Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

The lost art of waiting

IN A WORLD where we get bent out of shape when it takes more than a few seconds for our favorite website to load, we have forgotten how to wait. I saw this sad reality in living color recently when Marcia and I experienced a 29-hour delay on a flight to Europe.

It was instructive to see how different people handled the delay. Some got angry and berated the poor ground staff. Some got quietly irritated and took it out on their families. Some got bored and zoned out into a sort of twilight zone. Some got busy trying to make alternative arrangements. And some kicked back and made friends with those around them.

The worst part about it all was the not knowing. If we had been told from the outset that we would be more than a day late in departing, most of us would probably have adjusted (albeit after a little grumbling).

But that’s the thing about true waiting. If you know when something is going to happen, you aren’t really waiting, even if it is going to be a long time coming. You are just passing the time. True waiting involves uncertainty—not just when, but if.

Most of us are waiting for things far more important than a delayed flight—answers to prayers for loved ones, results of serious health tests, financial breakthrough, a dream job opportunity, or some other sort of door to open. I have done my share of waiting through the years, much of it poorly. From my experiences, I offer the following to all “waiters”:

Real waiting is not passive. For a long time, I made the mistake of confusing inaction with trust. But just giving up is not the same as giving things over to God. There is a difference between trying to make something happen and being ready for when something does. So don’t throw your hands up in despair; lift them in supplication and preparation. As Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

Real waiting is not all-encompassing. We have a tendency to lose perspective. Yes, that impending decision, diagnosis, or delivery is quite significant to your life, but it is not everything. Life doesn’t go on hold in all areas because you are waiting in one. There is plenty to be doing in the meantime. Micah 6:8 is marching orders for each and every day: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Keep busy with the other stuff.

Real waiting is not wasted time. We are probably not going to know this side of eternity why some things take so long to come to pass. When we are no longer prisoners to time, we will be better positioned to understand how “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). We will surely see more clearly all the other moving pieces that had to come into alignment before we got what we were waiting on. We may also have a deeper appreciation for all the good that came through being on hold: the strengthening of our character, the pruning of our desires, the deepening of our faith.

A postscript to our flight delay: once everyone landed in England, the setback didn’t seem quite as life-and-death as it had the previous day. Most people (Brits traveling back from a Disney World vacation) were simply glad to be home. And learning that there would be a several-hundred-dollar compensation check didn’t hurt, either.

And I suspect that when we all finally get to our true home and see what God has for us there, we will see any waiting as merely the “light momentary affliction” Paul wrote of in 2 Corinthians 4:17.

Photo by Marco Nürnberger on Foter.com/CC BY

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