Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him. (Isaiah 30:18—NKJV)

One of the most difficult questions for a believer to field is the question, “How can God allow this bad thing to happen to me?” It is difficult to answer for two reasons. One reason is that the inquirer may not want to hear the answer. God has given an answer in the Bible already, but the person does not want to hear it (i.e. when the person has lived in direct violation to biblical command and the consequence that befalls him was predicted in the Scriptures—as sure as night follows day). One of the great mental maladies of today’s “liberated” mind is that thinking is done with the emotions instead of logic. Clear answers from God do not satisfy hurt sensibilities and his feeling of “injustice.” It is difficult to speak reality to such a closed-minded individual.

Another reason for difficulty is that we simply do not know the mind of God. We are ill-equipped to “connect the dots” between His covenant loyalty and the trial that has befallen us. When there is no act of sin for which a bad circumstance can be blamed, then we must fall back upon what is known of God’s nature as revealed in the Word of God—that is where the only sure answer can be found to satisfy the troubled heart.

One passage that ought to be inscribed upon the believer’s heart for “when bad things happen to good people” is our text cited above. The thirtieth chapter of Isaiah speaks of four ways people treat God: Men often ignore God (verses 1–7), or they deny God (verses 8–14), or they refuse God (verses 15–18), or they pursue God (verses 19–33). Our verse is the beginning of the fourth section addressing men who pursue God.

All who know the Living and unblemished God know that God promises to surround them with His grace (God bears Himself toward His own with favor). Romans 8:28 states, “all things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose.” God displays His favor in the life of those who are His as Psalm 34:8–9 entreats, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.”

God’s compassion is first experienced in the believer’s life through God’s forgiveness, as Psalm 78:38–39 states, “But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath; for He remembered that they were but flesh, breath that passes away and does not come again.” David further declares in Psalm 86:15, “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” That great psalm (23) that promises God’s presence even in the valley of the shadow of death ends with these words, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow [pursue] me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Jeremiah records in Lamentations 3:22–23, “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Our Isaiah passage provides a little hint as to why it appears God is absent when an obedient believer is besieged by major problems in life. When God waits to bring release from a trial, His inaction feels to the saint as if God has forgotten, or does not care that he hurts, or He is too far above the believer’s “little” cares, or some other sinful suspicion. This verse cries out the truth that God tarries so that He may be gracious (show favor) to you! He appears to withdraw on high (be exalted) in order to show mercy (love displayed with compassion). Lest we take umbrage with God’s decisions and His timing, Isaiah reminds us that Jehovah (the covenant keeping God) is a God of justice; He is right and He does only right. Therefore, how uniquely blessed are all those who trustingly wait for Him.

Waiting upon the Lord is not for the faint of heart, nor is it only the saints who wait. Our verse says that the Lord waits as well—in the very first phrase of the verse. The Hebrew word for wait means “to wait with an earnest expectation and longing, with a desire for something. Be assured that God waits with a keen, longing desire to cradle you, and cover you, in His grace! Wait expectantly upon the Lord! Trust and obey.