“Waiting” is no uncommon experience, and yet it is not always easy to wait. It is easier far to go, than to wait. To be laid aside, and stay inactive, and hampered at home by an aching, worn-out body, or by a lingering sickness, requires a measure of grace unknown in the rush of life’s battle and the stirring swing of a glorious campaign. Soldiers say the severest test is courage to stand under fire. May it not be, then, that we much need waiting hours, even if there should be in them a measure of real trial? While to want to go, and yet not be able, may be harder than the going, it is not certain that the easiest thing is the best.
How much there is along our pathway! How many anticipations fail! How many predictions miscarry! How many hopes flee away in the beyond, and ever keep, like a mirage, a safe distance away, till hope itself so long deferred makes the heart sick!2
But, on the other hand, hope deferred, which is the waiting hour, has sustained courage, inspired fresh action, and called out new energies, and so gotten the best out of life! I saw a mother the other day who in a widowhood of fifteen or twenty years had toiled hard, but gladly, waiting with hope till her two children had grown up. They had been sent to school and well raised, all through her patient waiting and toil. The daughter is happily married and a joyful mother. The son and mother live together in loving companionship. It is an instance of a hope than can wait and not faint, waiting not in idleness, and yet being blessed in a waiting service. The trial of waiting became a blessing in the “after-while” of its blessed reward. “Blessed are they who wait” God’s time.
“Waiting on God,” in very much of life’s detail, should be distinguished from waiting on circumstance and all outward manifestation. This special waiting on God is inward—when the external seems to stop, and there is no door in the circumstances about us. At such seasons we need to “enter the closet” for communion, rather than the work world for toil. Life is built up inside, rather than by outside agencies. It is the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” that “makes us free” (Romans 8:2). Coming into communion with the Infinite is to come into the potencies that swell the current of life in all its activities. One has truly said, “The great days of life are not the days when something happens outside of us. They are the days when something happens within.”3 Our real birthdays, so far as our best life is concerned, are not the days marked on the calendar as arranged by the seasons, but rather the days of spiritual deliverance, victory, illumination, and moral reinforcement of the inner forces of our human spirit.
In such seasons of “waiting on God,” the rest from extended activities becomes a signal for inward advance. The lull of circumstance is to be transmitted into closer shoulder touch with Omnipotence. When this movement is really established, we are ready for marching orders, for such touch is communion with the infinite and immeasurable forces of the Divine.
With some newly generated spiritual dynamics we start into the unknown like Abraham, “not knowing,”4 with neither fear, dread, or thought of failure. So we reach an advanced position. It is always better to come to a place where, instead of choosing our way by the known and finite, we become able to trust in and go forward into the unknown and infinite. Thus Moses “forsook” his Egypt; so will we as soon as we come to our wider horizons where we, like him, are able to “endure as seeing the invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).
It should be noted that unwise haste is the cause of many of our troubles. It is only when our time and God’s time play the same chords in the scale of our life march that “all things work together for good.”5 Our own will and God’s will conjoined are the great factors of erecting a character that will stand the strain of the judgment day. When this unity is kept, we become “overcomers,” and, as the Apostle has said, “In all these things we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). Balzac says, “The universe belongs to him who wills, and loves and prays, but he must will, he must love, he must pray! In a word, he must possess wisdom, force and faith.”6
God’s order must be kept in our outside walk also. To run before we are called, to go before we are sent, and to rush for positions before we are experienced and duly qualified for them is no uncommon thing with the human spirit. To break into the order of God for tomorrow before we are done with today, and to try to work the machinery of tomorrow before God has need of tomorrow’s product, is confusion and disaster. God himself seems compelled oftentimes to put us through a discipline of waiting before we realize this.
In fancy I came to the portal of a beautiful garden, or rather a wide extended park. A high fence of open iron work inclosed it, through which could be seen charming views of most exquisite beauty: flowers, fruit, mountains, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and all that could please the eye with beauty, charm the ear with music, or thrill the soul with the sense of the Infinite. The gate stood well ajar and the desire to enter was strong. Over the gate was written, “All for thee.” But, as I stepped within, a voice of music whispered from the leaves of the trees, and wafted from the waving plumes of flowers, while the birds kept time and tune, saying, “Wait a bit, wait a bit.” I could hardly persuade myself that the reading over the gateway, and the musical voice whispering both applied to me, though there was a kind of dimly defined expression, under the spell of the entrancing grandeur, that they did. I passed a little farther inside. Every step seemed to open a new vista of beauty. At the foot of a rising hill stood a charming mountain rose, loaded with beautiful buds, some of which were just beginning to open. I stooped to pluck a single one, but in so doing the whole branch, which made up fully one-half the bush, split off and fell prone on the ground. It seemed so out of place that anything should be broken, or marred or incomplete, and that I had been the unwitting cause of it, that a shadow of being out of my place came over me.
