Hurry Up and Wait

“I’m in a hurry to get things done…” These well-known lyrics, written by Roger Murrah and sung by Alabama, describe the fast pace of modern American life. We want to go, go, go … and under normal conditions, which is exactly what we do. However, due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of “normal life” have come to a screeching halt. The “shutdown” that we originally thought might last only a few days has dragged on for over two months. People have grown increasingly frustrated and impatient with many of the guidelines of “social distancing.” Even though by this point, some sectors of society are reopening, government officials have made it clear that the process will be more akin to the turning of a dial than the flipping of a switch. Adding insult to injury is the uncertainty about a potential “second wave” of disease which could spread in conjunction with the reopening or even flare up in the fall or winter. Rather than “getting things done,” we are left to “hurry up and wait.”

The problem with waiting is that most of us are not very good at it. From infancy, a child does not wait to wait for a bottle or diaper change. Traveling anywhere with kids leads to the inevitable question, “Are we there yet?” As adults, we may even place value on impatience. After all, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and so if we do not have what we want at the exact moment we want it, we let someone hear about it! If we have to wait for a table at a restaurant, we complain to the hostess. If we have to wait in line to checkout, we loudly murmur at the lack of cashiers. If we have to wait in traffic, we just lay on the horn as if that might make a difference. It should not surprise us that through this ordeal, the solution of many (including many who profess to be disciples) has been to openly vent their frustrations to anyone and everyone who would listen.

Yet scripture shows us a better way to wait.

We wait quietly. In the midst of national tumult and grief, Jeremiah wrote, “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD” (Lam 3:26). This includes a level of peace though we may be surrounded by chaos. As Rudyard Kipling penned, sometimes the measure of success is your ability to “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…”

We wait patiently. As Bible-believers, we recognize the fact that trials and tribulations produce patience (Rom 5:3-4; Jas 1:3). However, acknowledging this fact does not mean that we like it! Biblical patience involves endurance, a stick-to-it-iveness that will not give up even though times are hard, and the outcome may be uncertain. Coaches tell their teams, “Hold onto the rope.” In our case, the “rope” is the hope that we have in Jesus (Heb 6:19).

We work while we wait. Scripture is full of agricultural illustrations. There are many lessons we can glean from the farmer. James writes of two rains which must come before there can be a harvest – the early and latter rain (5:7). Before the latter rain, the farmer must continue to put in the labor necessary to see a crop come forth. Likewise, we are waiting for the latter rain. We believe that the immediate trials will at some point come to an end. In a broader sense, we know that one day the Lord will come. What are we doing in the meantime?

Hebrew scholars assert that the phrase “wait on the LORD” means “to wait for help.” This involves a trust and confidence which leads to comfort and strength (Isa 40:31). Though we like to put a time table on God’s providential care, we must believe that He works for our good in His time. Though we may be in a hurry, God isn’t (2 Pet 3:9)!