Tension Between Working And Waiting

Although I have never met a mystic, that seems like a good job to have. Sitting around all day, just thinking, occasionally coming up with something that sounds wise or profound. People around you speaking in hushed tones, fearful of disrupting your deep thought process. “Quiet, he’s contemplating.”

In the 21st century business and professional world, of course, there is little place for mystics. We are action-oriented, determined to produce results quickly and in quantity. And you cannot do that by just sitting around and thinking about things. “Don’t just sit there – do something!” No time to contemplate.

Is that right? Is the “Do something, anything, even if it’s wrong” approach to deadlines, projects and goals always the best approach? 

For many so-called “Type A” leaders, the answer would be yes. Filled with ideas, energy and resolve, they insist on keeping the wheels in motion, and the faster the better. But experience teaches that waiting often is a wiser course of “action” than working. A former colleague often used to offer this insight: “Why is it that we did not have time to do this (assignment) right the first time, but we have time to do it over again?” Another friend had a sign posted in his office that stated, “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” In other words, if we would be willing to slow down long enough to think things through, we might enjoy more successes – and suffer fewer mistakes.

But there is another side to this question. Sometimes, despite our desires and efforts, waiting is our only option. Not being a patient person by nature, I find this difficult. But in retrospect I have often found the waiting was worthwhile. For instance, there were times when I believed a career change was in order and felt ready to move forward immediately. Instead, circumstances demanded that I wait. When the next job opportunity presented itself, to my surprise it was better than anything I could have imagined.

Here are some of the things the Bible has taught me about waiting: 

Trust in the One that knows the way. If you were making a trip through dangerous territory, would it help being guided by someone very familiar with the area? In life and work, we do not know what pitfalls lie ahead – but God does. At such times it helps to wait until He is ready to put us on the right course. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Recognize that waiting does not mean inaction. Sometimes situations require us to hold our ground, remaining where we are. Other times we can take steps that seem appropriate, but still must trust God to provide what we need. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes…. Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it” (Psalm 37:7, 34).

Understand that times of waiting teach us who is in control. We like to believe we are in control of our lives. However, often circumstances are far beyond our control, leaving us no choice but to wait. These times can teach us God is truly in control – and knows exactly what He is doing. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.

Reflection/Discussion Questions

1.  Are you an action-oriented person, at work and in your personal life, or do you work with people that favor an “act now, wait later” approach? Explain what this looks like in your daily pursuits and responsibilities.

2.  Why do you think waiting is such a difficult things for most of us to do?

3.  Think of a situation in which you had no choice but to wait, and then were pleased to discover the outcome of the situation was definitely worth the wait. What was that experience like for you?

4.  The Bible passages cited in this “Monday Manna” talk about waiting on God and trusting in His timing and direction. How do you respond to this? Do you truly believe God knows what He is doing, and that He deserves your willingness to wait for Him to do what is best?

NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to review additional passages that relate to this topic, consider the following verses:

Deuteronomy 31:6-8; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Joshua 1:9; Micah 7:7; Hebrews 13:5


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