Embrace the Wait

November 1, 2022 | Jaci Miller

For bread to finish baking. For the line at the grocery store to move. For a loved one to come to Christ. We all wait for something.

We’ve been conditioned to view waiting as a great evil. That we should avoid it whenever possible. Perhaps a culture of “hurry” began with the move away from agricultural society (whose members inherently had to wait on nature) to the Industrial Age (where machines made everything faster) and worsened in the Digital Era (where on-demand access to, well, everything became standard).

I’m sure waiting has always proved challenging, human nature being what it is. Some 20, 30 years ago Daniel Tiger on an episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” sang, “I think it’s very, very, very hard to wait.”

Yup. Sing it, Daniel.

Waiting has only gotten harder. But, like with many hard things, benefits exist. Did you know that waiting can be desirable? Even a spiritual training ground?

Waiting instructs us in patience. The ability to remain steadfast despite opposition. To be tolerant when you want to slap others silly. Yet God is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9). Waiting and patience must be inextricably linked if we hope to be successful at either. Waiting in a deliberate way can change our attitudes, and waiting plus the right attitude equals patience.

Waiting helps us prioritize. Think of an amusement park. Guests only have so many hours to visit and a large portion of that time is spent in line for the attractions. So, they must choose what they most want to see and do at the expense of the other activities. An expectant mother who awaits her child focuses on different priorities. She uses more of her time to prepare for the child. Simeon, in Luke 2:25-35, awaited the Messiah. He was moved by the Holy Spirit to go to the temple and there he finally met the young Jesus. Simeon went to the temple, not to the market or the town well, because he had been waiting on the Lord. He recognized the important moment and for this he received the blessing of meeting the Messiah. Waiting helps us fix our eyes on what matters most.

Waiting teaches us what to value. Hannah, after a long season of infertility, must have experienced exceptional joy when baby Samuel finally arrived (1 Samuel). We savor Thanksgiving dinner because we anticipated it all year. Wine, cheese, a farmer’s crops (see also James 5:7-8)— all items that increase in value because someone waited on them. When we wait, we value more highly what we receive.

Waiting protects us from disasters. God had promised Abraham a son. And he waited. But not long enough. Abraham hurried into a relationship with a slave to produce a son (Genesis 16). That son, Ishmael, became the forefather of Islam, a religion in contention with Jews and Christians for thousands of years. The Middle East conflict would look very different if Abraham had waited. Waiting protects us from rushing into potential problems. As Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”

Waiting reminds us to be selfless. Sometimes we need to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around us. When we wait, we allow others to be served. Selflessness can look like refraining from barging ahead in a line of traffic. Or letting the overburdened shopper take your place in the checkout line. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love is not self-serving. A willingness to wait reminds us to put others first more frequently.

Waiting trains us in godliness. God is not a vending machine, dispensing His plans on demand. Waiting teaches us to respect Him as the mighty God He is, not a small god that bows to our whims. Plus, waiting on the Lord is a godly habit of many in Scripture. Joseph (as we learned in our recent sermon series) waited through years of twists and turns. Joshua modeled waiting as he wandered with the Israelites in the desert for 40 years. Job waited as he endured suffering after suffering. If for no other reason, we should embrace the discipline of waiting because God’s faithful did. God honored each of these men for their waiting.

So, how do we embrace waiting? Ditch some of our daily conveniences. We skip the expensive FastPass at the theme park. We join the line at Jimmy John’s instead of ordering via the app. We wait in the grocery line instead of self-checking out our items. Easing off the gas (rather than speeding up) at yellow traffic lights. Checking out an actual book from the library, rather than reading it from an instantaneously accessible mobile device. We give up “the hurry” and slow down.

We do these things not for the sake of the slow, but to facilitate our ability to wait. When we can wait patiently, we’re more likely to wait patiently for God.

Refuse to let the hurry culture push you. Use the waiting times to pray and spend time with God. Embrace the wait.