5 Scripture verses about waiting

Photo: Lisa Julia Photography/Bayard, Inc.

The word Advent means “to arrive” or “to come.” We all know how hard it can be to wait for the arrival of something good. And of course, during Advent we are waiting for the best thing of all: the birth of Jesus into our world and our hearts. But why do we celebrate an entire liturgical season of waiting? What are the benefits of a time of anticipation? Let’s reflect on five Bible verses that will help us explore why it is so good to wait.

1. “The Lord said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by” (1 Kings 19:11). This verse comes from a story about the prophet Elijah during a time when his life was in danger. God told Elijah to wait for him on the mountain. Elijah could have run away — after all, he was being pursued by an enemy that wanted to kill him! 

But Elijah followed God’s command and waited on the mountain. In fact, he waited through a windstorm, an earthquake, and a fire. And then came “a light silent sound” (1 Kings 19:12). In that sound (or in that silence), Elijah “heard” the voice — the presence — of God. Sometimes waiting heightens our senses. We notice what is around us. We become silent ourselves. This is when we are more likely to encounter the divine.

Sometimes waiting heightens our senses.

2. “[Jesus] fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry” (Matthew 4:2). Although the story of Jesus’ time of fasting and temptation in the desert is one that we usually associate with Lent, it has relevance for our Advent journey, as well. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was “led by the Spirit into the desert” (Luke 4:1) for a time before his ministry began. Why was this necessary? Did Jesus, who was sinless, need a time of testing or strengthening? Forty days is a long time to be alone in a desert! 

But perhaps — as with our time of Advent waiting — this time allowed Jesus to focus on God alone. Every distraction was removed. Every human voice offering advice or asking questions was silenced. That focus on God alone allowed Jesus to stand up to the petty arguments of the devil and begin his ministry with a renewed sense of strength and purpose. We have the same power when we focus on God alone.

Photo: “The Temptation of Christ by the Devil” by Félix Joseph Barrias (1822–1907)/Google Cultural Institute/Public Domain

3. “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:1, NRSVCE). This lovely verse is a beautiful choice for Advent memorization and meditation: “My soul waits in silence.” Like Jesus in the desert, we desire to be single-heartedly focused on God and his arrival in our lives. If we achieve this peace, this focus, we will find ourselves transformed. The transformation that comes about as a result of silence and waiting is not momentary, but lasting. It can last well beyond the Advent and Christmas seasons and seep into our lives. This transformation in the presence of God is, as the psalmist says, our salvation.

4. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18, NRSVCE). With this verse, we turn to St. Paul’s view of the whole cosmic scope of our lives in Christ. Right now, during our time of waiting, some suffering is inevitable. Questions and confusion may fill our lives. Uncertainty and stress might seem to lurk around every corner. But St. Paul wants us to keep these challenges and difficulties in perspective. They are not even worth comparing with the joy and glory to come! Certainly this theme of hoping for the glory to be revealed is in keeping with the season of Advent. Our time of waiting is imperfect and may be fraught with pain, yet we eagerly anticipate a time of great joy. 

The transformation that comes about as a result of silence and waiting is not momentary, but lasting.

5. “[The gardener] said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it’” (Luke 13:8). Do you recognize this verse? It is part of Jesus’ parable of the barren fig tree. A man had a fig tree that bore no fruit, so he asked his gardener to cut it down. But the gardener wanted to wait. He promised to dig around the tree and fertilize it. He believed it would bear fruit in the future. Of course, we are the tree and God is the gardener. 

As much as we may wait for God, it is really God who is waiting for us. This is the heart of Advent: Jesus comes because God has been waiting for us for so long. Come, Lord Jesus! Come! 

This is the heart of Advent: Jesus comes because God has been waiting for us for so long.

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