When God Says Wait

When God Says Wait

By Melissa McLaughlin

I have never met anyone who enjoys waiting.


Even the most patient and unhurried people I know do not have a deep desire to wait.

When in a place of waiting, we feel like a racehorse restrained at the starting gates, bridled in the stalls, chomping at the bit, straining to hear the starting gun, poised to leap forward the moment the gates drop. We stomp our feet, snort and fidget, prance in place and express the power of our presence held back. We let God and the whole world know we have things to do, places to go, races to run, prizes to win. Why hold us there even one second longer than necessary? Can’t you see who we are? Our wild stallion pride rears its unseemly head once more.

What could God be thinking, allowing our precious time to be wasted in waiting?

Interestingly, so much of our time is spent doing that most despised thing- waiting.

We wait in the grocery store checkout line.

We wait for a word of encouragement.

We wait for the paycheck to arrive.

We wait for loved ones to visit.

We wait in the doctor’s office.

We wait for answered prayer.

We wait for the phone call.

We wait for healing.

We wait for results.

We wait for spring.

We wait in traffic.

Do we wait for God?

In contrast to this, we say that we can’t wait for:


Family time

the gathering

the weekend

the vacation

the holiday

the party

the trip

the break

the breakthrough

the retirement years

Do we wait for God with this same anticipation?

Do we seek His will by reading the Bible, praying, committing our lives to Him and waiting in His presence? Do we wait for God’s leading, God’s inspiration, God’s direction?

God’s People Waited

I was recently captivated by the story of God’s people, the Israelites, as they waited for specific guidance from the LORD.

The Israelites had recently been delivered from Egypt where they were enslaved for 400 years. While waiting for God to lead them to the promised land, they wandered through the wilderness day by day.

For the LORD, every moment in this period of what appeared to be aimless meandering was actually laden with deep purpose. God used this season to teach the people who He was and to establish and nurture His relationship with them.

No need is greater than knowing and connecting with Him who made us, who delivered us, who sustains us, who provides for us, who loves us and saves us. Though we may not recognize our great need, God does. Nothing could be more pressing than this.

As God desired to draw near His people, He provided carefully articulated designs for a place to meet called a Tabernacle, a term which means “dwelling place” or “tent”. Under Moses‘ leadership, the people carried out the construction of every detail of this beautiful Tabernacle.

The story picks up here in Numbers 9:15-23 On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony. And at evening it was over the tabernacle like the appearance of fire until morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the Lord they remained in camp; then according to the command of the Lord they set out. And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out. Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses.

The plan was simple. When God was meeting with the people, the Tabernacle was engulfed in a cloud, the visible sign of His presence. When the cloud of His presence covered the Tabernacle, they waited. They waited with God. They waited for God. They waited under God. No matter how long. They waited. When the cloud lifted, they moved on at God’s command.

One of the things that struck me was the detailed description used in this portion of the text.

“Whether it was two days,

or a month

or a longer time”

as long as the cloud covered the Tabernacle,

they waited with God.

So simple. Yet so profound.

What was God accomplishing while they waited? The text does not explicitly state, however, we know that as they waited they drew near His presence, they rested their weary bodies, they gazed upon His majestic power and they strengthened their hearts in Him.

Waiting With God

I wish my dependence on the LORD had been so simple, so clear and so sure throughout my life’s meanderings.

Many times in my life, I have moved forward with my ideas, my goals and my plans, then later asked for God’s blessing. Sadly, this self-promotion lowered God to an afterthought and relegated Him to cleanup crew. If God is actually the LORD of my life, then I should first seek Him in the truth of His Word, go where He leads and carry out only that to which He is calling, anointing and empowering me to do.

Slowly but surely, I am learning to seek God’s heart through His Word and through prayer, asking God to help me see and embrace His plans for me. Then and only then do I begin to step out and move forward, while pausing often to ask for His guidance each step of the way.

Though I may be certain I was led by the LORD to serve Him in a certain way or carry out a particular task, I have learned to periodically ask Him to close any doors that were once open, if His plans for me have now changed.

My prayer is that day by day, I yield more and more of my life, my choices, my plans, my dreams and my heart to Him, for without the cloud of His presence in my life, there is really no point in moving forward. Human-powered plans accomplish only human-powered goals and are rife with human-made problems. As believers in Christ and partakers in His Kingdom work, we desire to get out of His way that He can do God-things through us! But that is more likely to come about if we are humbled in His presence, reading His Word and waiting for the move of His Holy Spirit and His call to follow.

