Waiting Is a Spiritual Workout

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler

An image of a woman wearing jeans and sneakers. She's standing and one foot is crossed over the other.

I’m not a good waiter. I don’t mean the kind that works in a restaurant (though I wouldn’t be good at that either). I’m talking about the fact that I dislike waiting for anything. That’s why I’m rarely early, because I don’t like waiting around. I haven’t the patience.

Waiting is boring and painful. It’s not for busy people like me. Except that it is, because I’m human and human beings have to wait at times. I’m also a human being who belongs to God, and God often commends us for waiting.

As a not-very-good-waiter, at least I’m in good company. Look at Job’s chutzpah in asking the question: “Why must the godly wait for him [God] in vain? (24:1) He wanted to know why God allowed the wicked to prevail. And what about the author of the longest psalm in the Bible? This man could not stop praising God for the perfection of his law. Neither could he keep himself from lamenting God’s apparent slowness in bringing justice to law breakers, exclaiming “How long must I wait?” (119:84). Surely waiting for justice must be one of the hardest kinds of waiting a person will ever have to do.

And then there’s waiting on a promise to be fulfilled or a prayer to be answered.  Waiting is hard because it exposes our weakness, our inability to control things. We think we know what’s best but we haven’t the power to make “the best” happen.  Or we dislike the feeling that comes when problems aren’t resolved. We want closure. Forced to wait, we do it reluctantly, praying and churning with worry.

Sometimes wisdom requires that we act and act decisively. But when waiting is called for how should we conduct ourselves? The Bible suggests that our times of waiting should be active and not passive. They should be like visits to a gym where instead of sitting around we use the time to do bench and shoulder presses, lateral raises and crunches. Just as we should be in a little better shape when we walk out of a gym, times of waiting should make us stronger because we have been exercising whatever patience, faith, and courage we already have. Waiting on God should also improve our ability to hear his voice, because we have made space in ourselves to actively listen.

Even though I’m still not an accomplished waiter, I think my skills have improved over the years. Though my natural tendency is toward action, God has helped me realize that I often need to wait to act until I have the wisdom to act well. Experience has also taught me to avoid making hard and fast plans about the future because the future keeps surprising me. Because I can recognize God’s faithfulness in the past, I can more peacefully wait for his guidance in the present. Even my failures have been valuable because I’ve learned how foolish it is to let fear and desire drive my decisions rather than waiting patiently for God’s guidance.

What are you waiting for today? Instead of giving in to frustration and impatience, why not ask God to help you use this time as a spiritual workout, helping you to cooperate with his Spirit so that you will come out stronger and not weaker.

 
Originally published July 11, 2018.

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