“Is it snack time yet?”
My five-year-old hounds me with this question throughout the day, in between the times he’s asking about lunch or dinner. It gets old quickly, and I wind up losing my temper almost as frequently as he pulls on my shirt, begging for nourishment.
Just as my son doesn’t always understand or care about the reasons why he must wait for a snack, I don’t always understand or appreciate the reasons why I must wait for things in life – waiting for test results from the doctor trying to diagnose my stomach problems; waiting for my kids to stop whining because they’re too hot, tired, or hungry; waiting for God to bring me children in the first place after many years of infertility.
Most of us dislike waiting. It’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, and usually doesn’t work with our schedules. We desire what we want, when we want it, regardless of any good reasons that might exist for not getting it right away. We assume that instant gratification feels better than prolonged fulfillment – especially if the time in between involves any amount of hardship.
The Already/Not Yet
This preference for expediency conflicts with how God works. For one thing, time doesn’t apply to Him. The Alpha and Omega created the world with a structured beginning and ending, and yet, being un-created and infinite, He transcends those constraints.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2 ESV).
Because He is eternal, God doesn’t need to hurry or wait. He is unbound by time, yet He works within it to accomplish His purposes. His plan for salvation unfolded over hundreds of years, a redemptive thread running from Old to New Testament, propelling all of humanity toward the appointed times of Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and coming return.
God set us free from sin through His Son, gave us new life by His Spirit, and adopted us as His children. That part of His plan is complete, as Jesus saved us once and for all at the cross (Hebrews 7:27). Yet there’s more to His plan that’s still in progress.
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23 ESV).
Though our sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ, our bodies (along with the rest of creation) are still fallen and need complete restoration. This is the already/not yet paradox of our regenerated lives: we already have an inheritance pledged to us by the Spirit, but cannot yet fully gain possession of it while living in this damaged world.
As co-heirs with Christ, we share in His sufferings, looking forward to the day when we will obtain our inheritance in heaven (Romans 8:17). In other words, we’re waiting for the glory of God’s presence.
Eternity in View
This waiting process rarely feels glorious, whether in the context of anticipating our future bodily resurrection or in the daily grind of work and responsibilities.
From minor inconveniences to major concerns, our existence is punctuated by forced pauses. The intervals can be short or long, merely irritating or utterly exhausting. In certain circumstances, such as waiting for your husband to be healed or your prodigal child to return home, it carries the potential to break your heart.
These situations clearly provide opportunities for us to grow in patience, as we learn to release our grip on our schedules and entrust our desired outcomes to God’s perfect timing. And the spiritual fruit that waiting produces extends beyond daily lessons in accepting circumstances that don’t go our way.
When we shift our gaze from temporal delays to eternal rewards, we develop perseverance that presses on through difficult waiting periods, with our eyes fixed on our unshakeable hope. As we remember what we’re waiting for – that unseen, permanent inheritance stored up for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4) – we can endure whatever momentary affliction we’re experiencing right now.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18 ESV).
This is a huge relief for those of us who struggle with patience. We can acknowledge that the hardships of waiting are indeed hard, while recognizing that the difficulties won’t last forever. What’s even more reassuring – we know the result of our spiritual waiting far exceeds any fleeting desire we want fulfilled here on Earth. We know we’ll one day behold our King.
Our Ultimate Reward
In the long days of waiting for the baby to finally sleep through the night, or the supervisor to follow up on a work conflict, or the family member to forgive and restore fellowship with us, we can cling to the gospel for hope that’s set above the shifting sands of time.
Whether we’re facing brief interruptions or painful trials lasting far longer than we like, let’s take courage in the assurance of God’s promises – past, present, and future. He has secured our salvation, renews our strength day by day, and will reward us when we reach the end of our earthly groaning by giving us more of Himself.
“But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer” (Psalm 38:15 ESV).
All our waiting is ultimately for God. Though we are not yet with Him in glory, we already have the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). Knowing this, we can wait until forever.