I have spent a lot of time in waiting rooms. Hospitals, doctor’s offices, urgent cares, pharmacies—I’ve known them all already, known them all. And many times it was the I’ve-already-read-through-this-magazine-three-times kind of waiting.
You know, I always found it a bit presumptuous how hospitals refer to visitors as patients. The term, being a homonym for patience, seemingly presumes that waiting quietly, staring at the wall, is just a part of who we are. As if we feel most comfortable amid the delay!
Patience doesn’t just get tested in waiting rooms. Arenas for patience are all around us. We need patience in traffic, throughout our relationships with others, and during the difficult seasons of our lives. Patience comes in different forms at different times, but one constant is our discomfort.
So what’s the benefit of it? Paul lists it as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), but what good is something that initially brings discomfort and unease? As I’ve reflected on this, here are some conclusions I’ve drawn:
1.) Having to Wait Rouses Us from Prideful Thinking
As a child, I spent many Saturday mornings going to the doctor. Even then, I found it a tad inconsiderate my doctor’s made me wait as long as he or she did. My schedule wasn’t completely open; I didn’t have all day!
But even if I did, I reserved the right to spend it the way I wanted to, which, for my younger self, would have been a morning full of Calvin and Hobbes, Nintendo, and Nerds candy.
Yet, there I was, waiting for the doctor. I couldn’t do anything about it. All I could do was dream about what I could have been doing elsewhere.
Waiting has a sobering effect because it forces me to recognize the world does not revolve around me. This phrase may be well-trodden and clichéd, but in practice, I often forget its principle. I still get angry when I have to wait in a long line, or when I have to go through something difficult.
Waiting flusters us. That’s a good thing because in doing so it has the power to make us aware of our own prideful mindset. It helps us step outside the moment and confront our assumption that we were too important for this to happen to. But having to wait is evidence that we are in fact not important enough. It’s humbling!
Consider Job: God’s Word calls him “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). Yet he was subject to much sorrow, much tribulation, and much waiting!
Why did it happen to him if he was “blameless and upright?” In short, Job would learn it happened because the world did not revolve around him.
2.) Patience Orients Us to the True Center
The first point above discussed how having to wait can rouse us from prideful thinking. In other words, it humbles us. I think in many cases this is something we do not choose to happen to us. Having to wait goes against the narrative we tell ourselves about ourselves—that we are the center of our own lives.
But if we are truly humbled by having to wait, we learn this is not true. It hurts, but we can’t go back. And we then must choose what to do next. Some people get trapped here. Having removed themselves from the center, they leave it empty. And this brings about a terrible sense of purposelessness: What am I to live for now?
If this is you, I want to encourage you to orient yourself with reality. The Bible tells us that there is a purpose for all things, and we can find that by looking upward to Jesus Christ and then outward to serve others in His name.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.” (Revelation 7:15-16)
This verse gives us two reasons to have hope in Jesus as the meaning of our lives.
First, in this vision of the future, Revelation shows us that Jesus is sitting on His throne. He is the King, and those who believe in Him and glorify His name share in His eternal victory. Jesus alone is King, so at the end of it all you are either with Him or against Him. The purpose of your life is to cast your eyes upward, to believe in Jesus, and to make Him the Lord of your life.
Second, this verse also shows us that Jesus is a good king. His followers are completely satisfied in Him. There is nothing that is lacking—illustrated by these people experiencing no hunger, no thirst, and no uncomfortable weather! If you come to Him, Jesus will satisfy your every need.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
Followers of Jesus are called to live in a place of patience, humility, and servanthood. This is how we carry ourselves, wherever we go.
In our patience, we learn that we are not the center of the world but Jesus Christ is. And so we serve Him. Part of serving Jesus entails serving others. In other words, serving others’ needs is effectively serving the needs of Jesus.
Listen the words of our Savior:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40)
A quick application here is to say that times of waiting are blessed moments because they remind you that Jesus is at the center, and He commands us to care for others. So, thank the Lord for His reminder, and turn to those around you, considering how you can care for them!
3.) Patience Adorns the Believer
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
Growing in patience means knowing you are not at the center and then re-orienting yourself to the true center, Jesus Christ. As a result, patience brings you toward greater service and love.
Patience is a beautiful fruit of the Spirit, and, as Peter states, it is a hidden thing. Some may see it, but many people will not and won’t give you credit for it.
But God does, and He finds it precious. So be patient and adorn yourself not for others but for Him!