Commentary: Waiting on God is hard work


I made a hospital visit recently and had to circle the parking deck to find an open spot. Finally, I saw backup lights, so I paused. Someone came up behind me, and immediately honked, attempting to move me along.

Surely this driver knows if I’m sitting here, I’m waiting for someone to back out, I thought. I hit my turn signal and sat there until the space cleared and pulled in. The driver behind me then sped on his merry way.

We have a hard time waiting, don’t we? Depending on which study you read, the average person in a lifetime spends five years waiting in lines, including six months sitting at traffic lights.

In an article on the psychology of waiting entitled “Why Waiting is Torture,” Alex Stone shared about a customer-service issue that surfaced at a Houston airport several years ago. Passengers were complaining about the long waits at baggage claim, so executives increased the number of baggage handlers. The plan worked: the average wait fell to eight minutes, well within industry standards. However, complaints continued at the same level.

Further study found it took passengers one minute to walk from their arrival gates to baggage claim and seven minutes to get their bags. Executives altered their approach by moving arrival gates away from the main terminal and routed bags to the outermost carousel. Passengers now had to walk six times further to get their bags and complaints dropped to near zero.

Why? Because occupied time (walking to the baggage claim) felt shorter than unoccupied time (standing at the carousel). Waiting without something to do feels unproductive.

Waiting is sometimes torture in our spiritual lives, also. I can identify with the 19th century New England preacher Phillips Brooks, who was normally poised and calm. However, he did have moments of frustration.

Once, a friend saw him pacing the floor, apparently agitated, and asked, “What’s the trouble, Mr. Brooks?”

“The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!”

The Psalmist addressed the issue of waiting in multiple passages. For example, in Psalm 37, the writer mentioned waiting three times:

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7a).

“. . . those who wait on the Lord shall inherit the earth” (Psalm 37:9b).

“Wait on the Lord and keep His way, and He shall exalt you . . .” (Psalm 37:34a).

Several Hebrew words are translated wait, but often the word means confident expectation. Many passages have THE LORD as the object of our waiting, emphasizing we are waiting ON the Lord.

What does waiting involve?

Waiting involves seeking the Lord. Lamentations 3:25 reads, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” To seek Him, we spend time in God’s Word, in fervent prayer, and in meditation reflecting on God’s track record of faithfulness. We intentionally draw near to Him as we wait.

Waiting involves resting in God and relying on His timing (Psalm 37:7). Waiting is active, not passive. We do not sit still while we wait, but continue to serve faithfully, while also refusing to run ahead of God.

Waiting requires trust. Relying on God’s timing demonstrates we believe He is at work, is in control and knows what He’s doing. Waiting in trust reminds us that “I am not in charge.” We have to let go and realize we aren’t in charge.

Henri Nouwen wrote about circus trapeze artists known as the Flying Roudellas. The Roudellas shared there’s a very special relationship between the flyer (the one who lets go) and the catcher (the performer who catches the flyer in mid-air).

As the flyer swings high above the net, there comes that moment in which he must let go. At that moment the performer becomes totally dependent on the catcher. He arcs into the air, then remains as still as possible as the strong hands of the catcher reach out and grab the flying artist.

The flyer must never try to catch the catcher; instead, he must wait in absolute trust for the strong hands of the catcher to grab him. So must we totally rely on God as we wait for Him to do His work in His way on His timetable.

As Pastor Peter Marshall once prayed, “Teach us, Oh, Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.”


David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit online at for more information and to view online worship, and to see more of Chancey’s writings, including his books).