The Problem of Learning to Wait
LEARNING to wait for the things we want is probably one of the hardest lessons we humans are ever called upon to accept. Small children are by nature impatient. Whatever catches their eye, they want, and they want it now! But as you may know from experience, it is a fact of life that not everything is available on demand. Even in the case of legitimate desires, we must learn to wait for a proper time to satisfy them. Many learn this lesson; others never do.
People wanting to gain divine approval have particular reasons for learning to wait. Jeremiah, a pre-Christian servant of Jehovah, stressed this: “Good it is that one should wait, even silently, for the salvation of Jehovah.” Later, the Christian disciple James said: “Exercise patience, therefore, brothers, until the presence of the Lord.”—Lamentations 3:26; James 5:7.
Jehovah has his own timetable for the outworking of divine purposes. If we are unable to wait until his due time for doing certain things, we will become dissatisfied and discontented, which will stifle joy. Without joy a servant of God will become spiritually weak, as Nehemiah told his countrymen: “Joy in the LORD is your strength.”—Nehemiah 8:10, The New English Bible.
The Wisdom of Learning to Wait
It is a natural desire for single persons to want to get married or for childless couples to want to raise a family. Moreover, there is nothing wrong in having our eye set on the satisfying of proper material needs or desires. Nevertheless, because of believing that the days of this system of things are numbered and that in the coming new system God will ‘open his hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing,’ many Christians have decided to wait to fulfill some of these desires at a more appropriate time.—Psalm 145:16.
People without this well-grounded Christian hope, however, will see little reason for postponement. Lacking faith in Jehovah, from whom “every good gift and every perfect present” comes, they question the wisdom of pushing things off into a future that they doubt will ever come. They live by the credo: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.”—James 1:17; 1 Corinthians 15:32; Isaiah 22:13.
In developed nations the world of advertising takes advantage of the unmistakable trend toward instant gratification. People are encouraged to pamper themselves. Commerce would have us believe that modern conveniences and comforts are absolute necessities. Why do without, it is argued, especially when credit cards, installment plans, and “buy now—pay later” schemes make it possible to have it all and to have it now? Besides, ‘You deserve the best; be kind to yourself! Remember, either enjoy it now or possibly never!’ So popular slogans claim.
Meanwhile, tens of millions of people in developing lands scrape along on bare necessities—or even less. Could anything more graphically point up the imperfection and injustice of human political and economic systems?
The wisdom of learning to wait is seen in that millions of people unwilling to do so—or at least seeing no reason to do so—have gone heavily into debt to satisfy immediate desires. Unforeseen circumstances, such as sickness or unemployment, may mean disaster. The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung explained why a reported one million persons in Germany are homeless: “Typically, homelessness is often preceded by unemployment or excessive debts.”
Unable to pay their bills, many such unfortunate individuals suffer the tragic loss of both home and possessions. All too often, increased stress brings family tension. Shaky marriages begin to break up. Bouts of depression and other health problems become commonplace. In the case of Christians, spirituality may suffer, leading, in turn, to wrong thinking and improper conduct. People who started out by unwisely wanting everything end up having almost nothing.
For Many, a New Challenge
Jesus made it plain that we should beware lest “the anxieties of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches and the desires for the rest of the things make inroads and choke the word.” (Mark 4:19) We should keep in mind that no political system has successfully eliminated the anxieties, including economic ones, of which Jesus spoke.
The Communism that Eastern European countries have now rejected tried to equalize things by means of a State-controlled economy. In contrast with the free enterprise system, the former system provided individuals in those lands a certain economic security that capitalism often fails to give. Still, the anxieties about which Jesus spoke existed in the form of shortages of consumer goods and curtailment of personal freedom.
At present, many of those countries are introducing market economies, thus presenting their citizens with a new challenge. A recent report says: “Naivety is combined with the desire to reach quickly the western standard of consumption.” To achieve this “a growing number of people in the new Länder in eastern Germany are drifting into the whirlpool of indebtedness.” The report adds: “After the initial euphoria over the new economic freedom fear and despair are now spreading.” Anxieties remain, but now they are clothed in capitalistic dress.
