HomeOpinionDooley Noted: Hurry Up and Wait!

Dooley Noted: Hurry Up and Wait!

By Adam Dooley

Englewood Baptist Church

With the holiday season upon us, you’ve likely noticed that traffic around Jackson is a bit thicker and, therefore, slower than usual. Recently, while waiting at what seemed like an eternal traffic light a simple question popped into my mind. Why do I hate waiting so much?

No sooner than I had the thought my mind was taken back to another Christmas season when waiting was much more agonizing. On that occasion, I paced the floor of our second-floor hospital room. The now familiar, red-framed windows seemed more like prison bars preventing our escape than portals providing God’s gift of sunlight. My 4-year-old son, you see, was a leukemia patient at St. Jude Hospital in Memphis. Though we lived in Alabama at the time, every week we boarded a plane for Tennessee to receive chemotherapy and a checkup.

It had been months since my son was inpatient at the hospital, but a fever above 100.4 and low blood counts left him vulnerable to septic shock on this trip. In all likelihood, his symptoms were the result of a virus, but the possibility of an infection requires extra precautions when you’re fighting childhood cancer. What was typically a routine turnaround of 36 hours turned into a weeklong stay in the hospital, away from family and responsibilities back home. With Christmas just a few weeks away, I am embarrassed to tell you how much I panicked throughout the ordeal. 

It happened more than once.

We waited for appointments, for test results, for airplanes, and for a chance to do it all again the next week. For nearly three years, hurry up and wait was the name of the game. Waiting became routine; but it never became easy.

I should tell you that today my son is healthy and thriving. At 15, you would never know he once had cancer. And the lessons God taught us through all that waiting have continued to pay off again and again.

But to this day I wonder—Why is waiting so hard?

Perhaps I’ve met someone along the way who enjoys waiting, but I don’t recall it. Being in limbo tests our sanity and prolonged delays can even cause us to doubt God. No explanation is exhaustive because our motivations are often complicated. I do believe, however, that three realizations are often at the root of our impatience when life doesn’t go as planned.

Waiting shatters the myth that we are in control. Juggling schedules, meeting deadlines, and monitoring results gives us the impression that we are at the helm of our universe. Do you have a goal? Just work harder. Do you have a problem? Do something about it. Choose your destiny. Seize the day. Claim your reality. Mantras like these resonate with us precisely because we yearn to be in charge and are willing to play along. But deep down, we know it is all a lie. Nothing interrupts our fantasy like a prolonged sense of helplessness.

Waiting often unleashes our deepest fears. Where are You, God? What are You doing, God? Why won’t You answer me, God? Questions like these seldom accost us when everything unfolds according to our schedule. At the first sign that God is not at our beck and call, though, we are quick to question His wisdom and doubt His concern. Periods of vulnerability leave us unwanted time to think, and the silence uncomfortably shouts over the peace God bestows. Anxieties that are normally held in check sometimes wreak havoc on us while we wait.

Waiting reveals our true priorities. Most people would be insulted if you accused them of being slaves to their work. Neither are we anxious to admit that we are puppets guided by the hand of public perception and opinion. Nor do we fancy ourselves as materialistic or self-centered. Unfortunately, seasons of waiting often tell a different story. Though interruptions force us to peel away all that is unnecessary in our lives, our hesitation to do so may reveal that we value the wrong things. When the world goes on while our hands are tied, we realize just how much we idolize the accolades and possessions we pretend not to seek. Despite our affirmations that God is trustworthy and that sanctification is a priority, childish outbursts and temper tantrums uncover our true agenda.

Thankfully, neither I, nor you, are alone in our struggle to wait on the Lord. During a painful time of testing, King David once called out to the Lord with desperation in Psalm 4:

  • Answer me when I call, O God! (v1)
  • Be gracious to me! (v1)
  • Hear my prayer! (v1)

Then, with supernatural clarity, David realized that his wait would be worth it.

  • Tremble and do not sin. (v4)
  • Meditate in your heart . . . and be still.(v4)
  • Offer the sacrifices of righteousness. (v4)
  • Trust in the Lord. (v4)

Slowly, I am learning that the benefits of waiting on the Lord far exceed the inconveniences. With a loss of control, comes the peace of resting in our Savior (Psalm 26:3-4). The discomfort of facing our fears and enduring difficulties unleashes the strength of God in our lives (2 Cor. 12:9). Exposing misplaced priorities opens the door for renewed commitment to the Lord (Psalm 32:5).

I still hate waiting, but God continues to use the crucible of uncertainty in my life. I am confident He will do the same for you. He is eager to renew our strength, if only we are willing to wait upon Him (Isaiah 40:31). So, hurry up and wait! You’ll be glad you did.

Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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