Do You Know How to Wait?
CAN you imagine how much time people spend every year just waiting? They wait in line at the store or at the gasoline station. They wait to be served in a restaurant. They wait to see the doctor or the dentist. They wait for buses and trains. Yes, a surprising amount of time in a person’s life is spent waiting for things to happen. According to one estimate, Germans alone lose 4.7 billion hours a year just waiting in traffic jams! Somebody calculated that this equals the total life expectancy of about 7,000 people.
Waiting can be very frustrating. These days, there never seems to be enough time to do everything, and thinking about those other things that we should be doing can make waiting a real trial. Author Alexander Rose once said: “Half the agony of living is waiting.”
American statesman Benjamin Franklin recognized that waiting can also be costly. Over 250 years ago, he noted: “Time is money.” That is why businesses seek ways to avoid unnecessary delays during work processes. More goods produced in less time can mean greater profits. Businesses that directly serve the public try to offer quick service—fast food, drive-through banking, and the like—because they know that pleasing the customer includes cutting down on waiting time.
Wasting Our Lives Away
Nineteenth-century American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once complained: “How much of human life is lost in waiting!” More recently, author Lance Morrow complained about the boredom and physical discomfort of waiting. But then he spoke of “the subtler misery of waiting.” What is that? “The knowledge that one’s most precious resource, time, a fraction of one’s life, is being stolen away, irrecoverably lost.” Sad, but true. Time lost because of waiting is lost forever.
Of course, if life were not so short, waiting would be less of a cause for concern. But life is short. Thousands of years ago, the Bible psalmist commented: “In themselves the days of our years are seventy years; and if because of special mightiness they are eighty years, yet their insistence is on trouble and hurtful things; for it must quickly pass by, and away we fly.” (Psalm 90:10) Wherever we live and whoever we are, our lives—the days, hours, minutes that lie before us when we are born—are limited. Yet, we cannot avoid situations where we are forced to waste some of that precious time waiting on events or people.
Learning How to Wait
Most of us have experienced being in a car with a driver who is constantly trying to pass the vehicle ahead of him. Often, there is no pressing need—the driver does not have an urgent appointment. Still, he cannot stand having his progress dictated by another driver. His lack of patience betrays that he has not learned how to wait. Learned? Yes, knowing how to wait is a lesson that must be learned. Nobody is born with it. Babies demand instant attention when they are hungry or in discomfort. It is only as they get older that they understand that sometimes they have to wait for what they want. Indeed, since waiting is an inevitable part of life, knowing how to wait patiently when necessary is a mark of a mature person.
Of course, there are urgent situations where impatience is understandable. A young husband rushing his wife to the hospital because their new baby is on its way would justifiably be impatient about delays. The angels urging Lot to leave Sodom were not prepared to wait while Lot delayed. Destruction was imminent, and the lives of Lot and his family were at stake. (Genesis 19:15, 16) In most cases, however, lives are not at stake when people are forced to wait. In those cases, things could be much more pleasant if everyone learned to be patient—even if the waiting was caused by someone’s inefficiency or lack of interest. Moreover, it would be easier to be patient if everyone learned how to use the time spent waiting in a profitable way. The box on page 5 has some suggestions for making waiting not only endurable but even profitable.
It cannot be overlooked that an impatient spirit might betray a prideful attitude, a feeling that one is too important to be kept waiting. For any with such an attitude, the following words from the Bible are worthy of consideration: “Better is one who is patient than one who is haughty in spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8) Haughtiness, or pride, is a serious personality defect, and the Bible proverb says: “Everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah.” (Proverbs 16:5) Learning patience—learning how to wait—may, therefore, require that we take a good look at ourselves and our relationships with people around us.
Patience Will Be Rewarded
We normally find waiting easier if we are convinced that what we are waiting for is worth the delay and that it really will come eventually. In this regard, it is good to reflect on the fact that all sincere worshipers of God are waiting for the fulfillment of his magnificent promises found in the Bible. For example, we are told in a divinely inspired psalm: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” This promise was echoed by the apostle John when he said: “He that does the will of God remains forever.” (Psalm 37:29; 1 John 2:17) Clearly, if we could live forever, waiting would not be a big problem. But we are not living forever right now. Is it even realistic to talk of everlasting life?
Before answering, consider that God created our first parents with the prospect of living forever. It was only because they sinned that they lost that prospect for both themselves and their children—including us. However, immediately after their sin, God announced his purpose to overturn the results of their disobedience. He promised the coming of a “seed,” who turned out to be Jesus Christ.—Genesis 3:15; Romans 5:18.
Whether we as individuals will benefit from the fulfillment of his promises is our decision to make. To do so will take patience. In order to help us learn this kind of patience, the Bible encourages us to meditate on the example of a farmer. He sows his seed and has no choice but to wait patiently—doing what he can to protect his crop—until it is time for the harvest. Then his patience is rewarded, and he sees the fruits of his labor. (James 5:7) The apostle Paul mentions another example of patience. He reminds us of faithful men and women of old. They were looking forward to the outworking of God’s purposes, but they had to wait for God’s appointed time. Paul encourages us to imitate these, “who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”—Hebrews 6:11, 12.
Yes, waiting is an unavoidable fact of life. But it does not have to be a constant source of distress. For those who are awaiting the outworking of God’s promises, it can be a source of joy. They can fill the time spent waiting by cultivating a close relationship with God and doing works that demonstrate their faith. And by prayer, study, and meditation, they can cultivate an unwavering confidence that everything God has promised will happen in his due time.
[Box/Pictures on page 5]
REDUCE THE AGONY OF WAITING!
Plan ahead! If you know that you will have to wait, be prepared to read, write, knit, crochet, or engage in some other useful activity.
Use the time to meditate, something that is increasingly difficult in our fast-moving world.
Keep some reading material near the telephone to use if you are put on hold; in five or ten minutes, you can read several pages.
When waiting in a group, use the opportunity, if appropriate, to start conversations with others and share upbuilding thoughts with them.
Keep a notepad or reading material in your car for periods of unexpected waiting.
Close your eyes, relax, or pray.
SUCCESSFUL WAITING IS MAINLY A MATTER OF ATTITUDE AND FORETHOUGHT.