Turning partly in the direction of the gateway, I came to a vine laden with the most luscious grapes I ever beheld. I was hungry, so I tasted, and, oh, such luscious, delicious nectar, such nourishing and refreshing fruit I knew had never passed my lips. New life seemed to spring inwrought along all avenues of forceful energy in my soul, and wake every note of gladness afresh. I had never known such before. I could feel such inflowing of immortal resources. But while I reached for another luscious bunch, lo, the effort to disengage it from the vine pulled vine and trellis and all flat on the ground. Again a stronger impression, stronger than the other, came over me, that the voice of whispering music I heard by the gateway meant me, and that this was not the place for me.
As I turned directly towards the entrance, the path lay along a mountainside with clear flowing streams, beautiful waterfalls, and such charming skies as my eyes had never beheld. There was a deep gorge with the caged water at its bottom rushing and hurrying for release. Far above the water, as if in midair, was a bridge, beautiful in appearance, wonderful in its construction; and though it was not yet complete in all its details, I was to go over it to reach the gateway where I entered. Every step of the way was a panorama of exquisite beauty. What landscapes stretched away in the dimming distance! What towers of architectural beauty nestled among the lofty pines on the mountain slopes! What valleys opened up lovely pictures, not painted, but real, framed by the vine-clad hills! The voice of many waters, the song of the birds, and the rhythmic music of all nature, which I have often imagined, but never heard before, all so entertained me, that for a season I seemed “lost in wonder, love and praise.”7
When I roused up again I was at the end of the bridge beautiful, which I still saw was not yet finished. As I took the last step, I was amazed to see the whole structure drop to the bottom of the fearful chasm over which I had passed. Consternation seized me. I knew now that my entrance was premature. I could not stay. I hurried to the portal by which I entered. A shining one stood behind the gate and said: “You are to wait a while. All this is for you, but you are come before your time. See the broken rose bush, and the crushed vine, and the ruined bridge—all because you came before complete readiness was made for you. Be patient. Wait a while. Shortly all will be ready, and then a convoy will come for you. You need not seek this portal alone. All will be instantly repaired. You were allowed to enter to entice you away from that which is less, and to teach you to wait in patience. Blessed are they who wait. ‘God’s time is always the right time.’ ”
As I turned sadly away I found myself saying, “How many such mistakes we make by not knowing how to wait! How many rose bushes, and vines, and bridges are maimed or destroyed by our undue haste and misunderstanding of God’s time. It is easy to spoil an apple by pulling it before ripeness. It is easy to run before we are sent, and to want places for which we are not yet prepared.”
Blessed are they who know God’s order and are wise enough to abide in it. We would be saved a large margin of life’s troubles if we did not try to cross so many bridges before we come to them, and worry over trouble that never comes.
Lord, teach us to wait on You, to accept the time on Your clock as right time. Help us to consider that Your time for our friends to come and go is always the right time, and if ours differs, we are in error. Heaven will be just in its prime for our entrance, if we but go when You call for us. The choir will be ready for Your triumphal march. There will be a vacant chair close beside the throne. The harmony of everything for the first time in all the eternity in heaven will be in discord if we are not there.
- The text itself is public domain. The original book, How They Grow, was transcribed by Jim Kerwin, biographer of Isaiah Reid, and co-edited and emended with Denise Kerwin. Annotations and emendations are copyright © 2008, 2011 by Jim Kerwin along with his other contributions to the online, print, and e-book versions of Isaiah Reid's How They Grow. ↩
- This is a near quote of Proverbs 13:12. ↩
- From Current Literature, A Magazine of Record and Review, September 1893, Vol. XIV, No. 1. The article, “The Gladness of the Untried,” was contributed to Lilian Whiting and taken from Worthington’s Magazine. The specific quote Reid uses is attributed to one Rev. Charles G. Ames, and is found on page 352. The full quote is as follows:
“The great days of life,” said Rev Charles G. Ames recently, “are not the days when something happens outside of us. They are the days when something happens within—days of spiritual expansion; days of discovery or illumination when we gain clearer perception of high realities; see deeper meanings in life; days of moral re-enforcement when we make decisions and are prepared for worthier achievement. What a day for the blind when the scales fall and his eyes are opened. A white day, a day of light! Our greater birthdays are the days when we enter into truer life and come into possession of that truer good which is our proper inheritance as children of God.”
- This simile is based on Hebrews 11:8. ↩
- Romans 8:28 ↩
- These words come from Honoré de Balzac’s novel Seraphita. The exact quote is:
The universe belongs to him who wills, who knows, who prays; but he must will, he must know, he must pray; in a word, he must possess force, wisdom, and faith.
- From Charles Wesley’s hymn, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling ↩