Friday, September 30, 2011

What? Me, Wait? Why?

If there is a trait that typifies most Americans, it’s that we hate to wait – for anything.

We hate waiting in line for our first cup of coffee of the day. Fast food’s too slow. Waiting in line at the bank or grocery store aggravates us. If drivers ahead of us hesitate more than two seconds when the light turns green, we honk our horns to wake them up. We even hate waiting for the microwave’s beep that announces our frozen meal is ready.

Our nation’s culture has a “Can-Do” spirit, with emphasis on Do. We want to move on, get things done. We don’t want to have to wait. Where’s the fun in that?

Even as children we quickly learn an aversion for waiting. Babies want their bottles “right now!” Youngsters demand immediate gratification for whatever they’re desiring at the moment. And as days until Christmas start clicking away, anxiety about Santa and what will be under the tree intensifies by the moment.

But there are benefits to waiting: You can’t plant a garden and expect ripe fruit the very next day. The finest wines aren’t produced overnight; they often age for years. A caterpillar transforming into a butterfly must wait until the right moment to leave the cocoon. Having to await the arrival of a long-absent loved one makes their appearance even sweeter.

Another kind of development also requires waiting: Spiritual growth. Repeatedly in the Scriptures, followers of Jesus are advised to wait. One of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible – Psalm 37 – three times instructs us to wait:    
      - Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7).
     -  “…those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land” (Psalm 37:9).
     - “Wait for the Lord and keep his way…” (Psalm 37:34).

Psalm 46:10 uses a different word, but the same meaning: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Another passage encourages those wrestling with physical difficulties or facing circumstances that threaten to overwhelm them: “…they who 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).

Why is waiting so important? Parents and grandparents know even if they want to respond to their children or grandkids immediately, sometimes they can’t because things aren’t ready yet – whether it’s freshly baked cookies, a costume they’re sewing, or a much-anticipated trip.

Sometimes God seeks to teach us patience, a virtue increasingly rare in this 21st century world. “I want what I want – and I want it now!” is an affront to the loving God who gives us far more than we deserve.

And waiting reminds us of our limitations – and of how much we need God. When we easily resolve problems on our own, we might say we trust the Lord, but we’re relying on ourselves. But when difficulties persist no matter how we try to overcome them, God will demonstrate for us what only He can do. In the process, our faith and trust soar.

So whether anxiously waiting to find a new job; agonizing about what the medical report will say about a worrisome illness; awaiting the proverbial “check in the mail,” or fretting because you haven’t heard back from a loved one, remember:

Why wait? Because it’s good for you. Good things DO come to those who wait!

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