“Waiting is our destiny as creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for. We wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light; we wait in fear for a happy ending we cannot write. We wait for a not yet that feels like a not ever. Waiting is the hardest work of hope.” Lewis Smedes
The other day a young mom asked if we could meet for
coffee. I had no idea what she wanted to talk about so when she said, “I want to ask what you’ve learned about waiting.” I’m sure my expression must have conveyed the incredulity I felt. I wanted to say, “What??! Waiting is one of my WORST things!
Couldn’t you ask about Gilmore Girls trivia or how to hone spy skills so you’re ready in case the CIA calls? Those are my good things!
But no, it was waiting she was struggling with. At least I could empathize because I’ve done a lot of it.
I remember the time I got trapped in my OBGYN’s exam room, sitting in my lovely paper gown on a table for an hour “And NO PHONE!” to call and remind someone I was there. Tiptoeing paper-garbed to the front desk did not seem to be a reasonable choice, and I thought as soon as I got dressed the Dr. would show up.
Even if not stuck in a Dr.’s office, most of us are waiting for something. Waiting for a job or a baby or a husband or healing or whatever.
Turns out a lot of us can relate to not being good “wait-ers”. The Today Show talked about a recent study that said:
- 80% of us would describe ourselves as “very impatient”.
- 90% of us will take a bite of something too hot and burn our tongue because we’re unwilling to wait for it to cool.
- Most of us will hang up after less than 1 minute on hold.
So what can we do about this?
I love Holly Furtick’s take on waiting. She says, “Your ‘waiting room’ experience, even if it is long and painful, can be God’s most productive ‘work room.'”
Ben Patterson writes, “Very often what happens to me while I’m waiting is more important than what it is I think I’m waiting for.”
As I’ve been reflecting on my friend’s struggle, I’ve come up with three questions that have been helpful to me:
1. Who/what do I trust? I can trust in me and my specific view of what I’m waiting for, or I can trust in God. When we hold our dreams with open hands we may find that God will refine them or reframe them. It may turn out that His plans are actually better for us than ours.
2. What can I be grateful for today? When we’re waiting we can spiral into focussing on our unfulfilled dreams and end up bitter and complaining. But when we focus on what we have to be grateful for, it can change our attitude.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing,so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.Philippians 2:14, 15
3. What is my part today?
I’m a first-born rule-follower. My husband, John, not so much. Rules are more like guidelines in his mind. So when it’s late night, dark, no cars anywhere around, and there’s a red light, he may occasionally creep through the intersection, while I close my eyes and yell “We’re not supposed to DO this!!!”
Forcing things to happen in our timing is a huge temptation when we’re waiting. Abraham and Sarah made the mistake of trying to do God’s work for Him when Sarah didn’t get pregnant when she thought she should. They decided to “help God out” and have Abe sleep with the maid. NOT a good plan.
But waiting isn’t passive. Preoccupy yourself with fulfilling God’s purpose for you today rather than obsessing about tomorrow. Look for what you can do that will make your waiting room into a work room.
That’s all I’ve got. What about you? What are you waiting for? What helps you to wait well?