven me to You. Perhaps that’s one way this waiting time can bring You glory. Thank you for the life . . . and death of Your Son, by which I can see how to live with joy. Help me not forget the joy up ahead when the waiting is through, as well as the joy available right now as I live in Your protection and grace.
For now and eternity, I am . . . Soley Yours.