“Are we there yet?” If you will be traveling with children during the holiday season, you will probably be asked this question at some point. The younger we are, the shorter our attention span tends to be. As we age, our capacity for waiting does increase, but waiting remains a struggle. If you don’t believe me, just go to an understaffed restaurant during the busy hours and observe the hungry patrons. “Is my food ready yet?”

Waiting is difficult. Many people say that our devices and gadgets are making us lose our attentiveness and our capacity to wait patiently. This may be true. However, the Israelites of old did not have tablets or smartphones, and they still lacked patience. In Exodus 32, “the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain” so they decided to take matters into their own hands. They became impatient. Rather than waiting on God, they made a Golden Calf—an idol that would remain influential throughout their history.

In the book of Psalms, as well as Isaiah, waiting emerges as a major theme (Psalm 25:3-5, 21; 27:14; 37:9, 34; 39:7; 40:1; 52:9; 69:6; 130:5; Isaiah 25:9; 26:8; 33:2; 40:31; 49:23; 51:5; 59:9, 11; 60:9; 64:3-4). The concept of waiting is closely connected to the belief that things will be better than they are presently. To wait is to be patiently looking to God. This word gets translated differently in various translations and verses. It can be wait, but it also appears as look, hope, and expect.

God’s people living in exile waited on God to deliver and restore them, and that would seem to be the context of many of the above verses. However, we discover in the New Testament that God’s ultimate plan for redemption is that all people might have the hope of being brought out of sin and death to inherit the eternal rest found in Christ’s kingdom.

We will never feel fully at home in the present world. Even if we have come out of the darkness and into the light we are still “aliens and strangers” (1 Peter 2:11). We live in a place where our true citizenship will never be, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Did you notice that phrase? We “eagerly wait.” We tend to think of waiting as something which is very passive, as though waiting is what you do when you’re not really doing anything. But here, waiting is presented as something which we do actively and eagerly.

Being a stranger in a land always involves waiting for the time when you will be in the land where you belong. Just a bit after the book of 2 Peter refers to believers as aliens and strangers, it says that we must wait (2 Peter 3:1-13). And we wait with the realization that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). As we live as strangers in a foreign land, we can grow tired and discouraged. We might start asking the question “Are we there yet?” We might even be tempted to stop traveling. In those times, may we “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).