How To Wait When The Waiting Is Hard

I don’t like to wait. The study of leadership seems to be about doing, about making something happen. But there are situations where I have made the decision to wait. Because that’s the right decision. A good decision can become a bad decision if it’s not the right time. Timing matters.

But it’s even harder to wait when the decision or circumstance is out of our control.

Yet even when we don’t have control over why we have to wait, we do get to make some choices about how we wait.

photo credit: Legend via photopin cc

photo credit: Legend via photopin cc

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that starts to get upset if the drive-thru line takes more than five minutes. There is a constant push for instant gratification. We don’t like to wait. “I want it now” is the mantra of those who have little patience and a poor grasp of timing.

I don’t think there is anyone out there who wakes up every morning and thinks to him or herself, “Yes…I get to wait some more today.” Yet we all wait. We wait for buses and trains. We wait at stoplights. We wait in long lines. We wait to hear back about a job. We wait to see the one we can’t live without. We wait for tough times to end. We wait for the right time to make a decision. We wait for so many things.

Waiting is part of life. But don’t confuse the type of waiting I’m talking about here with someone who is simply waiting for opportunity or making sure everything is perfect before you proceed. I’m not encouraging you to wait because you’re afraid or you’re stuck. I’m thinking about the need to wait for things that are significant. I am talking about those moments when the best decision is not yet. When you realize that the best path toward a great decision can only be accomplished by walking through the desert of waiting (or as Sarah Doudney puts it, “The waiting time, my brothers, is the hardest time of all.”)

How should we handle this type of waiting? We can fight against it or we can do something productive with it. Part of this post is inspired by the words of Anna C. Brackett. She writes the following in her book, The Technique of Rest…

When you are waiting for a train, don’t keep perpetually looking to see if it is coming. The time of its arrival is the business of the conductor, not yours. It will not come any sooner for all your nervous glances and your impatient pacing, and you will save strength if you will keep quiet. After we discover that the people who sit still on a long railroad journey reach that journey’s end at precisely the same time as those who “fuss” continually, we have a valuable piece of information which we should not fail to put to practical use.

There is something worthwhile to this idea of waiting when waiting is required. If we struggle too hard in the waiting, we may miss those moments that lead to THE moment we’re waiting for. While there are BIG moments out there, life is made up of billions of tiny moments. The tiny moments rarely show up in the movies. Most of the films I watch have dramatic twists and turns that lead to the climactic moment…the big prize. Yet for me, waiting is a part of my story. And I don’t want to waste those moments.

If you’re in the middle of a season of waiting, I would encourage you to make the most of that time in the following ways:

1. Accept that waiting is part of the journey.

It doesn’t really matter if you like waiting or not. It’s part of life. When you accept that you empower yourself to better handle it. Too many people “fuss” in the midst of the waiting, or they worry, or they give up. The good news is that you and I don’t have to wait forever. Waiting is just a part of the journey that leads to the thing we want or desire. Waiting means there is a decision, a destination, or a destiny worth waiting for.

2. Use the time to do something meaningful.

Let me ask you: What are you doing to redeem the time you have in this season of waiting? Dean Koontz says, “We are not born to wait. We are born to do.” Many people say that keeping busy during a time of waiting is helpful. I would take that one step further…do something worthwhile and meaningful. We miss out on so much of life because we’re waiting for someday instead of making the most of today.

3. Let the waiting teach you about yourself.

Your character, attitude, and perspective are all shaped by the difficulties of life. They are also revealed. Waiting is hard. As you walk through it, try and reflect on your response to it. Are you growing or plateauing? How are you responding to other people? My hope is that I can walk through the waiting period with no regrets. I don’t want to look back and realize I was a jerk or insensitive because I didn’t know how to handle the waiting.

4. Focus your efforts toward the good of others.

Waiting can become a very self-focused activity. It’s easy to become frustrated or impatient. One of the best things you can do is to get your eyes and your efforts off yourself. The hard work of waiting is lessened when you spend your time helping others. Sometimes I’m waiting for someone or something I believe will make my life better. But a better use of your time might actually be doing something that will make someone else’s life better.

5. Trust that waiting will produce a more significant result than moving too quickly.

For me, this is a matter of faith. I trust that God has something in mind when I am in the process of waiting. I realize you may not share my perspective and I wouldn’t want to push my beliefs on you. But I can’t separate the idea that there are things at work in the midst of waiting that I won’t truly understand. I must trust that waiting (the right kind of waiting) will turn out for my good and that God is at work in the midst of that process.

I know, I know…waiting isn’t easy. Sometimes we wait too long and other times not long enough. No matter what you find yourself waiting for, I trust you’ll make the most of the little moments until the BIG moment finally arrives.

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