My Useful Waiting

I just finished reading a book called “Who’s Picking Me Up From The Airport?” by Cindy Johnson. I was scared when I first picked it up that it would be pretty much the book I want to write, but I’m happy to say that the author is fun, snarky, smart, godly, and super relatable – and it’s not my future book. I recommend it.

In one of the chapters, the author mentions a friend who often compares waiting for a man to waiting for the return of Christ. “Intriguing,” I thought, and immediately starting writing this post in my head.

I’d never thought of the parallels of waiting for a husband and waiting for Christ, so I figured that the best place to start was the Bible.

Before I get started with what I found, let me just establish that Christ’s return is important. On our own, we have no way of getting to God, because we do bad things; but on His own, God sent His son (Jesus Christ) to live a life doing no bad things. Jesus was killed because some people said He had done bad things (even though He hadn’t), and then to prove it, He rose from the dead – after which time, He rose up into heaven to live with God forever. Because of this, he paid for our bad things, thus becoming our Savior, since He saved us from an afterlife separated from God forever (I Tim 1:15).

While He was on earth, Jesus promised that He would come back for us someday (John 14:19). In fact, even before Jesus came the first time, people have been prophesying (telling the future, because God told them first) about the second time He’ll come. And even after He left to go to heaven, God continued to tell men about Christ’s “second coming” and they wrote it down so we can read it now (I Peter 1:10-12). The Bible says that when Jesus Christ comes back, He will come to rule over His enemies and over the earth. He’ll be our King (I Tim 6:13-16).

This is important because without the Second Coming, we would just be living and dying on this decaying world indefinitely until our race dies out or the earth does, and our only hope would be in death (Rom 8:18-25). But Jesus promised to come again and put an end to our cycle of death and doom – thus giving us the greatest hope of all: life (I Thess 4:16-17). A good life. The best life EVER. Forever and ever and ever and… well, yeah.

So anyway, back to the Bible. I know it doesn’t say much (translate: anything) about waiting for a husband, but I found James 5:7-12, which talks about waiting for the return of Christ. Here it is, in ESV, and I think it has some really good tips on how to wait, just in general:


“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”


In this passage, James talks about three people/groups as examples of how to wait, and he has three commands for waiting people. Let’s look first at the three groups of people:

Farmers

James says that a farmer “waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it until it receives the early and the late rains.” But anyone who has farmed or who knows a farmer (or has read about farming or watched a movie on it) knows that farmers don’t just sit around waiting for the rain. They plant, they hoe, they reap, they sow; they feed the cattle, maintain the equipment, make budgets and back-up plans, pay their workers, and get up before dawn every day to take care of what God has given them.

I’m in a time of waiting right now, in that there’s a man who has expressed interest in me (I blogged about that a few weeks ago); but I’m waiting for him to prove that he’s not just going to go to church with me to “get the girl (me).” I’m waiting for him to show that he’s going to be serious about being a godly leader, submitting to church leadership, and fighting sin in community. No amount of flirty texts or romantic dates or group outings is going to prove that any sooner, so right now I’m just waiting.

About six weeks ago, I was actually in the same city as my parents, so my dad and I went on a daddy-daughter breakfast date. I asked him, “What is this waiting supposed to look like?” And he said, “Well, it’s like the waitress at our table. She wasn’t just sitting off to the side checking her phone while she was waiting on us; she was taking our orders, bringing us water, talking to the kitchen, making sure we had ketchup… Waiting doesn’t have to be twiddling your thumbs. Waiting is service.”

So from my dad and from James in the Bible, I learned that I can wait by actively preparing.

I can actively prepare for Christ’s return by serving the church, and by being responsible with the resources God has given me. And I just realized it, but that’s pretty much what I should be doing while waiting for a man. So far, my theory that the two should look similar is working out pretty well.

Prophets

James says that we should emulate the prophets “who spoke in the name of the Lord.” I was feeling pretty good about the last one, but I have a love-hate feeling about this one. The prophets didn’t always have happy endings.

The prophets that James is referring to are the Old Testament prophets who spoke the truths that God revealed to them directly, but a lot of people a lot of the time didn’t like hearing the truths – and many of the prophets were tortured or killed or lived in poverty because they obeyed God.

Still, the thing I can learn from their stories is that there is something more important than my comfort in waiting; there is truth. Truth that comes from God is worth proclaiming, no matter how much the world may not agree with me.

The truths about Jesus’ return are stated clearly in the Bible: Jesus has prepared a place for His followers (John 14:1-4); He will come again at a day/time I don’t know right now (Matthew 24:36); He will take His followers to heaven with Him (I Thess 4:17).

The truths about my future man are remarkably similar: Jesus has prepared a man for me; that man will be mine at a day/time I don’t know right now; that man will take me to live with him.

But there are other truths about waiting for my man that are not so popular and have gotten me grief: it’s not good to have sex with anyone before I’m married, I don’t need a man in order to be complete, etc.

While these truths haven’t gotten me tortured or killed in my first world life, they are still sometimes very hard to stand up for when I’m surrounded by a culture that teaches the opposite.

From the prophets, I learn that I can wait by actively speaking truth.

In many instances, the truths about Jesus’ return and about my future man are the same. So my premise looks like it’s holding up pretty well.

Job

Oh boy, I reeeeeeeeally don’t like this one. James talks about the “steadfastness of Job.” Dang, I do NOT want to have to wait for the promises of God in the same way Job did. But James included it, so I might as well keep reading.

The first interesting thing is that James talks about the patience of farmers and prophets, but of the steadfastness of Job. I’ve heard Job associated with patience countless times, but this passage places the emphasis elsewhere.