Are you in a time of waiting? How do you remain humbled under the LORD’s presence in order to walk in step the LORD’s leading for your life?

As I close my morning prayer each day, I say these words- LORD, You made this day and You made me. May this day be Yours. May this time be Yours. May this agenda be Yours. Wherever I go, whoever I meet, whatever I do, may it all be Yours. As it already is, so may it be.

Please pray with me.

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your great love for us, which You have poured out time and time again, most completely through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins. As we remember Your redemptive work with Your people through the ages and Your redemptive work in our lives, may You be our first thought, not our afterthought. We know that anything done without the empowerment of Your Holy Spirit will amount to nothing at all. Help us LORD, to first seek Your presence through the covering of Your Word, Your Son and Your Spirit. Keep our thoughts from running ahead of You. May we wait for Your refreshment, Your inspiration, Your anointing, Your calling, Your leading. Let us lay aside any human-planned things. May we be so surrendered and yielded to You, that You have free reign to accomplish that which only You can accomplish. Do God-things, through us! May Your Spirit run swiftly through us leading us and others toward that most treasured prize, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May this day, this time, this agenda be Yours. For Your glory! For Your kingdom! For Jesus’ sake we pray. Amen.

Racehorse photo courtesy of Andy Leung at Pixabay.

Waiting photo courtesy of WordPress.

Additional Resources:

When Life Slows You Down – Three Things to Pray By Melissa McLaughlin

My Times are in Your Hands By Alistair Begg


79 thoughts on “When God Says Wait”

  1. It’s all about us syncing our watch with His. And it lets us know how much we should be diminished and how Great He is!

    • I love that part, too, Ryan. While the story of the the Lord leading the Israelites in the wilderness with a cloud by day and fire by night is a familiar one, this time as I was reading this passage, those particular words jumped out at me. As long as it takes. They waited for God. Praying the same for each of us. Bless you!

  2. Nothing you said here is new to me. Nothing! I’ve studied this. I’ve written on this.

    BUT the reminder of your words resonated deep in my heart. They are what I needed in my current season in the wilderness. Knowing God is still there moving. Refinding. Teaching. Working behind the scenes. Guiding. Preparing.

    This is what I needed to hear. What I needed to remember. “For the LORD, every moment in this period of what appeared to be aimless meandering was actually laden with deep purpose. God used this season to teach the people who He was and to establish and nurture His relationship with them…What was God accomplishing while they waited? The text does not explicitly state, however, we know that as they waited they drew near His presence, they rested their weary bodies, they gazed upon His majestic power and they strengthened their hearts in Him.”

    • Dear Cheyenne, thank you for sharing your heart and insights here. I understand completely. For long-time believers, this story is not new. But somehow, we need to hear God’s truths again and again. Like the daily manna God provided in the wilderness, so we need a fresh portion of His truth and grace. I am praising God that He was able to use these words to speak into your present situation. May you draw near Him, rest your weary body, gaze upon His beauty and be strengthened in Christ today! Blessings to you!

    • Cheyenne, this is the season that the body of Christ is in, but our season of refining, teaching, and preparation is swiftly coming to an end, and it’s paramount that as the Lord leads us from here that we continue to “live as we’ve been led.” The mandate has been given, “make disciples,” and now it’s time that we be about the Father’s business. I fully understand what you feel, because that wilderness has been difficult and the furnace exceedingly hot, but it was necessary and it was worth it! Thanks Melissa for this message and thanks Cheyenne for your comment!!

      “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal….2 Corinthians 4:17-18

      • I couldn’t agree more. The word God gave me this year was diligent. I didn’t realize then how hard this word would be to obey. But I’m thankful I have it as a reminder.

        The furnace is hot, no doubt. But as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendigo discovered—while they were in the furnace Jesus was with them—protecting and strengthening them so that when they stepped out they were not burned or even smelled like smoke. However, what was burned were the bonds that held them. Even as I walk through the furnace, I know I’m safe. I know I will be even more equipped to do His work.

      • Diligent has been my word for sure…

        “Now it SHALL come to pass, IF you DILIGENTLY obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God…Deuteronomy 28:1-2

  3. I always think about the fact that God is in all the small details of our lives. He is present with us always…within us, and beside us. You are so right in that we must give our whole selves to Him first, asking that His purpose be made manifest in us. I believe that our God loves for us to enjoy this journey of life…He wants us to have an abundant life in Him. Only in a life shared with Him do we find peace and joy…everything else is fleeting.

