Waiting. We all hate it. Why is waiting such a universally loathed activity? Because there is no activity? There is no progress. There is no result. There is no certainty. There is only empty time. And our brains are all too eager to fill that emptiness with a thousand thoughts all starting with, “What if …?” Waiting is a surefire way to rouse all our worst fears and anxieties.

Even in the least stressful instances of waiting, if we’re just sitting in traffic or standing in the checkout line, some of the more impatient among us can barely stand a few minutes of not doing something, going somewhere, toward a planned outcome, or any outcome!

But what if we could learn to see waiting according to God’s timing?

A commonly missed piece of the story of Peter walking on water involves waiting. Earlier that day, the disciples had witnessed and participated in Jesus’ miracle of feeding the crowds with just a few loaves of bread and some fish.

As the day ends, Jesus tells the disciples to go wait in the boat, and Jesus prays alone on the mountainside. Jesus doesn’t come walking on the water toward the disciples until just before dawn.

Imagine what the waiting must have been like for the disciples prior to the exciting action scene of this story. Their faith was likely primed after having witnessed Jesus feeding the crowds. We can imagine that they were eager for their next lesson, their next adventure, maybe even an assignment from Jesus.

But where was Jesus? Why wasn’t he with them, and why were they out on the boat a considerable distance from land? What were they sitting around for?

After several hours, perhaps their excitement turned into anxiety, fear, maybe even doubt.

Although the disciples didn’t expect Jesus to show up the way he did, certainly they were eagerly if not impatiently awaiting his return.

In my book, Don’t Look Down, I discuss waiting as a spiritual practice. There is a reason God is giving us time. The next time you feel like you’ve been put “on hold,” try thinking about waiting like this:

  1. Active waiting.Waiting doesn’t mean giving up, clocking out, or distracting ourselves from the things we’re waiting for. While you wait, you don’t have to sit still with your hands on your lap. Keep knocking on doors; just don’t knock doors down out of impatience. Live your life, but don’t forge ahead without God; check in with God about the direction you’re going in.
  2. Waiting as a spiritual discipline. We live in hope for what is to come while taking in the presence of God in the moment. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God!” Don’t fight the waiting. Live in the waiting and embrace it as a way to draw closer to God.
  3. Expectant waiting.The word waitmeans “to expect” or “to look for.” God will show up when we wait expectantly. Jesus appeared to his disciples after the Resurrection. Paul and Silas were rescued from their prison cell with an earthquake. Live in anticipation of what might happen. It matters what we do in the waiting. It matters what God teaches us and shows us while we’re waiting. But we have to look for God’s movement and expect it in order to learn and see.

When did God make you wait before making next steps clear to you? In hindsight, what did this period of waiting provide?