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Waiting is No Fun

Added by Holger Bergner on June 19, 2013. · No Comments · Share this Post

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Waiting around is no fun. Most of us like to see results, and soon. We like the illusion that there will be an immediate outcome from the work we are doing, or else why do it? But there are clear benefits from slow periods of waiting, even if we can’t possibly fathom them while in the midst of the wait.

If you took away the ten best days of the stock market’s history over the past 100 years, two-thirds of the cumulative gains produced by the Dow Jones Industrials would completely disappear. Conversely, if you avoided the ten worst days of the market’s performance over the span of its history, you would have tripled the actual return of the Dow.

Surprisingly, those market-changing events represent just .03% of the market’s entire history.

Most of the time, the market kind of bumbles along rather quietly, and then, when no one expects it, there is a giant gain or loss. Afterwards, the market settles back once again into its less dramatic track.

This pattern reminds me of the trajectory of my career path over the past twenty years, which goes something like this: nothing, nothing, boring, hard work, minor breakthrough, work, tedium, setback, nothing, and then, suddenly—BAM! Out of the blue, a major defining moment propels me into a new direction.

It doesn’t occur to us that our lives, for the most part, will be very ordinary.

Our work days are filled with everyday routines that at times may feel like we’re simply circling the same corner over and over without much progress to speak of. Even if we’re certain that our work is supposedly leading to something better, it can often seem like the lag time between cause and effect is excruciatingly, meanderingly slow, if nonexistent.

Waiting around is no fun. Most of us like to see results, and soon. We like the illusion that there will be an immediate outcome from the work we are doing, or else why do it? But there are clear benefits from slow periods of waiting, even if we can’t possibly fathom them while in the midst of the wait.

All that in-between time can seem boring and insignificant, when in reality it serves a good purpose—that of preparation. The Bible is chock-full of examples of long periods of bone-dry waiting: Moses spent forty years sweating it out in the drudgery of the desert before seeing the extraordinary burning bush and being called by God to confront Pharaoh. Joseph spent years in prison prior to his ascent to Vice President of Egypt.

Perhaps waiting is a spiritual practice in and of itself. What if we viewed it as an active (rather than a passive) exercise? Author Stephen Martin, in his book, The Messy Quest for Meaning, says of his own waiting period during his search for his life’s vocation: “Waiting didn’t mean standing still. It meant moving ahead, making choices, seeing where they led, and making additional ones, while waiting for a fuller version of the vision of the future to emerge.”

People like to think God is working through them . . . and they usually, mistakenly, mean it happens through fireworks and avalanches. But God is much more subtle than that, tending towards everyday-ness, and in leaving a long trail of kindness, character, and consistency that actually adds up to something substantial over time.

Waiting is an integral part of living your life, discovering who you are, and creating meaning to the ordinary as you find out where you are supposed to go. It’s the main part of that strange spiritual process of “being led.”

There is the story of the stone cutter who pounds at the stone 100 times, with not a crack. Then on the 101st time the stone breaks. It wasn’t that 101st blow that felled the stone; it was the 100 before.

Preparation, experience, endurance. Think of these periods of waiting as your own personal incubator—God’s nurturing and shaping you for what’s ahead. Sink into it and grow. Soon enough, good things will hatch.—Bradley J. Moore 1


Can I share a few lessons I’ve learned from the waiting game?

One of the most important lessons learned during the eight-year process of praying, rezoning, designing, and building [our church] was this: the longer you wait, the more you will appreciate. We hate to wait. Right? But it’s gratitude insurance. Waiting ensures that we won’t take for granted whatever it is that we were waiting for. If the process had taken half as long, I honestly think we’d appreciate it half as much.

Another lesson learned is this: God is far more concerned with who you’re becoming than where you’re going. And He won’t get you where He wants you to go until you’re ready to get there! I just read this incredibly encouraging verse in Romans 8:25. “The longer we wait, the larger we become.”—Mark Batterson 2


Time is relative.

What I mean by that is this: the way we experience it is subjective. It depends on what you’re doing. Ever been on a date with someone you love? Time flies. Ever been on a date with someone you didn’t like? Speed dating isn’t fast enough.

We have a hard time waiting for God to fulfill His promise. But what about Abraham and Sarah? They had to wait 15 years before Isaac was born. We have a hard time suffering for a season. But what about the invalid in John 5 who was in that condition for 38 years? And that’s when the average lifespan was 20–30. We have a hard time waiting for God to make sense of our circumstances. But what about Joseph? He was a slave and a prisoner for 17 years before becoming Prime Minister of Egypt. Or Moses? He was a fugitive for 40 years! And we have a hard time waiting to fulfill our calling. But even Jesus didn’t transition from carpentry to ministry till he was 30.

We need to zoom out and get some biblical perspective. We think in days. But we might need to think in years. Here’s what I know for sure: those that God wants to use the most have to go through the longest season of preparation. You might have to struggle a little bit longer so you can learn some more lessons or develop some more character. You might need to suffer a little bit longer so God can reveal a little bit more of His glory in your life!

What I’m getting at is this: trust His timing. He is never early. He is never late. As we grow spiritually, I think we take a different perspective on time. It’s less about chronos—time. It’s more about kairos—timing.

One last thought from Acts 1: “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business.”

Not much has changed, has it?—Mark Batterson 3

Photo credit: Sharkbait via Photopin, Creative Commons


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