In the last two years I seem to have spent a lot of my time in waiting rooms. Due to a back problem I have been through X-Rays, MRI scans and physiotherapy, with every appointment requiring a short, or sometimes not so short wait, in the waiting room.
They are not very inspiring places. Magazines are always months, if not years, out of date, horrible plastic pastel coloured chairs line the walls and a display of mostly irrelevant information leaflets usually occupies one solitary corner. People come and go, people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures. People with all kinds of stories. It seems everyone at some point has a stint in the waiting room.
Many times during my waiting room moments, I have realised that in my life I have very much been in a metaphorical waiting room. Almost two years ago I left a job I had done for seven years, since I was 19 years old. This was a big deal. What would I do now? What does God have planned next? What if there isn't anything else planned? I hoped there would be some next big thing, some other God given idea that I would be able to launch myself straight into. Instead God has lead me into a time of waiting and studying, where I am unpacking and evaluating seven years of ministry, learning to be enough just as a daughter of God, trying new things, enjoying life and trying to figure out where God wants me next. I have hated it! I want to be out there changing the world, dreaming big dreams and working hard with God to see them come to life. But instead I am just sat in the waiting room.
There are so many examples of people in the Bible who were made to wait. God told Abraham that his offspring would be so numerous trying to count them would be like counting the dust, that he would have more descendants than there were stars in the sky. At the time this may have been a little awkward as he was over 75 years old and had no children. When his wife Sarah was ninety years old and Abraham was 100, God again promised the same thing and specifically said that Sarah would get pregnant and have a child. Abraham laughed. Sarah laughed. But it happened. Their waiting wasn’t easy and they made mistakes but in spite of all that, everything that had been promised took place.
David was anointed by the prophet Samuel and told he would be king. But before this happened the leader he had faithfully served and loved turned on him, he almost lost his life and was forced to go into hiding to save himself. He lost his best friend, he faced battles and temptations. Sat in a cave alone and hiding, I bet he didn’t feel like what he had been promised was going to happen. I bet he didn’t feel much like a king.
My experience has shown me that sometimes the waiting room is boring and frustrating. It feels like you are not where you’re supposed to be. You’ve got better things to do, jobs to be getting on with. But maybe the waiting room is part of the plan.
When I read what happened to Moses and the Israelites in the desert, I begin to understand why waiting is so important. They learned to trust God completely as their provider, they learned to stop complaining, they learned to support and respect their leaders, they got Egypt out of their heads. They learned the kinds of lessons you can only learn in the desert. And when they entered that Promised Land, they were ready, they were more than ready! But only because they had done their time in the waiting room.
If waiting is part of the plan, maybe we should stop impatiently tapping our feet, looking at our watch, wondering when we're going to get out, and embrace the waiting room as a God-given place.
We are a people called to wait. We live in one giant waiting room, with the knowledge that one day our precious and perfect king Jesus will come back to restore our broken earth and reign forever. We live in hope; we live in the knowledge that one day, what we have been promised will come true. No more tears, no more pain, a dream made real and the promise fulfilled.
Waiting has always been part of the plan.
So maybe you are stuck in the waiting room. Maybe you have been promised something and you long for the day when that promise is fulfilled. Maybe you are waiting for a miracle, for healing, for a relationship, a job. Maybe you are waiting to see transformation in the lives of the young people you work with. Maybe you've just sat down in the waiting room, or maybe you feel like you've been there long enough and you can't wait any longer.
Whatever your situation, know that waiting is part of the plan. Know that God is changing you, training you and transforming you in a way that only the waiting room can. Know that everyone has a stint in the waiting room. But most of all know that the God we trust is a God who knows the plans he has for us, a God who never makes a promise that he will not fulfill and a God who will always do immeasurably more than anything we could ask or imagine.
No one stays in the waiting room forever.
Jo Dolby works for Nottingham YFC and was the founder of One Eighty, a project working with skaters in Bath.