Job was a person in the Old Testament who had all of his riches, his children, his servants, and his health taken away in less than 48 hours. When that happened, his friends came and encouraged him for a week to complain and to try to figure out why bad stuff was happening. Through it all, Job never cursed God. In the end, he knew God better than he could have ever imagined, and he got more riches than he’d ever had in the first place.

Job was steadfast in his faith – always trusting that God’s plan was the one that would be for Job’s good and God’s glory. And James says that Job’s story shows us that “the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

From Job, I learn that I can wait by actively seeking God.

This, too, applies to Christ’s return and to singleness. I should seek God and His glory, even when it looks like I have nothing left to hope for, because “the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

So now that I’ve looked at the three groups of people James gives as examples, maybe I should look at what he says to do while waiting:

Be patient/Establish your heart

My mom will probably laugh when she sees me trying to talk about patience; she has pointed out dozens of times that I’m one of the least patient people she’s ever met. But I think James has a good point here: when I’m impatient, I’m that way for selfish/self-centered reasons. When I’m patient, it’s always for someone else’s benefit.

If it were up to me, I’d do things fast all the time: talk fast, eat fast, read fast, drive fast… I graduated from high school at 15 years old because I couldn’t be bothered to slow down. I studied abroad the very first opportunity I had because I didn’t want to wait any longer. I pretty much expect to always be the first one to be ready for seconds at dinner.

But James says in this passage twice “Be patient” and once “establish your hearts.” He’s saying, basically, “Don’t make this waiting all about you. Don’t flit around trying to find the next entertaining thing or some new way to make yourself happy. Instead, slow down. Notice other people. Keep your heart grounded in the Gospel.”

The thing about patience is, at the end of it, I expect to get what I want. With the second coming of Christ, I may not get it in this lifetime. My natural reaction to that is, “Well then, why bother?” Statistically speaking, I probably will live my entire life and die without being one of the people who “rise together in the clouds to meet Him in the air” (I Thess 4:16-17) And yet, the Bible says to be patient (expectant) in waiting for that day.

So, too, I should wait patiently for God’s timing with my future husband.

Don’t grumble

What do I do when I’m impatient? I grumble. This instruction seems like it would come naturally, if I am obeying the first one.

But James takes it one step further and says, “Do not grumble against one another.” I should be patient in my circumstances, but I should not grumble against my brothers and sisters in Christ.

But what would make me grumble against them while I’m waiting for the return of Christ? I think it would be when I lose sight of the promise of His return; when I stop thinking about it expectantly; when I look only at myself and my comforts and wants. If I were to truly live like Christ is coming back any moment, I would definitely keep a better eye on my mouth.

It’s pretty easy to carry this one over into waiting for my future man. And yet it’s one I’ve failed at many, many times. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve said something like, “Yeah, well if he would hurry up and GET here,” or “He’s probably somewhere out there being STUPID” – totally bad-mouthing someone I hadn’t even met – my future husband no less!

You’re killing me, James. You’re killing me.

Do not swear

I had to think about this one for a minute. James says, “above all…do not swear.” Why “above all”? And why “do not swear”?

Here’s what I think: all the things we’ve seen so far are things that are done very publicly. Serving, speaking the truth, seeking God, responding with and abiding in patience, speaking only nicely to people – all of these are things that people can see and observe. Especially speaking the truth and speaking kindly to each other (or at the very least not grumbling against each other).

So when it comes to swearing (which, in this instance, means taking oaths), it might actually harm the way people see me. I mean, I say things all the time without thinking, like, “I SWEAR it was a double-rainbow” or “I promise, promise, promise it happened the way I remember.” But if I have to swear “on the Bible” or “on my mother’s grave” or whatever, in order for people to believe me, what does that say about all of the other things I say – that they’re somehow less believable because they’re just “yes” or “no” without any emphatic caveats?

James is saying that we should wait for Christ in such a way that we will be trustworthy and upstanding and outstanding in the world, even with something as mundane as “yes” and “no.”

Which, when I think about it, is the way I want my future man to be waiting for me. And I’m sure it’s the way he wants me to be waiting for him.

Conclusion

I used to think there were two kinds of waiting:

  • twiddling your thumbs
  • making things happen behind the scenes

What I learned from this passage is that:

  • waiting doesn’t have to be either of those things; it can be active without being manipulative
  • waiting well doesn’t always mean waiting comfortably.

There’s one major difference, though, in the wait for Christ’s return and the wait for anything else (including a future husband): Christ’s return is promised, and nothing else is.

The scary thing in waiting patiently for anything or anyone else other than Christ (Whom I will definitely get at the end of this life, whether by death or by rapture), is that nothing else is guaranteed. Because Christ is guaranteed, it is safe to serve actively, wait patiently, and think about others’ needs before my own. Because a future man isn’t guaranteed, I’m tempted to manipulate actively, wait impatiently, and think about my needs first – as if somehow that will get me what I want.

But the fact that nothing else is guaranteed is the very fact that should drive me to the hope of Christ’s return. Like when I find myself waiting for anything else – a man to marry, the coffee pot to boil, my number to be called at the DMV – and when I am tempted to respond with anything other than patience and kind words. Those things should remind me that I have a sure hope that is greater than the temporary things I’d like to rush.

Let me say that again: I have a sure hope that is greater than the temporary things I’d like to rush.

And if waiting for the fulfilment of that sure hope (Christ’s return – Rev. 22:12) is something I can do joyfully and patiently and steadfastly, regardless of my circumstances or the people around me, then waiting for ANYthing else (including a boyfriend) is a privilege – especially when that waiting reminds me of my Savior, my returning King.

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