Trouble in the Waiting Room

by Andy Wood on June 5, 2010

in LV Cycle, Waiting

If you have been waiting longer than ten minutes, press eight. This will not speed up your call, but it will give you something to do while you wait.”(Message on an Airline Reservation Line)

“Waiting on the Lord is like sitting on a concrete bench.”  (Source unknown)

I’ve been known to get in trouble in waiting rooms.  Especially the examination room, where you sit there for God-only-knows-how-long before the doctor comes in.   The other day I was playing with something that looked like a collapsible chin warmer… until my wife informed me it was a barf bag.  And I’ve lost count of the number of latex glove turkeys I’ve made, or the number of peeks through those spiffy wall-mounted scopes.

And those doors that say, “Authorized personnel only”?  I just authorize myself.  I figure it’s just the doctors’ break room, where the really good snacks are.

I did say I’ve gotten in trouble, didn’t I?

There’s a different kind of waiting, however, where the stakes are much higher.  But the potential for trouble is just as real.

How do you handle the fact that God has promised to meet all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus,  and yet you have an unmet need? 

How do you deal with the fact that God says He will give you the desires of your heart, and yet you have unfulfilled desires? 

What do you say to a single person who longs to be married?  A wife who longs for her husband to listen and communicate with her?  A husband who longs to be a spiritual leader in his home, but who comes to church alone every Sunday?   A family seeks to do everything they know to honor God with their finances, and yet the only result is more pressure?  A student who feels called into the ministry, and longs to be there, but keeps having doors slammed in his face? 

These and others are examples of waiting seasons – when you’re living with unfulfilled desires, unfulfilled promises, and unmet needs.  They’re the stuff of maturity, the cold chisel that, with the blows of God’s hammer, knocks the rocks off of you that don’t look like Jesus.

Waiting seasons are a staple of Biblical life stories.  Sarah and Abraham wanted a son.  Wait. 

Hannah wanted one too. You know the drill. 

Jacob, smitten by his love for Rachel, worked for seven years to win her hand in marriage, “but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:20).  Tricked by his father-in-law into another seven years, it wasn’t so romantic any more. 

David wanted to build a temple in Jerusalem.  God said wait. 

Paul begged the Lord three times to get rid of that “messenger of Satan,” that so-called thorn in his flesh.  God’s answer:  “My gracious favor is all you need” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT). Translation:  Not anytime soon.

There Really Is a Reason for All This

Psalm 37 is written to believers who’ve just been deposited into the holding cell.  There David, now a seasoned and wise man, mentors young sons and daughters in the faith.  With a reassuring voice and an encouraging heart, he says, “Relax.  The end of the story has yet to be told.  God has a plan and a purpose.” 

God uses the waiting seasons to increase our confidence in him.  He wants to strengthen our ability to “commit everything you do to the LORD.” 

Sometimes God is fulfilling his own timing, as in giving the wicked one more shot before it’s curtains. 

Occasionally the waiting room is designed to reveal the rage or some other sin that’s just beneath your veneer. 

God wants to build meekness in you – the quality of bearing “strength under control.” 

He uses the waiting season to deepen your perspective, unpacking a measure of wisdom in you that you couldn’t receive any other way. 

And finally, God uses the waiting to finish off a season of obedience.

There Really Is a Danger in All This, Too!

Read about somebody else’s waiting season and you may begin to wonder if you’re peering into an enchanted epic, touched by a minor human weakness here or there, but otherwise a stroll down Character Building Lane.  Read David’s advice, however, and you get a different picture.  I wonder how he knew all that?

Don’t worry about the wicked. Don’t envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like springtime flowers, they soon wither. Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence as clear as the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.  Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop your anger! Turn from your rage! Do not envy others – it only leads to harm (Psalm 37:1-8, NLT).

Nobody wants to admit they’re jealous.  But go through a season like this one, where undeserving people appear to be doing well and you, the obviously deserving, aren’t.  Then we’ll find out how long it lasts before you start hurling that four-letter word at God – fair

I’ve lost count of the number of times I said or wrote, “God is doing it for everybody else.  Why won’t he do it for me”?  The short answer is, He won’t do it for me because I’m so stinking jealous of everything He does for everybody else.

Disobedience is another threat during the waiting season.  Keep doing the next right thing, David counsels.  Don’t shortcut or back up on your obedience to God.  Otherwise, you may find yourself repeating the same class.  God is a very patient teacher.

Idolatry can be a problem.  When you delight in the desires of your heart rather than in the Lord, you’re cutting yourself off from both.

Impatience?  Could that possibly surface during a waiting season?  Whining impatience?  Angry impatience?  “Let’s help God out” impatience?

Then there’s bitterness.  By the time Eli gave Hannah the good news, she looked more drunk than desperate.  She’d worn the pain of waiting so long, it even cut her off from the love of her husband.

Waiting Doesn’t Mean Wasting

Last week I ran into an old acquaintance who is in a waiting season.  He’s the one who shared the quote from a friend of his:  Waiting on God is like sitting on a concrete bench.

I get that.  Never quite comfortable.  Holds you for a season, then you’re ready for something else.

That said, I think we often get the wrong image of what waiting on the Lord is.  It isn’t passively wasting away, watching the paint dry.  In the next post I’ll show you what to do when you’re in the waiting room.

And it won’t get you in trouble.

Trust me.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Pam June 6, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Wow, Andy, you hit the nail on the head! I have been through those waiting seasons (and a lot of waiting rooms, unfortunately) and they are tough. Sometimes, you think it’s never going to end, but then you look back and realize I am really a better person and I survived! God does know what He is doing, who woulda thunk it?
Love your messages, keep up the good work!! 🙂

Andy Wood June 6, 2010 at 11:52 pm

You said it, Pam! So often we are so focused on wishing the circumstances would change that we don’t realize that WE are what (who) are being changed.

Thanks for the encouragement.

Wendy September 10, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Well, I guess I’m stuck in the waiting room right now. Guess I better figure out how to change my attitude of anger that I am stuck here. This is a good message, I pray that I can learn to sit and wait on God because I surely don’t understand.

Thanks for the message,

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