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waiting well: a spiritual discipline – rod thompson


Learning to wait and learning to wait well is a spiritual discipline.

It is also something that is radically counter-cultural in our current times and places.

Someone has said that a key word in current society is “dissatisfied”. We are encouraged, hundreds of times every day, to want more and more and more; and not only to want more but to want it more quickly. NOW!

Some people refer to the dominant world culture as McWorld, a version of consumerism that is only concerned with the “now”, a disconnected “now” without any sense of heritage or wisdom and any sense of long term future planning. Patience is not a virtue under these conditions. Urgency is. Demand is. “Not waiting” is. And under such conditions, humanness comes to be defined not by what is given or produced, by stewardship or care, by love or sacrifice or by perseverance or patience, rather by getting and taking, by big wages and lots of possessions, by cleverness and winning, by more and more, more and more quickly. So it is that in our current era, wanting and getting lots of things is often considered the meaning of life. And owning lots of things is often the measure of a life well lived.

As we read Scripture, it is evident that practicing the discipline of waiting is true to the meaning of biblical hope – that is, that now God is truly with us and is blessing us, however in the future, there is more to come. For that we will wait!

It is true to the meaning of biblical faith – that is, that God is trustworthy so that even if things are difficult today, I can wait on God with confidence for the future.

It is true to the meaning of biblical love – that is, that the meaning of life is to love God and others, not demanding anything in return. Sacrificial love and generous care for others are at the heart of the meaning of life, not getting what I want now.

Jesus waited well. As we look at the life of Jesus we see both pace and patience. We see busyness and retreat. We see Jesus practicing a life that was responsive to the guidance of his Father God.

Perhaps most remarkably, Jesus waited for the Father to raise him from the dead. Between the suffering of Friday and the glory of Sunday was the waiting of Saturday when for Jesus and for all who hope in God there was waiting.

The apostle Paul waited well. So it is that in 2 Corinthians 6:3-7 he writes:

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left (TNIV).

So how does one practice waiting well? Some practical things we can work on together:

Accept that pace and busyness are not always good things – sometimes they are simply the demands of a consumer driven society.

  1. Be present in the present as you wait – find meaning in the waiting
  2. Be prayerful as you wait – pray for others in the waiting
  3. Get to know yourself as you wait – check your breathing, thinking and emotions in the waiting.
  4. Get to know God as you wait – use time to meditate and praise God in the waiting
  5. Bring your frustration, anger and impatience to God as you wait – learn to lament


May we learn to practice the disciplines of waiting well in our times and places.

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