The topic of waiting has been a subject for several of my blog posts over the years. It emerged again this week because of a conversation with a young father from my church who is battling leukemia and has been in the hospital the past 27 days. In a recent conversation he shared how difficult it has been to wait, especially for test results. That prompted me to revisit some of my previous prose and edit them for this week’s reflections.
Patience is probably not one of my virtues. I’m guessing that I share this affliction with many of my clients and colleagues. It seems that “patience as a virtue” doesn’t resonate very well when expectations for results and action are used to measure success for today’s business leaders. Our need for instant gratification is fast becoming part of our society’s DNA as future leaders are fed a steady diet of sound bites, Instant Messages, and access to overwhelming volumes of information in shorter spans of time.
When leaders are faced with hard times or personal challenges the prospect of waiting takes on new meaning. Confidence begins to wane, decision-making can become reactive, and depression may paralyze our ability to see any signs of hope. These “personal pits” become lonely retreats where desperation and fear reign supreme.
The writers of the Biblical Psalms often echo these sentiments in poetic prose. The depth of despair, pain, and suffering ring with prophetic truth centuries after the words were first given voice. One Psalm offers hope for those persons, including leaders, mired in their personal “waiting game”. Attributed to David, the Hebrew king, its message offers a sharp contrast to our typical approach to waiting. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry,” writes David in Psalm 40:1.
Waited patiently? What does patience have to do with anything? I want my situation to change right now, not a year from now. Endurance and persistence aren’t leadership qualities; they’re something that only an athlete can appreciate.
The text also offers another startling revelation, the writer is expecting God to act, to hear and respond to his cry for help. In the depths of a hard time in his life the Psalmist anticipates that God will do something when he is ready. There is a quiet comfort in knowing that the waiting game will be rewarded. In the verses that follow, the poem offers a vivid and joyful account of rescue and restoration. A leader’s confidence is renewed and his future is secure.
Today’s leaders, including myself, have much to learn about this level of trust in the face of adversity. Most of us don’t really know or understand real suffering. We take so much for granted, including the incredible freedom, wealth, and privilege that are ours to enjoy. Our unwillingness to wait is symptomatic of a deeper need, the need to trust someone other than ourselves. Perhaps the lesson we all must learn about waiting begins with crying out for help.