We humans, we’re just not good at waiting. It’s why we honk at slow drivers, tap our toes as we wait in line, and even shout our impatience at the train blocking the intersection.
God, however, is consistently described as patient – slow to anger, and long-suffering. There’s no yelling coming down from heaven when we miss the mark, yet again. Not even a disappointed sigh. Our holy and loving God knows everything about us – what makes us tick and what trips us up. Our sovereign, good God left His throne to walk the earth as a man so that He could experience the temptations and frustrations that we do. He gets us.
So, He’s patient.
Yet, we read about God being omnipotent – as in He has all the power over all things all the time and in all ways.1 We see at Creation that a spoken word from God is all it took to form light and land, animals and humans. We see His power manifested in miracles like the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. His power goes before His people as they enter the Promised Land, defeating their enemies and providing protection. God’s power oversees nature as He moves stars, rolls back the sun, conceives a baby, and calms the sea. We witness His power in Jesus through healings, the casting out of demons, and raising the dead to life. God. Has all. The power.
He could zap anyone He wants. With a word, He could wipe us out corporately – like He did once before when humans were “only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). He could give up on us individually when we repeat the same cycles of sin. But, He doesn’t.
Instead, the One who holds all the power remains patient. He invites us into the holy trust of waiting on Him with a hope that knows how to hold on.
The Hebrew words for hope incorporate an element of waiting. Qavah, embodies the tension we feel as we wait, integrating the sense that waiting on God is to wait with expectancy. Another word, yachal, beautifully captures the fully entwined nature of hope and waiting. Both offer us a picture of hope anchored by faith – even in the tension of the wait.
Yet, when I think of waiting, I don’t always feel hope. Maybe because I’m covered up in impatience and worry and angst. But the more I lean into this ancient way of hope, the more I resonate with the reality of my need to wait with hope because of God’s faithfulness and goodness. I am starting to see how I can wait with the kind of patience God demonstrates.
The irony doesn’t escape me that in my humanity I struggle to live out of the fruit of patience while God embodies it. I recognize my need to remain in Him in order to have the kind of trusting patience I long for – while He is always, only, and ever slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6). ‘Slow to anger’ is patience. ‘Abounding in love’ is the hesed of God – His perfect loving kindness. Together, these become a description of God that is interlaced throughout all of Scripture. They are an anchor of His truest nature.
Wait. Hope. Hope. Wait. I feel the tension between them even as I write the words. Wait elicits such negative emotions from me; whereas, hope brings the light, the goodness I long for. And it hits me – maybe that’s the point. God knows us so well that He knows how easy it is for us to spiral in the mess of our minds when we’re in seasons of waiting. He knows that to remain anchored in Him, to trust in Him, we need hope.
The author of Psalm 130 captures how we feel in the wait perfectly. Then he weaves in the hope to keep his faith in God afloat. Hear his despair in the first two verses:
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
Then the light of hope flickers on in verse 5:
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
His whole being qavahs for the Lord because he put his yachal in His word. Then he calls all the people of God to:
…put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
Psalm 130 becomes the beautiful tapestry woven by words of a person who fully experiences the tension of waiting and hoping, who chooses to trust the ‘unfailing love,’ the hesed, of God. It becomes a model for our own hope in our seasons of waiting.
Patience and Power
Christian worship leaders, Shane and Shane, have recorded a song called “I Will Wait For You” that’s based on Psalm 130. I recommend the whole of it (it’s on our playlist), but take a glance at this section:
Yeah, I will wait for You, I will wait for You
On Your word I will rely
And I will wait for You, surely wait for You
‘Til my soul is satisfied
So put Your hope in God alone
Take courage in His power to save
Completely and forever won
By Christ emerging from the grave
Our themes of waiting and hoping find their source in “His power to save!”
Friends, our God who embodies such paradoxical natures as power and patience demonstrates for us just how much we need both. And once again, we see that God’s power is not the authoritarian versions we’ve met with in human leaders who seek status or privilege or the subservient oppression of everyone under their rule. No. Our God’s power is a source for good in the world. And as we begin to trust in this truth about who He is, we can also rest in our waiting. We can hope in His patience – because He has the power to do all things for all good. He forgives. He redeems. He brings beauty from ashes.
Power for the Weak
Isaiah knew this about God. It’s why he encourages the exiles who had lost all hope of ever returning home, who thought there would be no end to their waiting:
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Our God sees us. He knows our wilderness journeys and our mountaintop hallelujahs. He knows our despair and our doubt. He receives our weary hearts and bodies and mind – and He gives us strength. He patiently waits for us to come to Him, and when we do, He offers His power to us. And we get to watch the all-powerful, sovereign God – the Creator of the ends of the earth – extend His victorious right hand toward us and give us strength.
At this midway point in our Lenten journey, I pray that for whatever you are waiting, you are able to allow God to lift your weary head and empower your weak body so that you can continue to wait in Him, with Him, and on Him. With hope. Friend, His power is not only meant for good, it is fully sufficient. It’s more than enough. His patience is unbounding and full of love. And He offers both to you today. Hold on to our God of hope!
Father God, how great You are! How mighty! How powerful! We marvel at the way a word from You can cause water to separate from the land, making a sea. We stand in awe of the way a word from You can heal and restore. So, we know that You have the kind of power that could destroy, yet You choose to wait patiently for us to turn to You. Like the Psalmist, we ask that You would hear our cries for help and that You would be our patient hope as we wait for your response. Lord Jesus, we know that You endured the weakness of a human body, mind, and will. And we’re so grateful that You understand all our inner workings because that is its own kind of hope – a hope that dares to believe that just as You rose from the grave, we can rise from our despair and doubt. Because You have all the power and patience needed to help us come up from the ashes in beauty. Holy Spirit, thank You for indwelling us, offering us God’s patience and power every moment of every day. We ask that You would continue to help on this journey to live out of hope rather than cynicism or despair. Our patient God holds us. And His power sustains us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(Inspired by Psalm 95:3-5; Genesis 1:9-10; 2 Kings 20:5; Exodus 34:6; Psalm 130; John 4:6; Matthew 26:38; Philippians 3:10; Isaiah 61:3; Acts 1:8)
Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations. (The first four are resources noted in the post.)
- 1-I pulled this great description of God’s omnipotence from a “Got Questions” article.
- I continue to read Jen Pollock Michel’s book Surprised by Paradox.^ And it has really been a gift of affirmation for all I’ve been feeling and thinking in this season. She describes God as the great “I AND” (a play on words of “I AM”) as a way to demonstrate how often He holds within His nature such paradoxes as powerful and patient, sovereign and good, holy and loving. So good. So appreciated.
- Be sure to check out that Shane and Shane song, “I Will Wait For You” on our playlist! Is there a song that’s resonating with you this Lent?
Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:
- We continue to add to our rhythm of putting Isaiah 40:28-31 in our hearts by adding verse 29. There is SUCH POWER when we read these lines aloud. They bring us back into the reality of God’s presence, power, and patience.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Isaiah 40:29, NIV
- Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others — especially as Easter approaches! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world!