We spend a lot of our life waiting for things, for our place in line to move forward, for some momentous occasion to finally take place, for life to happen to us! As infants we wait to be fed and held and changed, and if you stop and think about it those things are never satisfied. We will always find ourselves hungry again, we will always long for love in some fashion, and we will always strive for change either in ourselves or in the world around us. But so often these things depend on the whims or commitments of other people. We pursue a dream, some change we want to see in our lives, but we need others to help us achieve it. We age, and people hold us at arm's length instead of hugging us tight. Like abandoned children, the elderly wait for food and love and eventually, for death to claim them.
You could call this the circle of life, just the way things are, and that's true. But I think there is more to all this waiting than we realize. I think God values our patient endurance and has lessons to teach us along life's winding path.
Three times in the book of Revelation (NIV 1984 version) John writes about having "patient endurance that are ours in Jesus" and "patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints" and "patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus."
In James we are told that "the testing of your faith produces perseverance." Perseverance, patient endurance, waiting...In waiting we persevere, and as we persevere, we grow in patience.
No one really likes that patience word though. We are a culture of instant everything. We change channels by remote in an instant on the TV, heat food in a microwave in mere seconds, drive through to do everything from banking to purchasing coffee on the go. We have little patience with doctor's waiting rooms, traffic jams, or long lines at Christmastime. We grow restless at the slightest provocation, when really, isn't our impatience a sign of self-centeredness, as though no one else matters as much as we do?
I think the hardest waiting comes though in waiting on God to act, especially when our prayers are years in the waiting and the answers seem as distant as the moon. I felt that way many times in the 20 years I hoped to sell a manuscript. The wallpaper in God's waiting room looked all too familiar, and I despaired that I had misread His plans for my life. My prayers were often and desperate, sometimes humble, sometimes hurting and angry, especially when I filed away yet another rejection letter.
Dreams are like that for so many of us. We have goals and big plans for our future, and we do all in our power to reach them, but then...we wait. Perhaps we are out of work and we have filed hundreds of applications and lain awake nights worrying, praying, and yet...nothing.
Perhaps we have watched friend after friend find the man or woman of their dreams, while we feel lost, wondering if God has anyone out there meant to love us as our husband or wife?
Perhaps we are the one who has been to every infertility clinic and sat through the baby showers of too many friends, holding back the tears of our own barrenness.
And as the years pass, we have sat at the bedside of a loved one, watching them suffer and suffer, and yet God does not relieve their suffering and take them home to be with Him. Or we see a friend who grieves the choices of a child or the loss of a partner, and we stand by helplessly and watch and pray, and yet...nothing changes.
And we cry and we ask the "why?" questions, and we tap our foot in impatience, and still God says, "wait." The time is not yet. It is coming, but only in His timing.
At the end of Revelation, Jesus says, "I am coming soon." And to us, "soon" means quickly, right now!, instantly! Waiting does not mesh with "soon." And yet God also says that there must be "patient endurance" on the part of the saints- those who know Jesus.
I think God places a lot of value on patience, and He uses waiting to help us to learn it well. Someday soon we will know and understand.
But for now...through joys and trials...we wait.