Patience Isn’t Passive

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 by until something happens then you’re doing it wrong.

To wait is not to set aside other responsibilities aside. We work at current jobs while waiting for the call back about the one we interviewed for. We work at godly singleness while waiting for a spouse 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 busy with others.

Waiting is in an impatient business leading stress leading 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 ought to channel our desires to forward-thinking confidence rather than misplacing them toward those around us which only leads to disappointment to garnish our 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 it is stillness, but in the stillness there is alertness and heightened sensitivity.

Finally, sometimes waiting is 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, 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.

This column originally appeared at WORLD News Group’s website ( Reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2012 WORLD News Group. All rights reserved.

I live in the Nashville area and spend my days helping churches with leadership development. My nights are spent writing and rooting for Minnesota sports teams. I also podcast a bit. I'm the author of The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith, and The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life