In the months before my husband and I departed for the mission field, our pastor taught expositionally through the book of Exodus. Previous studies of this book had often left me rolling my eyes at the Israelites. How could the people of Israel be so fearful when they had witnessed miracles firsthand? Their firstborn sons were mercifully and miraculously saved from death, yet they were convinced God wouldn’t take care of them in the wilderness? However, something about the season of life we were in as our pastor taught through the book again left me unexpectedly relating to the Israelites’ fears and complaints.
In Chapter 14 of Exodus (a particularly poignant passage for me at the time), we read about the Israelites crying out to God while watching the rapidly approaching army of Egyptians. They asked Moses, “‘What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?… It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’” (Ex. 14:11-12) Their fear and panic is palpable.
But Moses, comforting the people of Israel, said, “‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.’” (Ex. 14:14)
What a promise! Stillness and silence is not our natural reaction when we see an enemy in hot pursuit. (As Charles Spurgeon comments in Morning and Evening, “Marching and quick-marching are much easier for God’s warriors than standing still.”) Yet, God instructs us throughout his Word to wait, to be still, and to be patient. He invites us to trust him with our burdens, our fears, our lives—with everything! And, in the case of the Israelites, their waiting allowed them to watch God exhibit one of his most powerful and dramatic acts in the whole Bible: driving the sea back so that the Israelites could walk on dry land and later drowning the chariots and horsemen of Pharaoh.
His sovereign plan was conceived before time began, and all the Israelites needed to do was to be still.
My husband and I experienced a time of forced stillness during our preparation for the mission field. We spent about a year support-raising and completing important tasks like visa applications, location research, getting our house in order, and leaving our jobs. There was so much to do, and yet there was so much we could only wait on. The number of things that were out of our hands is laughable. We couldn’t deny that there was only one way we were getting to the field: the grace of God.
As a result, during those months, there were countless hours spent in prayer and countless days spent waiting and wondering. What was the Lord going to do? Would we reach 100% financial support? Would our visas be approved? Throughout our lives, we’d seen the Lord faithfully and generously provide for us, but just like the Israelites, it was easy to fall into doubt and worry. Quietly trusting God too frequently gave way to frantic Googling and futile attempts to make a Plan B and Plan C.
In light of my own weaknesses, I suddenly felt empathy for the Israelites. Despite my walk with the Lord since childhood, I still struggled to trust him in that period of waiting. I felt, and rightfully so, completely out of control, and my stomach would twist in anxiety as I worried. But in my waiting, I noticed how God was growing me, teaching me to trust and to surrender to Him. As I waited impatiently for the outward results, God was working on my inner heart.
As we continued to study through Exodus, my heart was comforted to see how God was glorified in spite of the Israelites’ sin and mistrust. God told them to wait, and oftentimes they did just the opposite. And yet he was faithful. God told them to be still, and he provided for them.
The well-known Psalm 27 comes to mind when I consider waiting on the Lord. The last two verses of this song carry so much encouragement: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
I am a notorious skim-reader; it’s something I have to actively fight against. Because of this tendency, I love when a passage repeats a phrase or word. It implores me to pay attention. The psalmist writes twice, “Wait for the Lord.” He wants us to remember this part.
At the time of this writing, as the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, a time of uncertainty, where questions of health and finances and careers overwhelm, it’s worth spending some time meditating on these verses. We are in a season of waiting. What better time is there to reflect on the One who is “my light and my salvation” and “the stronghold of my life” (27:1). As we wait, we can trust him in his sovereign power to work for our good—that is, his glory.
Waiting in Faith
Waiting days are not wasted days. In fact, they are often preparing us for the next step God has planned. We can find peace in the stillness while we wait for him in faith. Challenges, trials, and loss will come to us. We will not always receive the answer to prayer for which we hoped. But we, like the Israelites, will always see the Lord prove himself good. And as we wait and pray as God’s New Covenant people, we see his kindness and feel his love as he works in our hearts to conform us to the image of Christ.
In whatever ways you find yourself waiting today, may it be an opportunity to rest with our hearts quiet and full of joy because the Lord is faithful.