Tell the Whole Story: Three Ways to Wait Well

It doesn’t matter if it’s been twenty, forty, or sixty years since the afternoon your parents forgot to pick you up from school. You still remember it like it was yesterday. You were the kid sitting on the curb, backpack pulled up to your shoulders, asking questions you had never considered before: What if no one is coming for me? What if I’m left to wait here forever?

It’s not just fear that gets a little one’s lip quivering when she’s the last one left on the sidewalk. It’s also helplessness, abandonment, and even feelings of embarrassment—no one wants others to witness a moment when they feel forgotten. 

When my church group began a midweek Bible study based on the themes of loneliness and waiting well, a friend mentioned that she planned to skip the series and come back for the next one. It would be awkward to have to sit among that much vulnerability, she thought. And the topic didn’t feel particularly relevant to her. 

The first night we gathered for the series, one person passed sticky notes around the living room and asked us to write down areas of our lives that currently involve waiting. The answers were jotted down and then read out by a leader who sat cross-legged on the floor. As answer after answer was read, the room stilled. The notes were shared anonymously, but each one represented a real person sitting in that living room. As members of the same church, the same Body of Christ, what impacted them was instantly relevant to the rest of us.

It didn’t matter that many of the circumstances mentioned weren’t my own. It was enough that they were hers—the woman sitting next to me, or his—the man on the couch five feet away. 

  • She was waiting for the day she would be reunited with the baby she named and never got to meet.
  • He was waiting to achieve his first month of sobriety.
  • She was struggling with singleness, and he was more than ready to meet the woman he’ll one day marry. 

As we listened to the ways that people in the room were waiting, I lined them up in my mind: each person sat side-by-side along the curb, carrying a “backpack” of difficult circumstances. But lined up like that, it made me realize that while we were all waiting for different things, we weren’t waiting alone.

Shame has a way of weaving itself into seasons of waiting. It makes you believe that you’re better off isolated. It makes you think that if others knew exactly what you’re waiting for, they’d also know if you don’t receive it. You feel like a child waiting for your parents at pickup time, and you feel the need to make excuses for or defend the actions of those you’re waiting on. That feeling doesn’t go away when you get older. As an adult, how do you respond and wait well when it looks like God has not shown up for you?

Where Are You, Lord?

This week, as you’ve prepared for Resurrection Sunday, you’ve likely spent extra time in the Gospels. There’s a moment in Matthew’s telling of the events of Good Friday that is easy to skim past. You are probably familiar with the first part of this story in Matthew 27:45–51. 

From noon until three in the afternoon, darkness came over the whole land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” 

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and offered him a drink. But the rest said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

But Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, and the rocks were split.

Now read Matthew 27:57–61, which records the events of later that day. As you do, imagine being one of the women mentioned—one who loved and followed Jesus, who had placed her hope and future in His hands and then watched as they were nailed to a cross. 

When it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph came, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body. Then Pilate ordered that it be released. So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in clean, fine linen, and placed it in his new tomb, which he had cut into the rock. He left after rolling a great stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were seated there, facing the tomb. 

Heartbroken. Grief-stricken. And perhaps, stunned into silence. As the celebratory cheers of Christ’s enemies rang out in the distance, it’s possible the women sat with anguish too deep for words and wondered, Lord, where are You? Why didn’t You show up? 

Three Ways to Wait Well

The words of Psalm 25 come to mind nearly every resurrection weekend, though it’s not a normal Easter text:

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
    let me not be put to shame;
    let not my enemies exult over me. 
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame. (Psalm 25:1–3 ESV

David didn’t have any knowledge of all that would take place in Matthew 27 and Matthew 28 when he turned to the Lord in his own time of waiting. Neither did the women who sat outside the tomb. They had only the knowledge of God’s character and His track record to bank their faith on. They had no way of knowing how He would provide for them or resolve their circumstances. But even in their grief and anxiety, they had reason to believe that those who wait for Him will not be disgraced. 

As New Testament followers of Jesus, Psalm 25, Matthew 27, and Matthew 28 are all ours to learn from and apply. When my church group began our series, we knew it needed to be framed with biblical perspective. As we talked to those who would be leading individual sessions, our team’s hope and prayer was that they would take an Easter-weekend approach: being sensitive to those experiencing the weight of waiting, those in circumstances where it feels as though they’re sitting in front of a closed tomb. We agreed that they couldn’t end the session there—they need to tell the rest of the story. 

As you approach your own waiting season or sit beside others who are in the middle of their own, are you telling the whole story—one that allows room for heartache but makes its way toward hope? When you do, three traits will mark the way that you wait: 

1. You’ll face the implications. 

When it looks like God isn’t going to show up in your waiting, when it looks like He has failed you, you may feel anxiety over the ways that others around you will view God. As you experience your waiting season within community, it will have implications for others’ faith as well as your own. Take those concerns and all of their implications back to God. He is more than able to handle them and reveal more of His trustworthy character in the process. 

When David was anxious about how his enemies would respond, he turned to the Lord with a request, “Do not let me be disgraced” (Psalm 25:2), and with confidence said, “No one who waits for you will be disgraced” (Psalm 25:3). You can do the same.

2. You’ll accept God’s timing and His wisdom. 

As a follower of Jesus, when you wait, you don’t wait aimlessly. You wait on God.

To wait is to accept his time and therefore his wisdom. . . . The word for it in the psalm suggests a certain tenseness: the trust is eager, waiting in hope rather than resignation. This hope is unfulfilled at the close, but the waiting continues. Perhaps the psalm is thereby all the more relevant to those who are not granted the radiant assurance that breaks out in [quiet encouragement].1

To wait well is to look to the Lord, knowing that His answer or provision may not come when you want it, and it may not look the way you thought. But it is from God, whose compassion and faithful love have existed from antiquity (Psalm 25:6), which means that you can trust that it will be the best and wisest decision that could be made—because He, the one you wait for,is good (Psalm 25:8). 

3. You won’t forget the final chapter. 

If Matthew 28 didn’t exist, there would be no hope for the women in Matthew 27—or for you. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless,” 1 Corinthians 15:17 says. But Christ conquered death, and the tomb that the women sat in front of is now empty. Jesus is alive, and that transforms the way you wait. You may not see all of your waiting resolved this side of heaven, but you can trust that it will one day be fully redeemed. 

Not Forgotten

Today, on this Good Friday, if you’re in a difficult season, don’t stay in Matthew 27. Look at what’s ahead. There’s no greater reminder that God has not failed, that He has shown up for those who wait, than the resurrection of Jesus.

As you sit with others in waiting seasons, don’t forget to tell the whole story. Let them know that none who wait for Him shall be put to shame. 

May the peace of Christ be yours this weekend as you commemorate the death, burial, and glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Blessings from all of us at Revive Our Hearts

Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 134.

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