  4. I love your example of the horse. We have a horse at the ranch who is just like this at feeding time. He is impatient and paws at the ground in the hopes that it will make us move faster with his bucket! So I can relate to you wonderfully laid out post!

  5. Dear Melissa, thank you for this ~ needed at every age and stage of this life. Years ago, I found Andrew Murray’s book Waiting on God. It has been a source of blessing to understand why we must wait. One of the best quotes from that book as we consider our Father has so much for us with Him and from Him ~ “We can afford to wait.” Much love and blessings in your waiting.

    • Dear Frances, it’s so true. We will be waiting on and with the LORD at every stage of our life. May we draw near Him joyfully as we do! I love the Andrew Murray quote. “We can afford to wait,” For Jesus is worth it! Blessings and love to you!

  6. Simply beautiful and powerful, Melissa. It seems we are impatient waiting on things in life, that spills over into our relationship with the Lord. But often the Lord is accomplishing His purposes and a greater work in us “in the wait.” We just can’t see it, but it doesn’t mean He’s not working. Love the tabernacle story and passage. So worshipful and comforting to think about waiting on and with God’s presence!

    • Karen, thank you for your insights, faith and heart! It’s true, our strong aversion to waiting does indeed spill over into our relationship with the Lord. May we rest in His greatness, power, sovereignty, goodness and love! Yes, He is always working in the spiritual realms. And He is everything we long for, so may we rest more in Him as we wait with Him. No better place to be!

    • It’s true, Nancy! While waiting in God’s hands, He pushes, pulls, molds and forms us into new shapes that won’t fit back into our old spaces. Anticipation definitely draws us closer to Him. The great gift of waiting. Thank you for reading and sharing your insights!

  7. I love remembering how there was purpose to the waiting God allowed the Israelites to endure. Nothing was wasted. It is SO hard to wait, especially for those exciting moments, but I’m learning more and more to rest in God’s purpose as I wait. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    • Thank you, Emily, for remembering with me all that God has done with the Israelites and all that He is doing with us. I love the way you say, “Nothing was wasted.” So true! Though it’s hard, may we wait with joy in His presence and expectation in His plans! Bless you!

    • Thank you for the words of encouragement. Glory to God! May the LORD continue to make His Word come alive to us each day and may we use His Word to spur one another on in this most treasured journey of faith! Bless you!

  8. Hey Melissa, here’s a response I wrote to this message the day that you posted it! What a timely and anointed message this was, “When God says wait!” That’s been my message for a few months now, and He’s been saying that the body of Christ is in a season of divine birthing. What I love about the Lord is that over the last couple weeks He actually gave me a visual of this. A bird’s nest was built on our front porch on the shutters a few weeks ago. I watched the process and the Lord spoke the entire time. After the nest was built, He told me the eggs had been laid, but of course I couldn’t see this, but I had to trust that they had. Besides, the evidence was the fact that the birds were now visiting the nest frequently. A few days ago the Lord led me to go check on the nest and I found 3 babies with their heads looking over the top of the nest. I was amazed at what I was witnessing, so I snapped some pics. For a couple days I checked on them. Well yesterday the Lord said go check on them, and upon walking out the front door, one of the birds was on the porch, as if he was waiting on me. The others were already gone, but the Lord left this last one for me to see. The Lord said, birthing….After posing for a few pics, the bird eventually flew back into the nest, but only for a moment, and then it left….I really have no words for this, for what I witnessed, for what the Lord spoke….But this is one of the takeaways, “we must wait.”

    • Wow. What a message from the LORD! I am rejoicing with you in the ways God spoke into your life through the birds. I love this so much! First of all, I have always been touched by the beauty of witness of God through HIs creation, but it is even more special when He uses His own handiwork to teach and affirm the truth of His Word. So powerful. So very powerful. And the layers and depth of truth that were woven into this story are amazing. Thank you for sharing! God bless you!

  9. What a perfect way to close out this post, Melissa, with purposeful prayer. I appreciate your leading us from a place of anxiety to intentional surrender to our God. When I’m stuck with nothing to do but wait, I often go off into my own intangible place and ponder about things I read recently in His Word or in a post like this or just about things I see nearby. It’s a place where I can talk to God and thank Him .

    • That’s awesome, Stephen! Sounds like you already have a strategy for using your waiting time well. I usually have to ease into that. Typically I begin like the wild stallion and the Lord has to tame me bit by bit. Praying I can move more easily into that place of surrendered prayer. Best place to be, that much I know! Bless you, brother!

