“Why does it take so long to get back my blood work?”
“I have to hang on the whole weekend for the test results?”
“What do you mean the doctor can’t see me until next week?”
“This waiting is killing me!”
Ever moaned any of these phrases? I sure have. I once made the mistake of scheduling a barium enema test on a Friday. I thought I would have ulcers by the time I finally got the results on Monday. I jumped every time the phone rang and worried every time it didn’t.
The first few years after I finished chemo, I used to call and talk to the nurses prior to each of my follow-ups so I could get my tumor marker results before I went in for my appointment. I just couldn’t stand to wait.
When I have to wait, my mind begins to wander, the bad little voice of fear starts to pipe up, and I usually begin to think the worst.
A few months after I finished my chemo, I had a CT scan for some terrible abdominal pain I was experiencing. The technician asked me to wait twice while she conferred with another medical person and came back and took more pictures. Each time she came back in the little room and looked at me I became more and more convinced she looked sadder. I should have realized she probably felt sorry for me in my pitiful little blue paper gown, but instead I surmised I must be going to get terrible news.
Finally when she came back in for the third time—even though I knew she wasn’t allowed to say anything about the scan—I blurted out: “Please tell me what’s wrong. I know it must be really bad. Just tell me, I can’t stand this waiting anymore!”
She looked rather puzzled and reassured me that the only thing wrong was that the pictures were not quite clear enough so she had to take another set. I felt better for a moment and then decided she probably was paid to say that to everyone.
I went home and waited for the call from my family physician. When it came, my fear that a new tumor was obstructing my bowel was quickly put to rest. Instead I was told that I needed to take a laxative!
I am convinced that those of us who are planners, who like to be prepared and who relish being in control, make the worst “wait-ers” on the face of the earth. Waiting prevents us from planning, impedes us from being fully prepared, and thwarts our attempt to be absolutely in control of the present as well as the future.
Waiting is a common theme throughout the Bible—after God miraculously freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, they waited in the desert for forty years before He allowed them to enter the Promised Land. Jacob waited fourteen years to marry his beloved Rachel after he was tricked into virtual slave labor by his future father-in-law. The disciples of Jesus waited three very long, agonizing days for Him to rise from the dead.
Often when we wait we become discouraged and are tempted to give up. The Israelites whined and moaned during most of their forty years of waiting. Jacob was furious when he discovered that his father-in-law had tricked him into marrying Rachel’s older sister and he would have to work another seven years to marry Rachel. Following Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples gave up right away and were already back fishing before His resurrection.
When you’re waiting, I have some advice for you. It’s the same advice I tell myself when things are taking too long. Don’t give up. Give in . . . to God.
Go ahead and put yourself at His mercy. That’s where you already are anyway. You might as well as admit it, because when you do then you can start to experience the transforming power that waiting can have on our character.
Don’t get confused. It’s not that the waiting itself changes us—otherwise we all would be pretty wonderful people. After all, everybody has to wait sometimes! But it’s how we respond to the waiting that can be transforming.
I love how author-pastor Rick Warren explains in The Purpose-Driven Life that godly characteristics—things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control— are developed in our lives when we are put in situations in which we are tempted to respond exactly the opposite way.
Patience “is developed in circumstances in which we’re forced to wait and are tempted to be angry or have a short fuse,” Warren writes.
I put this principle into practice one day while I braked for yet another red light on my hurried lunch-hour errand trip. I looked straight at the light, smiled, and said out loud to myself: “I am not waiting for a traffic signal. I am being conformed into the image of Jesus!”
The declaration made me laugh out loud. But I’ll tell you; it was a wonderfully freeing moment. I didn’t squirm waiting for the light to change. I wasn’t frustrated that I wasn’t making good time. I just sat there and enjoyed the presence of God, which supernaturally settled over me.
Try it yourself.
I am not waiting for test results. I am learning to depend more on God.
I am not waiting for a doctor to call me back. I am learning to be patient as God is patient with me.
I am not waiting in cancer’s shadow; I am becoming more like Jesus.
There is no faster way to wait, but there is a better way.