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On Being a Terrible Waiter. Or Hoper?

On Being a Terrible Waiter. Or Hoper?

I am a terrible waiter.

Not waiter as in food server (although I’d stink at that too), but waiter as in not getting what you want right now.

Waiting seems to imply inactivity, and, yeah, I fall just a bit more on the “make it happen for yourself” side of the line. On the Fruit of the Spirit Scale, I’m at about a 1.5 for patience. On a good day.

In so many ways, I feel like I am waiting on The Lord, but not usually doing it very well. I always want Him to reveal His plan, His will, His blessings…now. In some ways, I even do a bit better with disaster than I do with waiting. At least with disaster you are busy doing something. With waiting you just…wait.

It was Lamentations 3:25 that brought the whole waiting thing up for me: “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him”. Interestingly, in my devotional, the verse was translated “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him…”.

Hold on.

So which is it? Hope in Him? Or wait for Him? Because those are very different things to me. Hope, to me, seems to imply a faith in what God is doing; a sense that he is in the midst of working something good. Hope, in my estimation, is something that can be experienced in the here and now. Waiting, on the other hand, feels like an issue of time; a duration over which God’s plan and blessings are revealed. In my world, waiting seems like hope deferred.

To be perfectly honest, I’d much rather hope in the Lord than wait on the Lord.

I needed to know the difference. For all of these things that I desire; all of these situations and issues for which I pray – what is at the heart of how I should handle the not having? Should I hope in The Lord – watching for and expecting the way He is working His goodness presently? Or should I wait on The Lord – knowing that His good is coming at some point in the future?

This is when scripture becomes like a treasure hunt. I pulled out my trusty interlinear Hebrew/English Bible (ok, so really it’s online, but in my husband’s world that counts as owning one) and started doing some research. And, as always in scriptural treasure hunts, I wasn’t disappointed.

But I had to go through some language searching to find the jewel.

There are actually two Hebrew words that are translated as both “hope” and “wait”: qavah and yachal. Unlike English, in which “hope” and “waiting” are two different concepts, both of these Hebrew words mean:

  • to wait
  • to hope for
  • to expectantly look for
  • to eagerly expect.

Consider these usages of qavah:

  • Job 7:2 “As a slave who pants for the shade, And as a hired man who eagerly waits (qavah) for his wages…”
  • Psalm 25:5 “Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation ; For You I wait (qavah) all the day.”
  • Proverbs 20:22 “Do not say, “I will repay evil “; Wait (qavah) for the LORD, and He will save you.”
  • Isaiah 5:4 “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected (qavah) it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones ?”
  • Isaiah 8:17 “And I will wait for the LORD who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob ; I will even look eagerly (qavah) for Him.”
  • Isaiah 40:31 “Yet those who wait (qavah) for the LORD Will gain new strength ; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”
  • Isaiah 49:23 “Kings will be your guardians, And their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth And lick the dust of your feet ; And you will know that I am the LORD ; Those who hopefully wait (qavah) for Me will not be put to shame.”
  • Isaiah 59:11 “All of us growl like bears, And moan sadly like doves ; We hope (qavah) for justice, but there is none, For salvation, but it is far from us.”
  • Isaiah 64:3 “When You did awesome things which we did not expect (qavah), You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.”

But then there is the word yachal, has almost identical usage as qavah:

  • 1 Samual 10:8 “And you shall go down before me to Gilgal ; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. You shall wait (yachal) seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do.”
  • 2 Kings 6:33 “While he was still talking with them, behold, the messenger came down to him and he said, “Behold, this evil is from the LORD ; why should I wait (yachal) for the LORD any longer ?”
  • Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope (yachal) in the LORD.”
  • Lamentations 3:24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope (yachal) in Him.”
  • Psalm 119:147 “I rise before dawn and cry for help ; I wait (yachal) for Your words.”
  • Psalm 71:14 “But as for me, I will hope (yachal) continually, And will praise You yet more and more.”
  • Job 30:26 “When I expected good, then evil came ; When I waited (yachal) for light, then darkness came.”

And then there are even passages which use both words:

  • Isaiah 51:5 “My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, And My arms will judge the peoples ; The coastlands will wait (qavahfor Me, And for My arm they will wait expectantly (yachal).
  • Psalm 130:5 5 I wait (qavah) for the LORD, my soul does wait (qavah), And in His word do I hope (yachal).

Sense a theme? Wait. Look eagerly. Expect. Hope. Hopefully wait. Eagerly wait. Wait expectantly. Look in anticipation for.

It turns out, in the original biblical language, hoping and waiting are not separated. We’re supposed to wait while hoping. Hope while waiting.

Wow.

This means that, whatever we are wanting that we don’t yet have from God – what we are supposed to do in the mean time is both hoping and waiting. That there is both an element of present faith as well as future expectancy. That the process of interacting with the Lord of the universe to share our needs and get those needs met is a dynamic, active experience in which we both find Him in the now, and watch eagerly for what He will do in the future.

Hoping and waiting. Present and future. How can it be both? Because there is nothing we want that is better than Him, and He always gives us Himself. Whether or not the object or circumstance for which we long comes within our grasp, when our hope is in Him and our waiting is for Him, we always have available to us the absolute, very best.

Later the very best from Him may be in the form of a new job, or a new baby, or a repaired relationship, and we wait expectantly to see the ways in which He, and His goodness, will manifest itself in the future. But for right now the very best may be in the form of simply His presence, or His voice, or His peace, or His comfort, and so we always have, and rejoice in present hope.

I’ve spent most of my time waiting for the best He still has coming, rather than resting in the hope He gives me right now.

Ah, yes. I’m a very bad waiter. And hoper, too. But maybe, with God’s grace, I can become a qavah-er. And a yachal-er. Because I kind of feel like that – finding that Hebrew scripture balance of waiting and hoping, present faith and future, patient anticipation – is the secret to getting absolutely everything I could ever want.

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