Words we prefer not to hear December 04 2015

This is the start of a BCF blog mini-series on “Words we prefer not to hear”  
Word number 1:  “Wait”

Shashi and I were recently on an airline flight that was behind schedule.  After we landed, the flight attendant requested that those who did not have tight connections stay in their seat. This was to allow those who had tight connections to exit first.  Since we did not have a tight connection, we took this as an opportunity to observe human behavior in response to the flight attendant’s request.

Actually, the response was impressive.  Most of the passengers remained in their seats, while those with apparently tight connections deplaned.

We have had the privilege of observing human “waiting behavior” in many different settings – both in the U.S. and overseas. Increasingly, in this electronic age, the expectation is that we should not have to wait.  But we still have that opportunity from time to time:
  •  we have lines at grocery stores,
  •  despite on-line banking and ATMs, we may still wait in line at the bank occasionally
  •  traffic signals seem to stay red entirely too long,

Waiting may also involve longer spans of time, such as waiting to hear about the results of a job interview or a medical diagnosis or waiting/praying that a loved one will turn to the Lord.

Waiting is hard.  It is difficult, in part, because we have our own ideas of what an acceptable timeline should be.  There is probably a good reason why the Lord put patience as the first characteristic of love in I Corinthians 13 (“the love chapter”).  Patience, in response to a waiting opportunity, is a very good barometer of our love for God and for one another.  

From a human perspective, waiting does not appear to have much of an advantage.  We have come to expect (and should expect) that customer service be efficient and responsive.  Spiritually, though, there are a lot of benefits to being put in a position where we are made to wait.  For example:

Waiting provides an opportunity for believers to demonstrate to others the peace and patience that God gives.  We don’t have the same opportunity to demonstrate that difference when everything is going according to our plans.  (see Psalm 119:74)
  • It can be one of those seemingly rare opportunities in the middle of the day to meditate on God’s word and remember others in prayer.  In fact, it’s a great time to work on memorizing Scripture.
  • It can be a reminder of how incredibly patient God has been with us. “The Lord is … patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
  • Patience will be an encouragement to those who are trying to serve us the best they can. As Jesus said “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Or translated into our waiting example, “be patient with others as you would want them to be patient with you.”

May God help us, the next time we have to wait, to patiently handle this perceived earthly “bummer” as a spiritual “benefit.”

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Steve Smith