They go together.
Going through a season of waiting requires perseverance in the face of disappointment.
Consider the young person who dreams of being married and having a family yet watches friend after friend find a life partner and enter wedded bliss while he or she waits for the right person to come along, “Always the bridesmaid (or groomsman), never the bride (or groom),” as the old saying goes. Or consider the person who has invested many years in a job, working hard and hoping for a promotion that will reward his or her excellent work and years of commitment, only to see the coworker in the next cubicle get the nod when a better job becomes available. And the waiting continues.
We all have heard of people who reach a pinnacle or have remarkable success after years of toil and trial. Brian Snitker, the current manager of the Atlanta Braves professional baseball team, spent almost four decades coaching and managing at various levels in the Braves organization. He was promoted, demoted, and passed over many times before he finally got his chance to be the “big league” manager in 2016. Following World War II, after having tried and failed at a myriad of jobs and at almost 60 years old, “Colonel” Harland Sanders effort to franchise his chicken restaurant with its unique recipe “was rejected 1,009 times before anyone accepted it. Sanders ‘secret recipe’ was coined ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken,’ and quickly became a hit.” One thing Snitker and Sanders and anyone else who invests a lifetime in a dream have in common: perseverance while waiting.
The waiting and the disappointments – when others live our dreams or get the opportunities we seek – can fill our minds with envy and bitterness. We can be tempted to give up and quit trying. Our hopes and dreams seem futile. How can we persevere despite our setbacks and the inner angst they bring? King David’s words in Psalm 37 give helpful counsel in pressing on. He writes:
“Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:3-4 NKJV)
A few verses later, he writes:
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way . . .” (Psalm 37:7 NKJV)
David shows us that waiting is not a season of indifference or inactivity. It is not a season of giving up. Notice the things David says to do:
Trust. “Trust in the LORD.” This is foundational to times of waiting. Trust that God has our circumstances in hand. Remember that “. . . His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him” (2 Samuel 22:31 NKJV).
Do good. Though frustrated by waiting, we still employ ourselves in living faithful lives of service to God and to others. Even in a season of waiting, we possess God-given talents and resources that multiply in effect as we use them. This ensures that, at the end of life, we hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21 NKJV).
Dwell. Dwell in the land. Wherever we are in our seasons of waiting, we “set up shop” and take every opportunity to “. . . seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be . . . and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace, you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7 NKJV). No matter our circumstances, it is our calling as Christians to bring the presence of Christ into the place of waiting.
Feed. Draw nourishment for heart and soul from the faithfulness of God. “Then you will live safely in the land and prosper” (v. 3 NLT). Other translations render this phrase “find safe pasture” or “befriend faithfulness” (ESV). We find the strength to persevere as we draw near to God and remind ourselves that He is faithful.
Delight. “Delight yourself in the LORD.” Our attention can stay fixed on whatever it is we are waiting for, but David says we should keep our attention focused on the Lord. As he writes in Psalm 16: “I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved” (v. 8 NKJV). Our greatest desire and greatest delight should not be the earthly thing we are waiting for, but rather to be near to our God who is always with us.
Rest. Rest in the Lord. Another foundational truth for times of waiting. Instead of our minds staying stirred up with frustration, God’s will for us is that we have inner peace and rest as we trust in Him and delight in Him and leave our future in His hands. Is this not what Jesus promised? “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NKJV). God provides rest for our anxious souls if we will receive it.
Wait. But not anxiously wait or nervously wait or restlessly wait. Wait patiently for Him. In all the other things we do in these seasons of life, there is still the reality of waiting. But it is waiting that is leading to a providential destination. Wait for Him. Wait for God. And . . .
Do not fret. While we are waiting, it is easy to look around and see others having success, receiving the promotion, or experiencing the joys that we would like to have and receive and experience. But comparing our circumstances with others is unwise, according to the apostle Paul. “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV).
In one way or another, we have all tried to “keep up with the Jones’” at times, but it never leads to good. So instead, we should remember that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6 NKJV). Contentment in our times of waiting is our goal. Contentment is the key to perseverance, and it is possible as we press on in trusting the Lord, doing good, drawing strength from God’s faithfulness, delighting in God above all things, and letting His gift of rest be our daily experience.