We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt it. The butterflies. The nerves. The excitement. The anxiety of what is to come or what might happen. Anticipation can cause us to feel “all the feels” at times: anxiety, excitement, and joy awaiting the expected arrival of someone or something. However, what are we called to do in the waiting? After all, anticipation can only exist when we are longing for what is to come, not what is already here.
What Are We Waiting For?
As believers, the answer is highlighted in Psalm 37:3-7a. The psalmist urges the people of Israel, “ Trust in the Lord and do what is good ; dwell in the land and live securely. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit your way to the Lord ; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him.”
Our response begins with trusting in him—trusting He knows better than we can understand this side of heaven. We cannot lean on our own understanding, because we are not the creator and perfecter of all things. When we fail to trust in the Lord and begin to lean on our own understanding, we start to take matters into our own hands, we grow anxious over what is to come, or we grow bitter with the waiting.
The phrase “do what is good” (v. 3) calls us to remain obedient to God. In order for us to do what is good, we must know what is good. God is and always will be our measure for what is good. Therefore, we must know God, His word, and His heart. Reading His word is a great starting place to understanding how God defines “good.”
The psalmist also urges Israel to enjoy the safety God’s presence brings. The psalmist understood true security came from dwelling where the Lord dwells, because the Lord’s love and provision of His promises for His people are unwavering. When we have security of God’s faithfulness, it leads us to find delight in Him.
For me, delighting in the Lord is mindfully taking time to notice God’s hand in each part of my life and meditating on the attributes of God found in Scripture. These tools have played a vital role in leading me to have hope in my anticipation for my future in Christ as well as hope for my current walk with Christ in my current circumstances.
Delighting ourselves in the Lord is not a task to be taken lightly and requires self-discipline. The psalmist foresaw this challenge and continues to urge Israel to “commit [their] way to the Lord and trust in Him.” The practice of delighting in Him and enjoying his presence requires trust and commitment. Trust is not simply achieved and then it’s forever. It is something that ebbs and flows with the circumstances of our lives. However, trust can become steady when coupled with committing our plans and passions to God and entrusting God to do what is best with them. It is a persistent pursuit of His heart and who He is.
In verse 7, the psalmist commands for Israel: “Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him.” When we have laid our hearts desires, hopes and plans at the Lord’s throne in prayer and groaning, we need to rest in His promises and be silent and expectant before Him to watch Him move.
When Anticipation Leads to Discontentment
Much like the other emotions discussed over the last several weeks, anticipation has two sides to it. Anticipation can lead to hope, but it can also lead to discontentment. Discontentment occurs when we focus more on our current circumstances rather than trusting God in His sovereignty and timing in our life. We lose sight of where our hope lies: Jesus Christ. Paul addresses this in the end of his letter to the church at Philippi:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. (Philippians 4:11b-14).
Paul experienced tribulations and hardships as well as successes and generosity from others. He did not find rest or contentment in either (the trials or the success), but in the strength of the Lord to help him endure the race marked out for him. In verse 14, Paul highlights the value of his God-given community. Paul did not believe in facing trials of this world alone, but believed that God gave believers the church as a resource to help carry our burdens.
While anticipating and hoping for our desires and callings to come to fruition, we must seek God first as our source of strength to finish our race. However, we cannot forget the resource the Lord has gifted us with as a means to share our burdens.