I do not wait well. I don’t like red lights; I don’t like slow cars in front of me. I don’t even like sitting still. When I left home for the first time and moved into my dorm room in college it was excruciatingly difficult until I brought my rocker from home. I especially don’t like waiting for doctors. You walk in and wait to see the receptionist and then you sit back down (in the waiting room) and wait to hear a nurse call your name only to take you to a small room where you “wait” for the doctor to come. And then once he gives the diagnosis he says, “Wait here and the nurse will come and give you your prescription.” And so I wait . . . and wait . . . I swear they’re standing outside the room laughing and looking at their watch saying, “How long can we make this sucker wait.”
Sometimes it feels that way with God. David says in Psalms 37:7, “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” I’m not sure I’ve ever waited patiently for anything in my life. But I have found my impatience can get me in trouble and can create a lot of unnecessary stress which only increases my doctor visits. This thought struck me in a new way as I was studying the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.
My pastor of many years ago made the interesting comment that he thought the greatest miracle in the story wasn’t Jesus supernaturally multiplying the fish and the loaves but it was the people who sat down patiently waiting for the food that wasn’t there. He had in mind the impatient church folk who fight to get to the head of the lines for the after-service church dinners. The disciples could tell that the people were tired and hungry, notice their comments: “the hour is late. Send them away [to] . . . buy themselves something to eat.” Mark 6:35-44:
35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”
38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties.41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all.42 And they all ate and were satisfied. .
43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
God provides and He provides abundantly, if I wait for Him. I’m sure there were people who were in the crowd who had gotten hungry and who had left to go get some fast food (Bagels to go) or whatever Israel’s equivalent might have been. But in their attempt to satisfy their legitimate needs, through the normal expected means, they not only missed an amazing miracle but they likely missed out on an amazing meal.
What are you impatiently waiting for? Where are you inclined to take matters into your own hands? There seems to me to be a fine line between waiting patiently in the Lord and taking proactive steps of faith. I’m not sure I distinguish them well. But at its core, whether it is an intentional wait—in faith—or, if its take action—in faith, either way, it must reflect a dependence upon God for the solution (whatever it may be) without a manipulative attempt at my own pre-determined solution to the problem. I don’t want to presumptively act like Abraham did to produce an Ishmael unnecessarily. But I also don’t want to passively sit on my hands and fail to act. I want to be like Nehemiah was when he learned of the condition of walls in Jerusalem. But even Nehemiah waited in prayer and never took action until the king made a way for him. And Nehemiah took that opportunity as from the Lord.
Lord, help me recognize my own desired pre-determined solutions and help me truly seek your perfect will for I know YOUR solutions will satisfy more fully! So Lord, help me be patient to wait for your hand of opportunity, but Lord, could you do it a little faster!
Dirke Johnson has a doctorate in Church Leadership and is a professor for the Ministry Degree program at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He also teaches at Cru’s Institute of Biblical Studies and specializes in Leader Development, creating high performing teams. He has years of experience at ministering in urban cross-cultural and international contexts.