Monday, August 1, 2016

The Weight of the Wait

Waiting, or even having to slow down, cuts against our grain.
TV commercials bombard us with images of juicy hamburgers, delicious-looking pizza, or scrumptious desserts, then we see ads for weight-loss programs or diet drinks. Seem ironic? Either it’s irony – or a conspiracy!

Obviously, the problem of being overweight and the health implications weigh heavily on our society. But there’s a greater burden, even for those who aren’t afflicted with copious pounds: The weight of having to wait.

We don’t like waiting. For anything. Whether it’s at a traffic light waiting for it to turn green, standing in line at the grocery store or post office, or having our high-tech TV take just a few moments to come on, we hate to wait. We want what we want – and we want it NOW.

It’s even more acute when dealing with important issues in our lives – awaiting test results for a worrisome diagnosis; hoping to hear good news after a promising job interview; searching the mail day after day anticipating an acceptance letter from the college we want to attend. With the unrest confronting society, many factors are involved, but among them is the unwillingness of people to wait for desired change.

We’re even wait-resistant when it comes to lifetime achievements. We’d love to become acclaimed musicians, or accomplished business people, or stellar athletes, but are reluctant to invest the thousands of hours necessary for becoming exceptional at our craft. Unfortunately, as Stephen R. Graves wrote recently on his website about leadership, “There is no speed cooking in greatness.”

No one watches pots anymore waiting for them to boil; we lurk with arms folded in front of microwaves waiting for instant meals to be heated. And impatience, this aversion to having to wait for any reason, seems more pronounced with each new generation.

Nevertheless, like death and taxes, waiting is a non-negotiable part of the human experience. Apparently that’s exactly as God intended.

Repeatedly the Scriptures tell us we need to learn to wait – gladly, not grudgingly. Psalm 46:10 tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  When we desperately need or desire something, but feel helpless to bring it about, the discipline of waiting underscores the reality that He’s at work and is the one to fulfill that need.

During difficult times I’ve turned to Psalm 37 for guidance and comfort. It teaches, “Trust in the Lord and do good…. Delight yourself in the Lord…. Commit your way to the Lord…” (Psalm 37:3-5), and each time I’ve thought, “I can do that! Yup, no problem!” But then I come to verse 7, which does pose a problem: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” In case the admonition is missed the first time, it’s revisited in verse 34: “Wait for the Lord and keep his way.”

Oh, man! Who wants to do that, right?

And yet, there’s a certain beauty in waiting. It doesn’t mean sitting on a stump, frozen in place, submitting to God’s mercy. As devotional writer David McCasland explains, “wait in the Bible often means, ‘to look eagerly for, to hope, and to expect.’” As I’ve noted before, biblical hope isn’t “hope so,” but rather earnest expectation or confident assurance.

So when we read in Psalm 25:3, “No one whose hope is in (God) will ever be put to shame,” we can take that promise to the bank, spiritually speaking. We can still be actively involved, doing what we know to do about the situation that’s causing us to wait. At the same time, we can rest in the assurance that our waiting will not be in vain, that the Lord’s timing is perfect, and His resolution will meet or surpass our greatest dreams.

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