Active Waiting

There is, perhaps, nothing more hated in life than waiting in line. Whether it’s for a grand opening of a store, waiting for a table at a restaurant, waiting in line at customs or airport security, or waiting in the dreaded DMV line.

Ridiculously enough, we often voluntarily wait in lines, such as when the new iPhone is released or at theme parks. It never fails to amaze me that some people will even voluntarily wait up to three hours in line(1) for a two minute theme park ride. In fact, in the USA, people spend 37 billion hours waiting in line each year(2)!

Waiting isn’t just a modern phenomenon though, nor is it often in comfortable settings. Daniel waited to be saved overnight in the lion den. Jonah waited three days and nights in the fish’s belly. Noah waited approximately 370 days on the ark before stepping off onto dry land. Ezekiel laid on his side and waited for God to tell him what to do for 430 days. David waited 14 years to become king of Israel. And Simeon in the Gospel of Luke waited his entire life to see Jesus Christ!

One of the most unfortunate and unhelpful sayings that has come out of Christianity, is the suggestion to “wait on God”. Although biblical(3), we throw this saying around without completely understanding it. Have a hard decision to make? Wait on God! Struggling with temptation or hardship? Wait on God! Don’t have a spouse yet or an answer to your question? Wait on God!

Replying that way to someone is totally unhelpful.

Waiting on God without know how to wait, is not going to yield positive results.

Most of the time, we picture waiting to be a passive process, where we sit around until some miraculous revelation happens or the answer falls on our lap. The phrase “wait on God” might conjure up for you memories of unanswered prayers and endless struggles. But the reality is, waiting doesn’t have to be passive, unfruitful, or frustrating. Instead, it can be active, purposeful, and rewarding!

The Principle of Active Waiting

Years ago, the Houston Airport tested a theory that waiting is not negative if you do not believe that you are waiting. In other words, if you are actively engaged in brining the waiting process to an end, you will not feel the same wait as if you were passively waiting- even if it takes the same amount of time!

In order to reduce the amount of complaints received by customers regarding their wait time for baggage claim, the airport made certain the arrival gates and the baggage claim areas were as far apart as possible. So instead of standing around waiting for luggage, passengers had to use that time walking from the arriving plane to the baggage claim. It took them the same amount of time to walk and pick up their baggage as it did for them to originally stand and wait, yet the complaint were almost completely minimized(4).

Though perhaps not as deceptive as the Houston Airport, God similarly wants us to actively wait. To take the time that we normally would wait around doing nothing, and become actively engaged instead.

Becoming Expectantly Prepared

No one leaves the house without an umbrella if he believes it is going to rain. Having faith in God and His providence an deliverance means we similarly have to act like it(5).

Suppose you have a terrible job, a low paying job, or no job at all. You pray to God and you are waiting for an answer, some sort of direction, or the blessing of a position. We need to act in a way that shows we are expectant of that answer or that job, and to be actively preparing ourselves for it! That means training, honing our interview skills, studying new skills, putting out applications and networking.

However, actively waiting is more than just being prepared, it’s being expectant. Waiting on God is not like sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s office. Our waiting on the Lord should be filled with anticipation, expectance, and watchfulness(6). This is the principle pitfall when it comes to performing the act of waiting on God. It is the condition of our heart. While waiting, do we experience boredom, or excitement? Peace, or fear? Hope, or despair? Expectation, or doubt?

Take for example the men who were left with their master’s money to hold onto while they waited for him to return. Two were excited and active in their preparation, the other was fearful and passive(7). Or another example, where many women were waiting the arrival of an important man, half were expectant and prepared, the other half did not use their time wisely(8).

If we are honest with ourselves, we neglect using the resources God has given us while we wait—because we are afraid, doubtful, or bored. We wait on God, thinking that we must be passive in our waiting, fearful that should we do anything or take any type of action that we are overstepping and taking matters into our own hands. But that is far from the truth.

God’s Will is Not a Mystery

Often, we “wait on God” because we do not know what His will is for us. Do I choose path A or B? We’ve written a fair amount about making decisions in another article, and about deciding between options of equal value. But determining God’s will is not done by simply sitting around hoping that He comes to you in a vision.

The Bible, in fact, is not only a complete and exhaustive answer to virtually every question in life, but also is a testament to what God’s will is for us specifically. It’s not some mysterious thing for us to be kept in the dark about(9).

When we act in alignment with God’s will (aka- Biblical principles), we can have confidence that we are doing right. In fact, God lists for us some general concepts that are His will, such as love, joy, peace, and veering away from works of the flesh. He says that any actions we take in alignment with them, will never be held against us(10)!

Stop Sitting Around

Imagine if Moses had stayed in the wilderness “waiting”. Imagine if Paul had “waited” in Jerusalem and never gone to the non-Israelites to preach. It would be catastrophic! Now imagine if you keep sitting around, passively waiting for God? God wants you to wait on Him, yes, but he wants you to do it actively.

You don’t have to be bored, impatient, or frustrated like you are in an amusement park line. You don’t have to feel ignored or unanswered. Get up and be active in your waiting: get prepared for what’s next, make sure your heart and emotions are expectant, research the will of God within the Bible, and act!


(1), (2), (3) Psalms 27:14 and Psalms 130:5, (4), (5) Mark 11:22-24, (6) Acts 16:16-26, (7) Matthew 25:14-30, (8) Matthew 25:1-13, (9) Amos 3:7, (10) Galatians 5:19-24


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