Whoever enjoys waiting, raise your hand. Next, tell us how long you’ve had problems telling the truth! I doubt any of us has much use for having to wait, although I suppose some can tolerate it more than others.
I hate standing in line at the grocery store, especially behind someone whose casual conversation with the cashier indicates they have nothing to do for the rest of the day. And don’t get me started on my propensity for selecting the slowest-moving line. Sometimes I think traffic lights are programmed with a pernicious capacity for testing our patience. “Come on! Turn green already! What’s the holdup?”
By all accounts, however, waiting at a doctor’s office is the worst. Whether it’s for a wellness visit, sickness, or we’re there for some kind of treatment, we already hate being there. Having to wait only adds to what ails us. Recently I was scheduled for a medical procedure at a local hospital. My wife, who had to drive me home afterward, and I arrived promptly at 8:30 a.m., as instructed. Before long we were guided to a short-stay treatment room and told my case was next. The medical staff should be ready for me a little after 10. So, we waited.
As the clock approached 11, we asked what was going on. “Very soon,” we were told, but noon passed, then 12:30. Apparently the doctors and staff went to lunch. Everybody’s got to eat, right? Except for the patient who hadn’t eaten since 9 the previous evening. “Either get this procedure going,” I thought, “or bring me a cheeseburger!”
They finally took me into the treatment lab just after 1 p.m. The procedure was completed and I awoke from the anesthetic around 3, but we had to stay another eight hours before I was fit to leave! By the time the nurse signed my release, I wanted to run out of there – although they warned that wouldn’t be wise.
The other day my wife was preparing to leave for a day of babysitting with the grandkids when she discovered a tire on her vehicle was flat. She took my car instead, and I called for roadside assistance. Since changing a tire these days has become more complicated than solving a Rubik’s Cube, I willingly endured the 50-minute wait for the repair service to arrive. In this case, the wait was worth it. So I’ve had my share of waiting of late. It’s not fun, but sometimes it’s necessary.
Waiting is integral to the spiritual life as well. Many times God has said “Go!” and I’ve eagerly gone, but sometimes He’s said, “Wait!” I haven’t been as thrilled with that. Only in hindsight could I discern why I needed to wait – and why the Lord knew exactly what He was doing by keeping me in His “waiting room.”
Reading the Scriptures, it’s amazing how often God requires His people to wait on Him and the fulfillment of His plans. Abraham and Sarah were promised a son, but had to wait years for son Isaac. Joseph was central to the Lord’s plan to save the people of Israel from famine and relocate them to Egypt, but he had to suffer a series of seemingly unjust waits to prepare him for that role.
When time came for the Israelites to be freed from slavery in Egypt, God handpicked Moses to lead the way. But first he had to withstand 40 years in exile. The apostle Paul, following his dramatic conversion on the road to Emmaus, was placed in God’s waiting room for years, “marinating” him until he was ready to serve as a key leader of the early Church.
Faith is an important part of waiting, whether it’s anticipating the nurse calling you back to the examining room, or going into “pause mode” while God carries out His will – His timetable, not ours. When we take to heart God’s promises and accept them by faith, the waiting becomes easier.
For instance, Psalm 46:10 admonishes, “be still and know that I am God.” The only way we can do that is if we trust the Lord’s character, know He’s in control, and is after our best interests. For someone dealing with a terminal disease, that’s easier said than done. But not impossible, as several of my friends have demonstrated.
Psalm 37 presents both an action plan – and an advisory to wait: “Trust in the Lord, and do good…. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.... Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:3-7). Then, in case we missed it the first time, the psalm adds, “…those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth” (verse 9), and “Wait on the Lord and keep His way” (verse 34).
The trusting, delighting and committing aren’t too bad. At least they feel like we’re doing something. It’s the resting and waiting that cause me difficulty.
Through the years, God has taught that if I’m willing to wait, even if reluctantly, He will indeed “do exceeding abundantly beyond anything we could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). Not so sure about that? Just you wait!