It’s been nearly a week since this Advent began and I’m still trying to apply a big lesson I learned as I prepared for the last Advent season. I delved into scriptures about the coming of Jesus, trying to glean all the wisdom from the stories so I could share what I found during a talk at my church’s women’s ministry banquet. By the end of it all, there was one thing that stuck out to me and I think it’s wisdom we can carry with us every day of the year.
The way we respond to waiting has a big effect on how we feel as we go through it.
Waiting isn’t easy, especially when we are really looking forward to something. But it becomes even harder when it’s concerning a matter of the heart. We want to believe God has a plan for our good, but we can’t see or understand how it will come together. We become desperate for knowledge, a blessing, or the type of change or redemption that only comes from the Lord. Sometimes, we anticipate it so much that we begin to lose hope that we will ever come to know it. We think God is distant. We think our prayers are going unanswered. And waiting seems unbearable.
I know I can end up in that same headspace if I’m not careful. All it takes is one moment to turn the rest of my day into a lot of planning and prepping, hurrying and hustling, and worrying about the thing I’m not doing that I think I need to do—to make something happen or go the way I want it. I get distracted. I forget that God is in control and always makes the best-laid plans just as He did when He sent His Son to become the literal embodiment of Immanuel, God with us. My stillness gets overtaken by a frenzy of emotions. And then, there goes my patience.
In today’s age of technology and convenience, there’s always something to help us reduce our waiting or eliminate it. But God doesn’t work that way. Instead, He calls on us to be still before the Lord and to wait patiently for Him (Psalm 37:7).
Learning From Mary’s Response To Waiting
When we look at the stories about God’s people as they waited on the Lord, we can learn so much. Not only can we see how God uses waiting in life, but we can also see how to respond when we’re called into seasons of it.
When Mary was chosen to become the mother of Jesus, she was called into a unique season of waiting. She had to wait on the Son of God as she went through the pains of pregnancy and childbirth. Though her circumstances as a young virgin left her confused by how that situation would work, her perspective allowed her to wait on the Lord with hope and expectancy instead of dread. And I think that’s because she did these three things we can learn to do in our own lives.
1. Receive God’s Call to Wait with Obedience
Mary’s response to hearing she would be the mother of Jesus shows us how knowing the truth about God can make it easier to submit to God’s plan, even when we have questions or may not understand all that He is calling us to. In Luke 1:26-38, Mary wonders how everything would happen and the angel Gabriel—after telling her what to expect—mentions how her relative Elizabeth is now pregnant in her old age after being considered barren. Then he says nothing is impossible with God. Once she hears that, she simply says she is a servant of the Lord and to basically let the words spoken to her happen.
In the same way, when we remember that God does not work from the same place of limitations we do and that—out of His goodness—He works things to work together for our good (Romans 8:28) and has plans to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11), it can be so much easier to be obedient to his call.
2. Hope in God’s Word and Take Note of Those Who Affirm It
In the next passage of Luke, we see how God can use others to affirm things he’s already communicated. When an already pregnant Mary visits Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-45, her greeting causes the baby in Elizabeth’s belly to leap and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. That affirmed what the angel spoke to Elizabeth’s husband, Zachariah, about their son John receiving the Holy Spirit, even in the womb. It also affirmed that the Lord was with Mary. Elizabeth later referred to Mary using the word blessed three times, which affirmed what Gabriel spoke to her.
When Elizabeth ended that exchange, she referenced Mary by saying, “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” But even today, we can use those words as a reminder that God speaks to us as well and offers us blessings—through His Word. Deuteronomy 31:8 tells us the Lord is with us and that He will not leave or forsake us. That means even when we are called to wait on Him. In fact, He becomes our help, building our endurance for all of the things we’re told we will face in those seasons. Isaiah 30:18 says blessed are those who wait for the Lord. Then in Isaiah 40:31, we find that those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength, mount up with wings like eagles, run and not get tired, and walk without becoming weary.
If we truly believe that God always keeps the promises made in His Word, we can certainly find hope in that and draw closer to Him, instead of striving to make things happen prematurely or on our own terms.
3. Be Watchful, While Offering Praise and Giving Thanks
Right after that exchange in Luke 1, Mary responds to Elizabeth with what the ESV version of the bible calls her Song of Praise, which demonstrates how important it is to remember who God has been in our lives and give thanks for it. Mary praises God, thanking Him for the Savior waiting in her womb. She thanks God for all He’s done for her. She thanks God for His mercy and strength, proven by what He had done in the past. She acknowledges the help God gave to Israel and the prophesies spoken to her forefathers.
Though Mary offered this personal song of praise, this is a reminder that God’s faithfulness extends to all of His people. His mercy, His strength, and His help are for all those who fear Him. And it can become a comfort as we look toward the future.
A New Way To See Waiting
I believe that to wait with patience and expectancy— we have to believe God is who He says He is. We also have to find hope in his Word, and continually remember who He’s been proven to be—while offering praise to Him and giving thanks for those things.
When we look back at Mary’s response to being the chosen mother of Jesus, we see what it is like for a faithful believer to approach waiting on the Lord in a way that produces patience and expectancy. We also see how a faithful God makes a plan, prepares for it, and sees to its completion. We see that God is not slow like we know slow (2 Peter 3:9). Instead, he is very intentional in how He works for our good, giving everything its appointed time (Habakkuk 2:3).
So, as we move through this Advent and do the hard work of waiting and anticipating in our daily lives, let us remember who we are in Christ and what God has done for those who came before us out of his deep, deep love for us. And wait with our whole hearts.
“If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes. The Lord’s people have always been a waiting people.” – Charles Spurgeon