“Hurry up and wait.”
This is the expression my husband and I used when he was being diagnosed with cancer. We would hurry to get a test done, and have to wait for the results. Or hurry to make an appointment with a specialist and we’d wait for the day to come. Hurry to get to the hospital to begin chemo, and wait to see how effective it was. Waiting is so tedious, so fraught with anxiety, such a waste of time.
Waiting in line, waiting for traffic to clear, waiting for an expected package, waiting for something from God to be made clear. All are common waiting experiences.
The other day I was out to lunch with a group of friends. We were talking about the changes we’ve seen in our lives and lamented that kids today live in such an instant world. They expect results immediately. Everything is quick. I stopped everyone, when I said, “I don’t like to wait either. I like being able to get things now.” We laughed, but it’s true. I don’t like the waiting period. Does anyone?
Over the years I’ve learned to cope with some forms of waiting. If I’m in a line at the store, I page through a magazine. If I’m waiting for an appointment, I pull out my phone and read email or play Candy Crunch. But other things I’ve not learned to manage well. Things like traffic, or waiting on God to answer prayers I’ve offered.
We are not a waiting society. We become impatient with the waiting, both for ourselves and for others. We can only pray for something for so long, and give up. We think we need to do something. We think the person we are praying for needs to do something more. We become discouraged. Secretly we can come to the place where we believe that God is no longer listening, He’s as bored with the prayer as we are.
I know, I know:
Let go, and let God.
It’s all in God’s timing.
When He closes one door, He opens another.
These things I know: Moses waited in Midian for forty years, before God called him to lead the people of Israel. Paul went off for thirteen years to learn more fully about Jesus, and was brought into ministry by Barnabas. I know the Jews waited centuries for the Messiah to come. Hannah waited for a baby. Abraham and Sarah waited for the promise of God to come to fruition. Simeon and Anna waited into old age in the Temple for the time when they could see the Messiah with their own eyes. The people of Israel waited until they would be able to enter into the Promised land. Each of these stories has something to teach me about waiting. Waiting on God. Waiting on His promises. The end of the waiting did not occur through the work of any one of these people. It was all dependent on God.
When I wait, I often have Psalm 46:10 rumbling around my head. In the NIV it is “Be still, and know that I am God.” My favorite translation of this verse is from the NASB. It reads, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.”
My past experiences in waiting often has the waiting period end in the most anti-climactic way. When my husband lost his job, we waited and prayed for several anxious months. Then almost like an afterthought, he got a job. Of course, what were we so worried about….
As you can see, for me, waiting has always been seen through a negative lens.
What I’ve learned about waiting is this: I can do what I can, but in the end I can’t do anything. I can carry on with my life. I can pray. I can be angry. I can even cry. But in the end I must wait. I don’t have any control; I don’t have any idea what God is doing; I have no ability to see ahead into God’s purposes.
I must believe that the God who started this journey with me will see it to completion. I believe that God has called me and gifted me, and will use these things for His purposes. I believe that He will never forsake me, and nothing, not even the waiting, will separate me from Him.
So I think this is what Psalm 46:10 is all about. “Cease striving!” (Stop trying so hard! Stop trying to make things happen! Just stop!) “Know that I am God.” (I’ve got your back. Don’t listen to the negativity of the world, I am with you and acting for you.)
Perhaps in the waiting periods of my life, God is and has been developing patience, endurance, and learning to trust Him more.
But maybe, just maybe, in the waiting there is the recognition that things aren’t the way they are meant to be. Waiting just might release hope, a product of expectation. Waiting shows me that there is a better way and a better place. Waiting brings me back to the reality of my salvation, because with waiting I know that this earth is not all there is. Waiting confirms, deep within me, my longing for the kingdom of God.
Waiting, therefore, is a validation of my being a stranger here on earth, and my citizenship in heaven.
Someday all waiting will end, and I will not miss it.
It seems waiting might not be such a waste of time after all.