Most of us spend a good deal of our lives waiting. Waiting for weekend, for warmer weather, for football season, for payday, for evening, for our ship to come in …
But these are just things we would like. There are, of course, many more serious aspects to waiting in life: waiting for recovery from injury, for reconciliation with estranged loved ones, for urgent needs such as employment, freedom from pain or other important things. These are the situations where having to wait can be a challenge, and in some cases even a trial. The answer to this kind of waiting is ultimately faith in God’s ability to work things out in our lives, but there are also some things we can do to help ourselves while we wait.
Those who do studies of efficiency in the business world, who perhaps understand waiting better than most of us, tell us that when we are waiting for things we tend to switch into a “neutral” mode and don’t produce as much. We often spend more time and energy in waiting mode than we do in relaxation or productive work. But the more we can focus on our overall goals – the really important things we are working toward – the less we are frustrated by smaller, less significant, waiting and the more productive we are as we wait.
The Bible shows us that this type of goal-focused patience can be applied both short and long term. Notice what David says about short-term waiting: “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:83). By waiting “expectantly” David meant that he waits, trusting the outcome. Believing the outcome of something we have taken to God will be in our best interests helps us in waiting and allows us to get on with other things.
The same is true in the long term as we see in those famous words of Job: “All my appointed time I will wait till my change comes” (Job 14:14 KJV). This is not passive waiting, as a careful reading of the Book of Job shows. If we focus on the truly big picture, it can not only help get us through short-term problems and waiting, but also it allows us to keep moving toward our overall goals, our life purposes.
And there is another aspect to this that we should keep in mind. We tend to only see waiting from our own perspective, rather than from the perspective of God, but the Bible indicates that God is often waiting for us just as much as we are waiting for Him: “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation ...” (2 Peter 3:15). God focuses on the big goals of what He is accomplishing in human life, but He doesn’t just tell us what to do and sit back and wait – He actively works with us while He waits patiently for us to grow as He desires.
So If we can focus on the big goals in our lives when we are in waiting mode, we can produce more and often bypass much of the frustration of delays in the smaller things. It’s a principle that provides a simple question we should ask ourselves when we grow restless with the waiting we all have to do in life – whether it’s at home, work, or in some medical waiting room: can we be doing something productive toward our larger goals while we are waiting? The answer is almost always an encouraging one.