Greater political and economic freedoms have opened up new possibilities for economic betterment. Hence, many individuals may be tempted to give serious consideration to the idea of starting their own business or of moving to another country with better employment opportunities.
Decisions like these are personal matters. It is not wrong for a Christian to want to improve his economic circumstances. He may be motivated by a desire to care for his family, being aware that “if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.”—1 Timothy 5:8.
It is, therefore, inappropriate to criticize the decision that others make. At the same time, Christians should remember that it is unwise to seek economic relief by incurring excessive debt that could ensnare them. It would likewise be wrong to seek economic relief in a way that involved neglecting spiritual obligations and interests.
Learning From Others
In the years following World War II, thousands of Germans emigrated from war-torn Europe to other countries, particularly Australia and Canada. Many were thereby able to improve their economic situation, but none of them were able to escape totally the economic anxieties about which Jesus spoke. Solving economic problems sometimes created new problems—homesickness, a strange language, getting used to new foods, different customs, fitting in with new friends, or coping with different attitudes.
Some of these emigrants were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Commendably, most of them refused to allow the problems peculiar to emigration to choke their spirituality. But there were exceptions. Some fell victim to the deceptive power of riches. Their theocratic progress failed to keep pace with their economic well-being.
Certainly this illustrates the wisdom of carefully analyzing our situation before making possibly unwise decisions. Materialistic tendencies will slow us down in the never-to-be-repeated work of disciple-making that Christians are assigned to do. This is true regardless of where we live, since there is no country whose citizens are free of economic anxieties.
Fighting the Fine Fight
Paul admonished Timothy: “Pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, mildness of temper. Fight the fine fight of the faith, get a firm hold on the everlasting life for which you were called.” To Corinthian Christians he said: “Become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord.”—1 Timothy 6:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Following this fine counsel is the best way to combat materialism successfully, and there is certainly plenty for a Christian to do! In some countries where the number of Kingdom preachers is not large, multitudes of people have had only limited access to the truth. Jesus accurately foretold: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.”—Matthew 9:37.
Rather than allow economic anxieties in these countries to sidetrack them from the spiritual work at hand, Jehovah’s Witnesses take advantage of the situation by using to the full current opportunities. When temporarily unemployed, many of them expand their preaching activity. Their service, besides swelling the shout of praise to Jehovah, gives them the joy needed to cope with their own economic problems.
These Witnesses give priority to the preaching work and relegate economic hardships to second place, which demonstrates to the worldwide brotherhood that they implicitly trust in Jehovah to care for them. His promise is: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matthew 6:33.
Since the restoration of true worship in 1919, Jehovah has not allowed his people to falter. He has protected them through severe persecution and in some places through decades of underground activity. Jehovah’s Witnesses are determined that what the Devil failed to achieve by persecution, he will not accomplish by the more subtle snare of materialism!
Learning to Wait in Every Respect
Spacious Kingdom Halls, expensive sound equipment, Assembly Halls, and attractive Bethel homes bring glory to God and offer a silent witness that he is blessing his people. Jehovah’s Witnesses in countries where the work was long banned may feel that in this regard they have a great deal of catching up to do. But what is of foremost importance is that they keep in stride spiritually. The outward indications of God’s blessing in a material way will follow in due time.
Dedicated servants of Jehovah need to be watchful lest, in the pursuit of personal interests, they begin to feel that they have done without certain material things long enough. Yearning for relief from economic and social inequalities is understandable, but Jehovah’s people do not overlook that all of God’s servants are yearning for relief. The blind yearn to see again, the chronically ill yearn for restored health, the depressed yearn for a bright outlook, and the bereaved yearn to see their dead loved ones again.
Because of circumstances, every Christian is in some respect forced to wait for Jehovah’s new world to solve his problems. This should make us ask ourselves, ‘If I have sustenance and covering, should I not be content with these things and be willing to wait for relief from economic problems?’—1 Timothy 6:8.
Christians who fully trust in Jehovah can be assured that if they are just willing to wait, all of their proper desires and needs will soon be satisfied. No one will have waited in vain. We repeat Paul’s words: “Become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 15:58.
So should learning to wait really be such a big problem?
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Learning to wait can save your life