In my younger days, I took lessons in English horseback riding. I will forever remember one of my instructor’s frequent sayings: When on horseback, when the horse is doing everything right, “the hardest thing for the rider to do is NOTHING.” You always feel like you might have to move your hands a bit, make the slightest adjustment to the reins, or maybe give the horse a little pressure with your legs, or do SOMETHING, somehow. And the horse is doing fine without any new signals from the rider.
It recently struck me that this is something that applies to life in general, and spiritual life in particular. We are people of action; we are constantly in motion, seeking results. One of the hardest things for us to do is” NOTHING”. We don’t feel productive if we’re not always moving and pushing and striving.
Yet Jesus is constantly calling us away from all the madness, to sit quietly at his feet, communing with him. Luke records the familiar story of Mary and Martha. Entertaining Jesus in their home, Martha “was distracted by all the preparations (Luke 10:40, NIV), while her sister, Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he said.” (v. 39) Jesus told Martha that Mary had “chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (v.42) Mary was not “doing,” she was “waiting” with Jesus.
Waiting is hard for us. We pray, and we immediately look for results. I once heard someone say that God always answers prayer. “He answers either ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘wait.’” We’d rather get an immediate “no” to our requests than wait for God’s timing and plan. We find it so difficult to do “nothing,” while we wait on the Lord. And sometimes we are so busy doing “something,” that when we are called by God, we are too tired to do what He asks. The disciples were unable to stay awake and support Jesus as he agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). How often have I found myself so exhausted by non-essential busyness in my life, that I fall asleep in church or at home while praying? If I waited quietly on the Lord when that’s what is called for, I would have the strength and endurance to “do,” when asked. “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, ESV).
When I wrote this blog, it was at the start of Advent, typically a time of waiting—anticipating the birth of the Christ child, but also for Jesus’ ultimate return to earth to claim His kingdom. Many days I can only pray, “Thy kingdom come,” or “Come, Lord Jesus,” as the world seems to be spinning out of control. But Jesus has promised, “Surely I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20). Therefore, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” (Psalm 130:5).