The Discipline of Waiting

“Prayer as a discipline of waiting [cannot force God] to appear,” writes John P. Burgess in Discipleship: The Way of Jesus. “But it can deliver us from emptiness and hopelessness. It can provide an inner peace that enables us to cope with waiting, however long the wait may be.” Nonetheless, “[The waiting still] can be difficult and wearisome. … [the answer does eventually] come, but in the way of Jesus Christ, never in the way that we would choose for ourselves.”

If hating to wait were illegal, my name would be among America’s Ten Most Wanted. I have done enough fuming and fretting over slow lines, overdue checks, and freight trains blocking the road to boil a hundred teakettles. Why can’t I have this now when I earned it fair and square? What’s so unreasonable about wanting well-laid plans to run smoothly? Why do unexpected circumstances no one wants have to happen, ever?

The worst thing about resentment and impatience is that it spoils our joy in the eventual receiving. If we spend the wait stewing over unfairness, when we finally reach the head of the line or the long-awaited check finally arrives, the sweet taste of the reward will be tainted with a bitter snarl of “Well, it took you long enough!!!”

Remembering that may encourage us to focus on the good–how wonderful this it will be when we have it–rather than on the delay and frustration. We also can remember that the wait can sweeten the joy in the reward. Doesn’t a delicious meal taste much better on an empty stomach? Doesn’t fruit need time to ripen before it’s picked?

Going back to Burgess’s comments on “how to wait,” we should also remember that most waiting includes an active element. We can’t necessarily force things to go faster, but we can often encourage them–and, when we exhaust all human-activity options (preferably long before then, actually), we can pray, exercise trust, allow God to strengthen us through the wait, and prepare ourselves to receive what we’re waiting for.

In God’s time His best will come. In His time and by His standards, it will be far better than the specifications we originally thought we wanted.

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1 Comment

  1. I hate to wait, so I always get places early because I don’t want to make other people wait. As a result, I always have to wait. I never thought of that applying to my spiritual life before, but your post is a good reminder to slow down.


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