When Should We Wait?

This is a very difficult topic to address. We have felt the agony of having to wait at some point in our lives, probably more than once. Waiting to see if we passed that test we spent all night studying for, waiting for the traffic light to turn green when we’re running late for an appointment. A mother waiting for pains of childbirth to be over, a father waiting to see if his wife will survive a difficult delivery. I could go on and on. There are many examples of waiting, all with varying degrees of stress.

In many cases our patience is rewarded. The mother’s painful ordeal comes to an end and the doctor holds up the new child for her to see, the cancer patient reaches the end of his or her chemotherapy to find themselves cancer free, etc. But it does nothing to ease our stress in the moment. Waiting can feel like dying a slow death at times, the pleas of those around us that we continue being patient can feel like condescension.

In his Letter From Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. rebuked those who told him he must wait for justice. “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.'” How many of us have felt like this regarding social justice issues?

I am not the world’s most patient person. I’m not even a runner up. I often take the warrior’s attitude of defiantly pushing on, I detest wasting my time. And yet, I find my life takes me into many situations that require me to wait. Patiently waiting to hear back from publishers regarding submissions, like that science fiction story I sent off to New Zealand a few weeks ago. Patiently waiting to hear back from prospective employers following a job interview, wondering if I should go ahead and call them now or wait a few days before following up. Sending out application after application, waiting to see if I will ever find employment.

I can get very touchy when I’m told to wait. This has led to my having a high level of distrust for people in positions of authority, be it the leaders of my country and community or leaders of companies. Waiting has rarely paid off for me in the past, so it’s not my favorite thing to do; I dislike most surprises.

But sometimes I find it is the Lord who is telling me to wait. To be still and know, to rest in His peace. Here my impatience works against me, my extreme distrust of people can make it difficult to trust God to have my best interests at heart. I often grow impatient with God, with His timetable. But God is not people. When God tells me to wait, He is not debating my worthiness of His plans. He is telling me to pay attention and relax so I don’t miss the wonders He has in store for me.

Who is telling us to wait? Do they have our best interests at heart? What is our worth in their eyes? What are we doing with ourselves in the meantime? Patience doesn’t have to make us idle. What do our hearts tell us to do?