The Purpose of Qavah

When was the last time you qavahed for something? I’ll give you a hint: as you smelled your mystical caffeinated brew fill your mug or tapped your foot as your toddler used “the big potty” or watched train cars charge across the road, you were qavah-ing.

I came across this word in a book about the Sabbath and as soon as I read it, it stopped me in my tracks. How come I’ve never come heard this before?

Qavah has two meanings, a literal and a figurative one. Literally it means to bind together like the making of a cord. Figuratively, it means to…wait for it...wait.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t use rope a lot in my day-to-day life. I don’t climb mountains, sail, or haul large loads around. So in preparation for this piece, I looked up the rope making process.

In medieval ropemaking, three individual cords (or however many) were secured on hooks and twisted together to form a full rope. You can see the “vintage” ropemaking process here.

Leaving the wooden crank and gears behind, the ropemaking process is now beautifully choreographed through automation. Depending on the purpose of the rope, different threads are braided over an inner core of tough, durable material, ready to dangle a climber off a rock face, or hoist sails over a yacht.

Yet through these different stages, much tension is present as the strands are pulled taught and oversized bobbins weave in and around the core like waltzing dancers.

Tension. I tend to view the tension of waiting as wholly negative, so this image of qavah, of twisting and braiding my faith to make it stronger, able to bear bigger loads infused me with courage. It gives a productive view to waiting. A purpose to waiting.

Because if you’ve been a believer for any length of time, chances are you’ve had to wait on God.

A Purpose in the Waiting

The fact that there could even be value to waiting is a something our culture brushes aside on their way to open the next app, to avoid traffic, or to microwave their meal. Waiting is viewed as a weakness, as a failure, as a disease that you need to be cured of like, right now.

However, God places great value on delays. Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years with a bunch of complainers (aka PEOPLE LIKE US) and never even got to walk in the promised land. Abraham was an old man before he was a dad. Noah worked on the ark for at least 100 years before the flood came. The list could go on.

God views waiting differently than we do. Waiting is not a malady that strikes God’s people, but a tool for growth. Waiting is a tool that, if we let it, will restore our strength, not deplete it. We see it right here in this familiar passage from Isaiah.

“but they who qavah (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)

Did you catch that? The waiting—not frantic action or complaining or worrying—is what braids our faith together so we have the strength to walk, run, and even soar.

Waiting Wisely

When you are in a waiting season for something that is in line with God’s will, waiting doesn’t mean twiddling your thumbs. Waiting means taking the strands of God’s promises and weaving them around your soul as circumstances weigh on you.

We are refined through this process. Our core is strengthened. Dead parts are trimmed away. Painful, yes. But fruitful? You bet. In the midst of a such a season, we must continually ask for God’s wisdom to wield waiting wisely.

What might that look like?

  •   It means doing less, not more.

  •   It means asking different questions of the Lord: not “Why am I going through this?” but “What is that you want me to learn?” or “How do I grow closer to you?”

  •    It means feeding your soul on the word, sitting under wise counsel, and reflecting on the promises of God.

  •    It means serving and encouraging others.

Last month marked five years of trying to start a family for my husband and I, so I latch onto any insights into what it means to wait. And to wait well.

In regards to our situation, while we are barren right now, we are not infertile. Multiple doctors have confirmed there is nothing medically insurmountable standing in our way to conceiving children on our own. But for reasons unknown to any doctors or to us, God has kept my womb closed for five years. Sixty months. One thousand eight hundred days.

And so we wait.

We are very aware of other options that are available to us, but each time we have approached them, God has clearly said, “No, wait on me. I will act.” Are any of those other paths wrong or a sin? No. But they are not in the right timing for us.

And so we qavah.

What are you waiting on? Healing? A career breakthrough? A marriage miracle? Children to return to the Lord? Have you prayed the prayers, said all the words, done all the things? I feel you, brother and sister. I too have come to the end of my own resources. And God has had to remind me—us— that He really is telling us to wait.

Whatever you are waiting for, there is an opportunity to wield your delays wisely. I invite you to look with fresh eyes on the purpose of waiting.

We need more examples of intentional waiting in the church. We have enough examples of impatience and frustration and despondency to last us a lifetime. So let’s make a different choice.

As you pray instead of worry, as you speak with hopeful (but honest words), as you keep your eyes on him instead of the waves, remember that you are braiding, twisting, your faith to soar above the circumstances.

You will run and not grow weary, you will walk and not faint.

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:25-26 NIV)