  10. This is great encouragement, Melissa! I love the analogies you shared about waiting, and the message you included about the Israelites waiting on the Lord in the pillar of cloud and of fire. I found so much applicable to my life. They didn’t know why they had to wander out there in circles for years. So many reasons you gave! They didn’t know why they were waiting, as we don’t know either. Yet the waiting talk them that they shouldn’t move until he led, until he moved ahead of them. It taught them that he was sovereign over even the waiting. It taught them to wait on him. I feel all of this frustration as I sit here in this house sick, without the energy to do but a fraction of what I used to do. Yet still in this state, I forget to rely on the Lord. Like you said, he can still be an afterthought. I still try to forge ahead, even with my puny efforts. Such an important reminder. We know that everything they were through out there was to teach US. I apologize for the length of this quote, but it tells us so much.

    1 Corinthians 10:1-13, “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

    Like you said, in these times, WE CRY OUT to him, for all of those reasons listed in verses 6-13. Thank you for holding up this example that the Lord told us was written for us to contemplate and to learn from. You dug out much that I had never recognized or seen before. Well done, sister! Thank you!

    • Wow, Melinda, this is a powerful word you have written here! It’s true, the Israelites’ real life trials are lessons that have already been completed and are just sitting there, waiting for us to read, listen, remember, soak in and hold on to. Yes, God is sovereign and sometimes, I wonder if the lesson of waiting is as simple as that. Although, if that’s the case, I’m afraid I am a very, very slower learner with lesson #1. Lord have mercy!
      We also know God is good. All too often I’m afraid we would rush past the depth of this understanding if He didn’t slow us down to ponder the magnificent details, remembering things He has done, one by one. As with so much of God’s Word and His redemptive work in our lives, we see there are countless layers of beauty and truth that He uncovers one at a time. Most likely because we could not handle an all out exposure. Thank you for sharing the depth of your insights and I love how you tied in this scripture from 1 Corinthians. Perfect fit!
      Most of all, I feel your heart for the place where the Lord has you right now. This place of sickness and slower pace must be frustrating and exhausting. I have experienced something like this but on a much smaller scale than you. My heart goes out to you. I’m praying for you. May the Holy Spirit meet you right where you are, right in this moment, giving you a fresh gust of the wind of His presence, a fresh connection to illuminate His Word and a lifting in your spirit wrapping you in His peace and drawing your eyes to the glory of Christ.
      Last by not least, your comments are never too long for me! Your deep faith, your clear understanding of Biblical truth, your love for Jesus and His people are so beautifully captured in your passionate writing. Every word you write is a joy to my soul. Write on, dear sister!

      • Well, you made my day! Thank you for your kind words! Your post was such a blessing to me today that I was encouraged and just wanted to share that passage! I love it when God makes something so clear to us in the NT. God bless you, sister!

  11. Good morning Melissa, love this connection to our Israelite brothers and sisters who waited knowing God was with them. I appreciate your laying out Human plans are prone to human strife. I join you in prayer, sister. My writing and speaking is from Him and for His glory. Love, Julie

    • Good evening, dear Julie! May God continue to reveal to us the power, grace and truth of His redemptive plan through His Word, through His people and within our individual lives. I pray we magnify His glory as we grow to know and love Him better day by day. Love, Melissa

    • Thank you for the kind and encouraging words, Dr. Matthis! I agree, knowing God and drawing ever near to Him are the sweetest joys we can know in this life. So, if it takes a long stretch of waiting to bring that about, then to God be the glory! Thank you for visiting. God bless you!

  12. Wow! This is so, so good and full of truth! I loved that you used an Old Testament story; it’s becoming a lost art to many who believe the only relevant teachings are contained in the gospels… 2 Timothy 3 is a great reminder however that ALL scripture is inspired by God. I’m thankful others are in our world sharing truth in love, keep on writing friend!

    • What a word of encouragement, Hannah! Thank you for your kind support. Glory to God! I am so grateful for your heart to love all of who God is, which includes the whole counsel of scripture. Jesus, the Word, has revealed Himself through the Old and New Testament. I agree with you, many people choose the parts they like about God’s Word and ignore the rest. But God is not convenient. God is God and there can be nothing else before Him. May we find our greatest joy and fulfillment as we wait on Him and wait with Him. Where else can we get the words of life? Bless you!


Leave a Comment