If there is one thing people in our generation hate to do, it is to wait. And why should we? We are an impatient generation that can Google questions rather than work for an answer. We can order shoes online rather than suffering the long weekend lines at the retail store. We can even book reservations ahead of time rather than wait for a table at our favorite establishment.
But God doesn’t operate any faster in the 21st century than He did in the first. And so while we rush ourselves and everything else in our lives, we can’t rush God. In fact, much of life is spent waiting.
Waiting for a response to a book proposal.
Waiting to hear from a potential employer.
Waiting for a medical diagnosis.
Waiting to meet your spouse.
Waiting for a letter from your top choice for college.
While our natural inclination is to hate waiting, this period of uncertainty can actually be a time of great personal growth. Here are three lessons I learned while in the “waiting room” of life:
Recognize that God is in control—even when it seems He has forgotten you.
I love the words to the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk:
"Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it” (Habakkuk 1:5, NLT).
Often when it seems nothing is happening, everything is happening behind the scenes. You just can’t see it.
For a few years, I felt God calling my wife and me to another ministry, but it seemed every door was closed. At times I grew restless and wondered if I had fallen into some kind of godless abyss. What I didn’t see was the circumstances God had to work out in order to put me where I am today, as a senior pastor of a growing church. The machinery of God’s sovereignty was at work all along, and I just didn’t know it.
Renew your faith in God’s quiet, steady providence.
A few years ago, my wife and I were waiting on several important family and career developments. To quell my anxiety, I did a study on waiting in the Scriptures. I was amazed to find that every major figure in the Bible was forced to wait long periods of time before God brought them to a place of success.
Abraham waited 25 years before his wife Sarah gave birth to their first child.
Joseph slogged through 13 years of betrayal, false imprisonment and abandonment before assuming the leadership of Egypt.
Moses spent 40 years tending sheep before God called him as a deliverer of His people.
David spent 14 years before he took the throne of Israel that had been promised to him.
And in Jesus’ own ministry, He often told His disciples, “My hour has not yet come.”
Waiting is not incidental to faith. Waiting is the DNA of faith.
Redeem your time in the waiting room of life.
A few years ago, my wife endured some terrible health challenges. I literally spent hours in waiting rooms all over the Chicago area. This was before the age of iPhones, so I was forced to sit there, twiddling my thumbs or reading three-year-old magazines with outdated information. I hated every second of it.
We often do the same during our own waiting periods. So anxious are we for that “next step,” we languish in despair. But James 1:4 reminds us to “let patience have her perfect work.”
Just because you are technically waiting doesn’t mean you can’t be accomplishing something. Times of uncertainty and doubt are useful periods in which we can draw into God, hone our skills and prepare for the time when that big promotion comes.
A single man or woman should ready him or herself for marriage while still single by reading books about relationships, developing themselves personally and praying for their future spouse.
A future employee can get a leg-up on the position he covets by taking a few extra college classes or diving into books and podcasts by leaders they respect.
A writer should continue to cultivate his craft, reading and filling blank pages while he’s waiting for the big contract.
View your time in “the waiting room” as a season of growth and development and you’ll find you’ll be that much more ready when “the moment” finally arrives. Waiting for answers can be one of the most grueling seasons of life, but with the proper perspective, you may look back on these periods as some of the most formative and meaningful times of life. So make the most of it. What are you waiting for?