Learning to wait with Jesus

Lectionary readings for December 13, 2015: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Phillipians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18
Click for complete Advent calendar (Cycle C) and guidance on using the lectionary.


“If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” – Romans 8:25


No matter how disciplined, organized and prayerful you are, you never outgrow waiting. Tracts of humanity wait: for a job, peace, rain, a great love, medical care, disaster relief, a spot on the team, an acceptance letter. The homeless wait for homes. Refugees wait to return home. Elderly people wait for their savings to run out.

You would think with years to practice, we would get the hang of waiting. But how many of us would rather get our teeth drilled than wait? Yet learning to wait with Jesus is part of becoming Godlike. God is a waiter—patient enough to sustain a deep desire for a long, long time. God can wait for us and not force a time table. God values what can happen in the long, slow and hard of waiting. People who know God learn to wait:
  • Abraham and Sarah wait for God’s promise and timing.
  • David waits to become king.
  • Habakkuk waits for God to rescue.
  • Israel waits for the Messiah.
  • Mary waits to find out if Joseph will marry her.
  • Anna, Simeon, John the Baptist, Jesus, the people in the upper room wait.

God’s people learn to wait with God in the present moment. Because that is the only place God is found. The past with its regrets is irretrievably gone. The future with its what-ifs is out of our control. But now, right now, it is possible to be with God. It is possible to wait and say yes to God in what is. Waiting is where we learn to let go our timing in this traffic, our disappointment in this decision, our hurt in this comment. Waiting is where we learn to let go of our control and expectations, and trust that God is good no matter what is happening.

Waiting is the crucible where we develop a mellow and forgiving heart. Waiting with God is where we learn how to be happy when we don’t get our own way. It’s where we get practice in learning how to forgive reality for being different than we want. Waiting is where we learn how to forgive people for being their less-than-perfect selves, and waiting is where we learn how to forgive God for not being like a magician, a conjurer or a wizard—like Albus Dumbledore.

Waiting with God teaches us to let go of our expectations  so we can receive what is given. No one has to be transformed through waiting. Waiting can turn us into demanding, angry or depressed people. But if we will embrace waiting with God, the great gift of developing a mellow, forgiving heart is ours for the taking.

Waiting doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong. It doesn’t mean God hasn’t heard you. It doesn’t mean you are wasting time. Waiting is an invitation to wait with God for the God who comes “to us like the spring rain” when it is time.

Let us acknowledge the Lord.

let us press on to acknowledge him.

As surely as the sun rises,

he will appear; 

he will come to us like the winter rains,

like the spring rains that water the earth. (Hosea 6:3)

SPIRITUAL EXERCISES

  1. When you end up waiting, practice letting go of your need to control. What happens? Notice what comes up while you wait and talk to God about it. You can use the time that is given—or you can waste it in fretting.
  2. Practice waiting by not interrupting or by allowing others to speak before you do. Ask God to help you listen more deeply to what is being said so you can respond with grace and love.
  3. Choose to drive in the slow lane. Write a snail-mail letter. Eat your food slowly. Take the time it takes to do these things well.

©Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. 2015. Not to be reproduced without permission. This article is adapted from revised and expanded Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (InterVarsity Press, 2015.)

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

(M.A., Gordon –Conwell Theological Seminary) is a founding board member of the Transforming Center and teaches regularly in our Transforming Community® experience. She is currently copastor (with her husband, Doug) of Redeemer Community Church in Needham, MA. A trained spiritual director and former missionary, she is the author of Spiritual Disciplines Handbook and Invitations from God—both of which are Transforming Resources published by InterVarsity Press.

10 Comments

  1. Diana Myhre on December 15, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Adele, how lovely to read your reflections. It is so hard to wait and esp to trust that God does have everything in His timing and in His hands. We so want to take back control!
    Merry Christmas from us at the Well too!

  2. Sibyl Towner on December 10, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Adele, Thank you for this post and it timeliness not only for me, but others that I have forwarded it to to will benefit from reading and reflecting on this invitation to wait with expectancy and with hope. So glad that the new Disciplines Handbook is out. Hope that you are feeling good about it as well. A Blessed Christmas to you and Doug. Sibyl

  3. Lilyane Bienert on December 9, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Thank you for these timely words! Waiting is so hard and it is such a test of character for me. I am so thankful that when I fail waiting opportunities that God is gracious and forgives and still answers my prayers in His own time and way and it is good! Hallelujah, what a Saviour! Hallelujah, what a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping loving, He is with me to the end!

  4. Deema on December 8, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    This was right on time! I have been in a phase of waiting because our house is being sold and we have nowhere to go. I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get my family and I into a new place. Nothing has came through or worked out so it is just time to wait and see what God has planned for us. Thank you!

    • Adele Calhoun on December 14, 2015 at 10:04 am

      I don’t get God’s timing. And yet sometimes it seems God’s timing is all about waiting. May you be expectant as you wait in hope.

  5. Sara R on December 8, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Thank you Adele, this is very meaningful to me. I am not good at “waiting”, but I sure desire to be!

  6. Gerry on December 8, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Nicely said … and very timely. I have discovered an anger that wells up in me with waiting … so much so, that I notice that I avoid situations that that will cause me to wait. Obviously, “avoidance” doesn’t work real well as you point out, life is entangled in waiting. I am going to do the Spiritual Exercises you gave … can’t wait to get started 🙂

    • Adele Calhoun on December 14, 2015 at 10:02 am

      Avoidance is a way of waiting without getting any of the benefit of waiting. It keeps you away from the reality that is — and that is the only place to meet God. May you find God in the waiting.

  7. Kathryn christensen on December 8, 2015 at 8:31 am

    Well said. Thank you for your thoughts on the essential nature of waiting and letting it do the work of transforming us. It is an intention to see waiting as a necessary aspect of healing, maturing and reflecting the presence of Christ in us. It has the capacity to create a restful, peaceful mind, body and spirit that the world logs to experience. Your article is a gift and inspires me to awareness of the damage hurry, anger, and reactivity create. The Kingdom is brought to earth by practicing waiting as an opportunity for transformation.

    • Adele Calhoun on December 14, 2015 at 10:01 am

      May you find transformation does come as you wait. The waiting creates space — space for God and space for you.

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