Those of us who live with disease, pain, or disability know what it means to wait. There can be much uncertainty and many unknowns when your body doesn’t work the way you want it to. Often, we go through tests, procedures and therapies hoping for some relief, some return of function, or a cure. And always woven into the process is the waiting. We wait for an appointment with a specialist, then we wait to have a test, and then we wait for the results. We have a surgery or procedure that is supposed to ease our pain or disease, and then we wait to see if it worked. Long, grueling hours of physical therapy are punctuated with periods of waiting, as we look for change and progress between sessions. No matter what your condition, if you are suffering, you know about waiting.
There was a popular song when I was younger that included the line, “The waiting is the hardest part.” I find this to be quite true as I deal with the health problems I face. But what makes the waiting so hard? I've boiled it down to a few things that I’ll share with you today, and maybe you'll want to add a few of your own.
The first thing that makes waiting difficult is fear. Fear of the unknown. What will the test results be? What will the outcome of this surgery be? Will it help me, or will I be worse off than before? What if something goes wrong? What if I go through all this, and in the end I am no better? Waiting is almost always accompanied by this “what if” echo.
Secondly, impatience makes waiting hard. Our internet lifestyle has taught us to expect things to happen quickly. If it takes more than a second for Facebook to open after I log in, I think something’s wrong. My online banking system enables me to pay my bills in 3 clicks. And don’t even get me started on Amazon! I have become so spoiled by technology that more than a few seconds seems like a long time to wait.
Finally, the very problem that brought about the test makes it hard to wait. As we suffer, we’re reminded constantly that our bodies are not as we want them to be. The hope that what we are waiting for will fix them makes it hard to wait. We fight a battle in our mind as we hope that this time it will work and our suffering will be lessened; yet we are loathe to get our hopes up because we have been disappointed so many times before. And our flesh wars against our spirit (Galatians 5) as we struggle to keep our hope in Christ, not in our current circumstance.
So, my friend, what are you waiting for today? Do you believe that you are at the mercy of whoever is in charge of your health care? Do you think that you are waiting for a nurse, doctor, or even your own body to cooperate? I have good news. The One you are waiting on is your own loving Father! Ultimately, your result or outcome is in His hands. It is He who directs the doctor when to call, and it is He who rules over your body. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” So, no matter when you get that call, you can be sure that it was the Lord who established the timing of it, for your good and His glory (Romans 8:28). If you will submit to the sovereignty of God, your waiting will be easier.
There are many Scriptures that can help us to submit to this God-ordained waiting. According to Isaiah 30:18, we are blessed as we wait: “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.” Isaiah 40:31 promises us strength as we wait on Him: “…they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Remember, my dear friend, whatever you are waiting for today, it will happen according to God’s perfect plan. You were created to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7). This waiting is just one more step in God’s plan to make you more like Him, for His glory. And when that phone does ring, remember to thank Him! Thank Him for the opportunity to even have a specialist, therapist or test. Many of your fellow sufferers have no medical care available to them. Thank Him for using your suffering to draw you to Himself. Thank Him for all the opportunities your suffering gives you to bring glory to Him.
But most of all, thank Him for His promise that you will be with Him in eternity. There will be no tests there; no fear of the unknown, for we will know all things (1 Corinthians 13:12). There will be no impatience, because we will be without sin. And there will be no pain to remind us that we still don't know if we'll ever get better.
Tom Petty was right when he said that the waiting is the hardest part. Waiting for heaven, for eternity with Christ, is indeed the hardest part of life, no matter what your physical condition. But remember, this life is a vapor (James 4:14), and before you know it, it will be over. Don't miss a single opportunity to glorify God while you are here, especially as you wait.