Growing up Quaker should have taught me a lot about waiting. The Friends Meeting I grew up in had periods of silence in which we waited on the Spirit to speak to each of us individually- and many weeks nothing happened. The Quaker camp I worked at for many years had quiet evenings on a hillside waiting for both the sunset and the presence of God. There were many lessons to be learned about patience and calm. But apparently I failed to learn them.
Nearly 30 years as a youth pastor should have gifted me with the patience of Job. In the church, people seldom do anything on time or in a timely manner. Parent's sign kids up late, kids show up late, church elders respond to your requests when it is too late- the list goes on and on. And then there is the matter of being patient with God's little puzzles that we call teenagers. They often surprise you when your expectations are low and often disappoint you when they are high. Without patience, the natural instinct would have been to abandon all hope. So you wait, and trust that God will use your efforts to make a difference in the long run. It has been said (often by me) that when you are in student ministry you never know if you had an impact on a student until after they have been gone from your ministry for 10 years. So you do your best...and you wait.
But all of that practice- all of the waiting- doesn't make it any easier to wait on God when we need answers. Scripture tells us that "they who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength (Psalm 8)" - which is a wonderful promise- but what are we supposed to do while we wait? Lately I have spent a lot of time in God's waiting room, and it has been a stressful experience. There have been prayers and waiting for signs of healing in a friend with cancer, and there have been no such signs. She is fading. So now we pray that God would release her from her pain and suffering...and we wait on that as well. Another friend with cancer is in the early stages of her fight, and we pray and wait and hope that the chemo treatments will work and she will be made whole again. I pray for miracles. We believe in God and we have faith in the doctors, but we still must wait for results. And it is just so hard. Many of you know that I find more theology in music than in theological teachings, and in this case it is Tom Petty who speaks the truth: