Each fall, the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds linger at my feeder a few weeks longer than I expect them to. Their visits to and from my deck occur at an increasingly frenetic pace as September rolls along. If two or more of these little winged spitfires cross paths, they chatter and chase each other waging an all out territorial nectar war. As much as I enjoy watching them, each year as fall progresses, I wonder why they wait to leave. Being a planner myself, I long to encourage them to beat the migration rush.
I always assumed hummingbirds migrated because of the dropping fall temperatures. But, what I learned recently through a little research surprised me. Hummingbirds do need warmer temperatures to survive, but it is actually fall’s decreasing daylight hours which trigger a hormonal change and cause them to migrate.
While waiting for this internal alarm clock, they take care of important business– they eat. In order to survive the non-stop 500 mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico, which most hummingbirds will make every winter, they need to work on doubling their body weight before reaching the south. The sought after nectar at my feeder provides their tiny bodies with a high potency fuel. This fuel allows them to catch flies and other insects which are the staple of their diet. Yes, my sweet hummingbirds are carnivores! Who knew?!
So, it seems my concerns over the hummingbirds missing their window of migration opportunity and freezing are unnecessary. Instinctively, they know what they need to do without any help from me. There is no element of human logic, hurry, or worry in their timeline — only patient waiting and off they go.
I wish I could wait like that, don’t you? Waiting is challenging for humans, even in instances where benefits are certain — like lines for ice cream. When we are in the midst of a trial the benefits of waiting are especially hard to see. Waiting on God is not easy. We want to know what, when, why, and how things are going to happen. We want to plan, influence, and control events because all that waiting, well, it can make us feel like we are NOT doing anything.
But, what we need to remember is this: waiting on God IS doing something, and it does bring benefits. Like the hummingbird instinctively preparing for a strenuous trip, we too, can actively wait on God to direct our journey. While waiting we can:
Use God’s Word
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NIV
When we feel stuck in a painful season of life, it is hard to find time, energy, and motivation to study the Bible. Consistently showing up on God’s doorstep, however, demonstrates our eagerness to learn. If we keep searching his promises for wisdom and reassurance, he steers us in the right direction. By using Scripture verses in our prayers, we honor God, and we pray the way Jesus did. Changes in our situation may be gradual, but they will be powerful when we allow the Bible to work within us. Reminding us of what is good and true, God’s Word shapes our character, decisions, and outlook while we wait.
Trust in God’s Character and Timing
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8 NIV
On days when we are weary of waiting on the Lord, our faith can grow weak, and we may think God is never going to show up. But, the Bible repeatedly teaches us about three important attributes of God. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
Omnipotent means God is all-powerful. He is in control and can handle any problem we face.
Omniscient means God is all-knowing. He knows every detail of our lives — from our birth to our death, who we will meet, and every situation we will face. Nothing surprises him or leaves him unsure of how to work things for our good.
Omnipresent means he is all-present or everywhere at the same time. God is always with us even when we feel alone.
If life is going well, we have a tendency to think it is all our doing. In hard times, we wonder if God knows what he is doing. Suffering, although frustrating and painful, encourages us to search for God and trust him to do things beyond ourselves. Waiting in the hardship of the unknown leads us to the comfort of what we do know: we belong to a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and with us at all times.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15 NIV
In this Scripture, the Apostle John tells us with certainty that prayer works, and he knows how it works. Notice he says, “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” Prayer is not a to-do list for God to magically and immediately grant our requests. Rather, it is a means of receiving what is the will of God — answers which meet his good purposes and timing.
As we pray whatever is on our hearts, we must also consider God’s will. We humble ourselves as Jesus did saying, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” Praying for discernment, we think about how God wants to reach us or use us in this trial. His thoughts and ways are sometimes beyond our comprehension in the here and now, so we also ask for his peace to comfort us. Waiting encourages us to look for God’s instruction and pray with a bold confidence that he will do what is best.
Love and Serve Others
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT
Every trial we endure teaches us about suffering and comfort. Through our trials we gain valuable understanding about how to love and serve others. For example, we might be able to share knowledge about a medical procedure, empathize with feelings, cook someone dinner, or meet them for a walk. Waiting for God presents us with valuable opportunities to show others the love of Christ and to possibly find purpose in our pain.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
Giving thanks while we are hurting can seem like an impossible task. While we do not feel grateful for our circumstance, we can be thankful for God’s presence in it — for all the ways he comforts us.
We can be grateful simply for the time God gives us to wait. In the waiting, we can learn his Word, place our trust in him, pray boldly, and love others. In the waiting, our character grows in patience and persistence. And in the waiting, we awaken to the hope we have in him for our future. Remembering the things we are grateful for, even in difficult circumstances, keeps us focused on God’s everlasting love for us.
This morning, a hummingbird perched on the bird swing I have attached to my window. He sat there, content, for the longest time. I smiled and paused in the moment. I watched him as he watched me.
“We wait,” I said to him. God is near. God is good. “We wait.”
Press on in faith, my friends!
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