Waiting is hard. Whether you’re waiting in a long checkout line, a crowded doctor’s office, or anxiously waiting to hear results from a biopsy, no one likes to wait. Waiting makes you face an ugly realityno matter how carefully you may have planned, there are some things completely beyond your control, and you have to accept that fact whether you like it or not.

A few weeks ago I went to a symphony performance with my brother. Since he lived closer than I did, I left in plenty of time to meet up with him and get to the performance hall early. But as I neared the city I saw a sea of brake lights ahead. At first I figured it was just a routine back up, but as I sat there I saw fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, and tow trucks pass on the shoulder and I realized with a sinking feeling that we were there for the long haul. As I was at least a mile from an exit either way, there was nothing to do but wait. I called my brother, who found out that they had actually closed down the expressway for this accident. Nice. So my fellow drivers and I turned off our cars and sat there. For an hour and a half. Nothing at all could change the fact that we were stuck. It didn’t matter if you were a retiree coming home from a nice breakfast, a businessman who needed to make an important presentation, or even a pregnant lady in labor (thankfully not me)you were stuck. And you couldn’t do anything about it.

No one likes waiting, especially because it makes you realize that you aren’t in control at all. And that’s why I find it curious that the Bible tells us in Psalm 27:14 to “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Anyone who has indeed waited on the Lord’s timing knows this is much easier said than done. The end of the Church Year blends right into the season of Advent, as both focus on waiting. At the end of the Church Year we look forward to Christ’s second coming. We wait in eager expectation for this. Likewise, during Advent we wait for our King to come, waiting with Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, and all the faithful who waited for the Messiah to be born. Now think about this. Way back in the Garden of Eden, God promised to send a Savior. Through all those Old Testament years His people waited. And waited. Even through the exile when it looked like God couldn’t possibly keep that promise, He was still there, waiting for the right time to fulfill His promise. Remember, He is of eternity. He is patient. He can wait. We, on the other hand, want our prayers answered right away. We’re used to an age of LTE and next-day delivery and drive-thrus and stores open 24/7. It’s hard for us to wait for anything. But God knows what is best for us and He knows sometimes waiting is best. Think of the saints from the Bible and how long some of them had to wait for answers to their prayers. Joseph was in Egypt 13 years before his purpose became clear. Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for Isaac to be born. Moses spent 40 years in the desert before he was even sent to Pharaoh, and then he had to spend 40 more years wandering the desert with those stubborn Israelites! Did any of them ever get tired of waiting? I’m sure they did. But here’s an interesting insight. The word “wait” and the word “hope” come from the same Hebrew root. So when we are encouraged to wait on the Lord, it’s also a reminder to place our hope in Him.

Yes, waiting is hard. It’s a helpless feeling. I know. I waited over three years for God to answer a prayer, and when He did it wasn’t at all how I expected it to be answered. And maybe that’s a good thing. It reminds me that I’m not in charge. I don’t have all the answers. But I know the One who is in charge, the One who does have all the answers. And He’s the One in whom I place my hope. Even when I’m stuck in a traffic jam.

Photo is Seiko SARB065 “Cocktail” by Shane Lin