“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen…?” Habakkuk 1:2
“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” Habakkuk 2:1
“I will wait patiently…” Habakkuk 3:16
Perhaps one of the most bitter lessons for Christians to learn is how to wait on God. Waiting has always been hard for the people of God, but it may be hardest for those who are used to immediate satisfaction and gratification. In this way, our technology has done us a great disservice. So much of our inventors’ creativity is directed toward devising ways to reduce the time something takes. From cooking over an open fire, to cooking in a stone hearth, to using an enclosed oven with wood, to an oven with gas, to electric ovens, to microwaves… every step has shortened the amount of time it takes to put a hot meal before a hungry family. It used to be that a man would ride a horse from one side of the county to the other through curving paths between private farms. The journey would take several hours. Nowadays, skilled city planners are constantly studying traffic patterns, resulting in ever-widening roads and adjusted stop-light cycles… all to reduce the amount of time it takes to travel the same distance. Washing clothes used to require traveling down to the riverbank and scrubbing by hand. Indoor plumbing improved the process. Nowadays, the process takes so little time and direct effort by comparison that our ancestors would scorn us for complaining about the wash.
Yet ironically, we do complain about waiting. Spoiled by constant use of time-saving devices, we look on waiting as an enemy. We’re used to immediate results. Some time ago, the Internet didn’t even exist. Now the Internet brings immediate information to our desktop in mere seconds. But we complain that it’s not mere milliseconds! Don’t worry! Out there somewhere someone is seeking to capitalize on our impatience with an ever-faster Internet connection. All of this makes us an ever-hastier people, and waiting is harder than ever.
But God has always been in the business of making His people wait. It is good for us to wait on God because it dethrones us vigorously and decisively. A wife sits by her chronically ill husband’s bedside and prays that same prayer again, for the thousandth time that month: “O Lord, you are the Great Physician! Heal my husband until he’s completely well again!” Yet the condition persists, and the waiting goes on. She learns along with countless of her spiritual brothers and sisters, “Our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). Scripture adds, “And He does it whenever He pleases, and not a moment before!” It is good for us hasty, self-centered people to learn to wait on our King. If God immediately gave us whatever we asked, our pride would never be slain. We would live like Turkish sultans, demanding the genie from the bottle to grant our wish now!!
Waiting on God is a major theme in the minor prophet, Habakkuk. By the time the book opens, he has already waited on God at length, asking God to clean up his immoral nation, Judah. God seems to remain silent, so Habakkuk cries out “How long, O Lord…?” Then when God finally answers and says He’s going to clean up Judah by destroying it through the godless Babylonians, Habakkuk asks from an anguished heart, “How can this be?” And he stations himself on the ramparts to watch and pray… and to wait on God.
When God finally gives His answer and says, “I will also judge the Babylonians as well, in due time,” God also commands His people to wait on His perfect timing for the fulfillment: “The revelation awaits an appointed time. Though it lingers, wait for it. It will surely come and not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3)! After God has revealed the full counsel of His will on the future destruction of the Babylonians, Habakkuk is satisfied and says, “I will wait patiently for the day of destruction to come on the nation invading us” (Habakkuk 3:16). That day would not come for another eighty years at least!
"If God immediately gave us whatever we asked, our pride would never be slain. We would live like Turkish sultans, demanding the genie from the bottle to grant our wish now!!"
The main reason God calls us to learn to wait on Him is that He is working out a salvation plan that involves patience: patience to give sinners time to repent (Romans 2:4, 2 Peter 3:15), patience to work sanctification into sinners who already have repented (1 Cor. 1:7-8). Allow God to teach you patience in His school. Wait on God!