When I was little, whenever I and my parents would have to stand in line somewhere or whenever I had to wait for my mother to finish talking before I could speak, my parents would always tell me to be patient. I learned that, “patience is a virtue,” and, “Good things come to those who wait.” But what does that actually mean? What does it mean to be patient?
I have thought about this a lot this summer since we have travelled a lot. Traveling, in case you didn’t realize, requires a lot of waiting. Half of our travel time is not actually spent on a plane, but sitting in a terminal, waiting in the ticket line, waiting in line for security, waiting in line for immigration, sitting on the plane waiting for it to take off…. the list goes on and on. And of course there are situations in life that require much more serious kinds of waiting. Everyday someone is waiting to hear back from the doctor about a diagnosis, waiting to hear from God about which college to go to or which job to take, waiting for a phone call from a loved one, waiting, waiting, waiting. I find myself constantly in a state of limbo and most of the time there is nothing I can do to speed up the process.
I believe that there are several options you have when it comes to waiting. One option is to complain. It takes up time, and if you can get someone else to join in it might make you feel a little better for the time. Complaining isn’t just verbal, either. You can complain with an expression, and you can complain in your thoughts. But the truth is that complaining doesn’t help. It makes you grumpy, and it makes the wait feel even longer. And if the outcome isn’t one that you hope for, it leaves you bitter. Another option is to do nothing, or to do something useless. You stand in line and stare off into space hoping that if you daydream long enough the line will move forward. Or you stare down at your phone refreshing your Facebook newsfeed even though nothing new is coming up. If your are dealing with something more serious than waiting in a line, it might mean that you are non-responsive to those around you or that you crawl under your covers and hide from the world. This option doesn’t seem all that bad on the surface, but it isn’t helpful either. This is still a form of feeling sorry for yourself, whether or not you are willing to admit it. Finally, you can choose to wait actively. This means that you take every opportunity you have to be an encouragement to others and to use the time you have for the glory of God. Who can you chit chat with in the check out line to make it go faster? How can you use this moment to teach your children a lesson? How can you be a light for Christ in your darkest moment when the world says that you should be running away? How do your reactions to your time of waiting encourage those around you?
Now I realize that there are some people out there dealing with really heavy things. There are times when you may not feel like getting out of bed, and it’s a good day if you can do that much. I am not telling you to suck it up and be happy. If you are dealing with something serious, me telling you to be a light for Jesus probably feels like I’m pouring lemon juice on a cut. Jesus did not call us to suck it up and be happy. BUT he did call us to trust in him, and lean not on our own understanding.
Psalm 62:5-8 says this: “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God;he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”
Waiting actively means to rest. Does that sound like an oxymoron? It means that you are not worried about the future, and you are not stressed or agitated over having to be still for awhile. It means that you trust that God has everything under control, and you bless his name as you wait to see what he has in store. You continue to do what you can do in this moment to encourage others and to lead your family.
I know this post isn’t a fix all for all problems, but I hope that it is an encouragement and a challenge to you today.