Patience isn’t passive

Faith & Inspiration

I am an impatient person. Waiting is a nuisance at best. This presents a challenge when I run into those situations when wisdom says “wait on the Lord.” In fact, “wait on the Lord” sounds very much like “sit down, shut up, and see what happens,” which is in dangerous proximity to passivity and boredom, a state of being that is hair-tearingly tedious.

But my understanding of “waiting” has been sorely lacking. The description above is hollow. Waiting is an experience full of careful thought and action, at least if one is doing it well. If your waiting experience is one of sitting idly by until something happens, then you’re doing it wrong.

To wait is not to set aside other responsibilities. We work at current jobs while waiting for the callback about the one we interviewed for. We work at godly singleness while waiting for a spouse, and then work at loving someone while waiting for them to reciprocate. Most of all we work at those things to which Christ has called us while waiting for Him to return. So waiting for one thing is being busy with others.

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Waiting is an impatient business that can lead to stress, which can then lead to surliness, or worse.And so while we wait we work at having the right attitude. Of all the activities waiting entails, this is the most difficult. We hold fast to hope, cling to promises, and look ahead to the fulfillment of our desires. As we wait, we should channel our desires to forward-thinking confidence rather than wrongly placing them upon those who surround us. Misplaced desire only leads to disappointment that compounds our current impatience. In all of this, waiting on the Lord differs from all other waiting because He elicits the confidence nothing else can.

Think of waiting for a train. When you wait you may be still, standing, or sitting, but you are not passive. You are watching, listening. Your eyes follow the parallel lines of the tracks into the distance, looking for the train to come chugging in. You listen for the roar of the engine, the clanking of the cars, and the tones of the train’s whistle. Even as your body rests on the platform your senses are alert and your mind active. This is what it should be like to wait on the Lord, too. Sometimes stillness is called for, but in that stillness there is alertness and heightened sensitivity.

Finally, sometimes waiting involves searching. Often waiting for opportunities is looking for them. Think of hailing a taxi. Sometimes you walk from a quiet street to a busy one where the taxi line forms. Even when you get there you must wait to intersect with the cab that is available, or the right opportunity. So waiting should always be a blend of active body, right attitude, and acute awareness of opportunities and provisions God provides. The only waiting that is truly passive is that which leaves the waiter angst-ridden and impatient.

Barnabas Piper
Barnabas Piper

Barnabas works for Lifeway Christian Resources and is the author of The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity and Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Follow Barnabas on Twitter @BarnabasPiper.


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