Waiting Well When It’s Hard to See

Waiting Well When It’s Hard to See

Learning to wait well is one of life’s greatest challenges.

The author of the book of Lamentations knew this to be true when he referred to waiting as a “yoke”—a difficult burden—that people should learn to bear in their youth (Lamentations 3:27). In other words, we never “graduate” from waiting, which means that the sooner we learn to do it well, the better.

This verse sent me on a mission to try to help my kids learn to wait well. So far, so difficult!

Some time ago we had friends coming to visit from out of town. As I withstood a barrage of “Are they here yet?” type questions from my kids, I realized that I could leverage the intuitive connection within each of us between waiting and looking.
“Why don’t you go out on the front porch and keep an eye out for them?” I suggested. I don’t think I had even finished my sentence before they were gone.


Waiting and Seeing

When we’re waiting, we’re also typically on the lookout. This was certainly true for Simeon, whose story comes to us in the book of Luke.

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, waiting for Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,

Now, Master,
you can dismiss your servant in peace,
as you promised.
For my eyes have seen your salvation.
You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel. Luke 2:25–32 (ESV)

Do you see it? The connection between waiting and seeing. God had promised Simeon that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. And then, Simeon’s masterful declaration, with the baby Jesus in his arms, that my eyes have seen God’s salvation. Amen and amen.

The Advent season is upon us again. Advent literally means “coming,” and this season is a time we seek to grow in our ability to wait well for Jesus’ second advent/coming by reflecting back upon his first advent/coming. In other words, we ought to “be out on the front porch, keeping an eye out” for Jesus.

But what do we do when it’s hard to see what God is up to? How do we respond when it feels like God has forgotten about us and all we can see is darkness? How do we wait well when we’ve already been waiting for so long?


Waiting and Christmas

I imagine that Simeon sometimes wrestled with questions like that. Anna too (Luke 2:36-38). Maybe Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and perhaps even the angel Gabriel also struggled waiting and wondering. You can almost picture him, right? “God, what ARE you up to with this strange plan?”

This Advent season let’s connect anew with the sometimes strange Christmas story, and what some people saw that first Christmas, waiting and watching for God to show up and fulfill his promises.

Advent: The Practice of Waiting

Advent: The Practice of Waiting

I am very sentimental about Christmas, and my list of favorite things is long and in no particular order. I love all of it, and I have for as long as I can remember.

But if I had to boil it down and sum up the magic in one word, it would be anticipation. The hoping and the wondering and the waiting.

On the church calendar, we call this season Advent. It’s a time when Christians learn how to hope through the practice of waiting. It’s a season of expectant longing for the return of God’s promised rescuer, Jesus.

Christians throughout the world have different ways of celebrating Advent. Some light candles. Some sing songs. Some eat candies. Some give gifts. Some hang wreaths. Many of us do all of the above.

But way before Advent became something the church celebrated, God’s people waited. Waited for Him to make good on His promises. Waited for Him to send a Rescuer. Waited for God’s promised Messiah to come and put everything back together and make every wrong right.

Isaiah frames the promise this way in chapter 9, vv. 6-7:

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Fast forward to the New Testament, and we’re introduced in Luke 2 to a man named Simeon, who still believed this promise 700 years later. For us, that would be like waiting for the fulfillment of a promise that was made at the beginning of the Renaissance era. That promise is old, and Simeon has been waiting his entire life to see it happen. (Tell your kids they can wait for their Christmas presents.)

What does Luke say about Simeon? He’s a righteous man. The Holy Spirit is upon him. And he’s not going to die until he meets the Messiah. That’s quite a promise.

But in Luke 2, it happens! After all these years of waiting, Simeon scoops up Jesus and holds God’s Messiah in his arms. Like He always does, God comes through on His promises.

And Simeon’s response, at the end of his life with his hope fulfilled, is basically, now I can die.

I’ve received some great gifts in my life. My favorite as a kid was an Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway Orlando Magic jersey, black with white pinstripes. Oversized, of course. It was the most incredible moment of my 9-year-old life.

But I wasn’t ready to die! In fact, I have no idea where that jersey is today. As good as it was, it wasn’t the fulfillment of my deepest longings. (Well, maybe for a second.)

But that’s how good the gift of Jesus is! The wait is over. The world’s peace and joy has come. The light and glory of God has come into the world. Now I can die.

Jesus is the last gift you and I will ever need. You can have peace in life and in death. You can find comfort in the present and hope for the future. If you have Jesus, you really can say, I can die now.

That doesn’t mean the waiting will be easy or that life will be painless. That’s why we need Advent, after all, to get better at waiting. But like Simeon centuries ago, we can do so with hope in the faithfulness of God to make good on His promises.

We have wonderful promises to believe this Advent season! Jesus will finish His redemptive work when He comes again, and the waiting will finally be over.

What are you waiting for this Advent season?