To wait: to remain stationary in readiness or expectation, to look forward, expectantly, to be ready and available
Psalm 130:5 NIV
Waiting is no fun, unless you know a good surprise is coming. Even then it’s really difficult, isn’t it? Waiting for the small things in life is a nuisance: for your favorite show to start, for the work day to be over, for the waiter to serve your food. Waiting for the bigger things in life can be nerve wracking: planning for a wedding, finishing a college degree, or waiting nine months for a baby to be born. All of these times of waiting have one thing in common: the knowledge that something good is on its way.
How then does waiting change when we’re not guaranteed a reward or a happy ending? This form of waiting requires hope and faith, and that is no easy task!
I have spent the last six years learning about waiting. due to our foster care and adoption journey as well as experiencing ongoing health issues. I know of many people who could speak to the topic of waiting better than I. Six years of discomfort is nothing compared to the 51 years that Joni Eareckson Tada has spent in a wheelchair. Noah spent 100 years building an ark, believing in faith that the rain would come. Then there was David, the Psalmist, who waited much of his life: first to be saved from his enemies and then to finally be crowned King. The Psalms are full of verses about waiting.
Waiting is just tough all the way around. However, during the interim a lot is happening, because while we wait life keeps moving. At first our response to waiting is an attitude of expectation, but then we become frustrated as the answers do not come. This frustration may soon dissolve into doubt. After all “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12a)
There is a helplessness in the waiting, but in this helplessness we learn humility, the extent of our own ability, and our ever-needed dependency on the Lord. We can feel His comfort in greater measures. What, then, besides comfort, are the benefits of having to wait on the hard things?
Patience. Patience is a fruit of the spirit, but it is not an attribute that comes naturally. It certainly takes refinement to produce this fruit. After all, in our culture, we can have practically anything delivered to our doorsteps in two days or less (thank you, Amazon Prime). Everything is instant. The problem is that immediacy does not grow character, and character is hard-won. Patience is defined as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay or suffering without getting angry. It is in places of waiting that the Lord helps us learn the gift of patience.
Endurance. Have you ever watched the track events at the Olympics? The sprinting events are so exciting and powerful! By contrast, the marathon is slow and methodical. It takes more time – more sustained effort – to watch and to run. Even the athletes’ bodies look different. Sprinters are thick with muscle, full of power, while marathon runners are thin, with long, lean muscles. They have conditioned their bodies to sustain the long-distance effort. Unfortunately, the Christian life is not a sprint full of power. It is a long race full of endurance. It’s in the seasons of waiting, where we seemingly can’t escape, that the Lord sharpens our resolve, teaching us how to pace ourselves and breathe. He conditions us so that we can make it through the long race ahead.
Listening. When we tire of crying out for help and beating the air in frustration, we get quiet enough to listen. What is God speaking in the waiting place? His still, small voice is often quite active during the lulls in our lives.
Pause: Sit quietly and take a deep breath. Contemplate one area of your life that you are currently waiting and pray about it. Be attentive to what the Lord may be speaking to you.
Renew: Reflect on a time in your life when you had to wait. What did you learn during that season? How did it refine your character?
Next: Pray for someone in your life that you know is currently waiting. Think of a way that you can offer them encouragement this week.
May we all learn patience, practice endurance, and attune our hearing during our seasons of waiting.
Pause, Renew, Next!