The Difference In Waiting for Someone and for Something

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him (Psalm 40:1-3).

You cannot escape the emotional intensity of the psalms. Within those pages, you find joy as well as mourning; you find expectation as well as disappointment. But as I’ve been reading the psalms lately, it seems to me that there is one particular emotion that stands out in the midst of the others:


There is a longing for things in the world to be right. A longing for justice. A longing for deliverance. A longing for God to act. And with longing comes waiting. It’s always this way.

Of course, the intensity of the longing depends not just on the length of time spent waiting; it depends on what exactly we are waiting for. We might experience a sense of longing when we are in line at the grocery store, but that longing is probably not very acute, either because the wait is short or because the outcome of that waiting is just a car ride home. But the longing for a new job? Or a loved one to come to faith? Or for a child to return home? This is an intense kind of longing, and it’s made so both because of the duration of the wait and because of what’s at stake in the wait.

That’s the kind of intensity you find in the psalms as we read over and over again how the psalmist waited. And waited. And waited some more. And that is also one difference between waiting on the Lord and waiting in other circumstances – the emotional intensity of it.

But there is another key difference that we ought to recognize. Namely, that waiting on the Lord means recognizing that while we are waiting, the Lord is forming our character within us. That we are becoming someone different than we are now, forged in the furnace of delay. And as that happens, we will often find that our expectations of what we are waiting for are also shaped during that time. To put it another way…

Waiting on the Lord means waiting for Someone rather than waiting for something.

Let’s go back to the grocery store example. When you are waiting in that line, you know with reasonable certainty exactly what the fulfillment of that wait is going to be. It’s that you will swipe a card, bag the groceries, and go home. Waiting over, expectation fulfilled. But waiting on the Lord is very different than that.

Let’s say that you are waiting on the Lord to bring about some significant change in your life. Maybe a closer relationship with someone. Or maybe a change in vocation. Or maybe to provide for some perceived need or desire you have. So you wait. And as you wait, the Lord does the good (but often painful work) of exposing all kinds of things in your heart. The wait is the time in which you are forced to confront your lack of faith, or your lack of joy, or your misplaced priorities. The wait is the time when you come to understand what it means not only to trust in Jesus, but to look to Jesus as the final fulfillment of all your desires. And as that happens, your expectations for what the end of that wait shift.

You might well find that the “thing” you were waiting for, as the fulfillment of all that longing, is very different than you thought it was. And that’s why it’s important to remember that as we wait, we are waiting for the Lord, not just for the Lord to do what we think He should.

We are waiting on a Someone rather than a specific something.

Today, friend, you are probably waiting for something. Why not take it as an opportunity to reaffirm not only that God can being about an end to that waiting, but also to acknowledge that He will bring about that end in a good and wise way? Perhaps even a way you can’t yet see coming.

It’s a chance to say, with the psalmist, that you are waiting patiently for the Lord, and not just for the fulfillment of your expectations.

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This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.

Michael Kelley
Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley is director of Discipleship at LifeWay Christian Resources and the author of Growing Down: Unlearning the Patterns of Adulthood that Keep Us from Jesus.