So here I sit in the waiting room. The receptionist took my name, recorded my insurance data, and gestured to a chair. “Please have a seat. We will call you when the doctor is ready.” I look around. A mother holds a sleeping baby. A fellow dressed in a suit thumbs through Time magazine. A woman with a newspaper looks at her watch, sighs, and continues the task of the hour: waiting.
The waiting room. Not the examination room. That’s down the hall. Not the consultation room. That’s on the other side of the wall. Not the treatment room. Exams, consultations, and treatments all come later.
The task at hand is the name of the room: the waiting room. We in the waiting room understand our assignment: to wait. We don’t treat each other. I don’t ask the nurse for a stethoscope or blood pressure cuff. I don’t pull up a chair next to the woman with the newspaper and say, “Tell me what prescriptions you are taking.” That’s the job of the nurse. My job is to wait. So I do.
Can’t say that I like it. Time moves like an Alaskan glacier. The clock ticks every five minutes, not every second. Someone pressed the pause button. Life in slo-mo. We don’t like to wait. We are the giddyup generation. We weave through traffic, looking for the faster lane. We frown at the person who takes eleven items into the ten-item express checkout. We drum our fingers while the song downloads or the microwave heats our coffee. “Come on, come on.” We want six-pack abs in ten minutes and minute rice in thirty seconds. We don’t like to wait. Not on the doctor, the traffic, or the pizza.
Not on God?
Take a moment and look around you. Do you realize where we sit? This planet is God’s waiting room.
The young couple in the corner? Waiting to get pregnant. The fellow with the briefcase? He has résumés all over the country, waiting on work. The elderly woman with the cane? A widow. Been waiting a year for one tearless day. Waiting. Waiting on God to give, help, heal. Waiting on God to come. We indwell the land betwixt prayer offered and prayer answered. The land of waiting.
If anyone knew the furniture of God’s waiting room, Joseph did. One problem with reading his story is its brevity. We can read the Genesis account from start to finish in less than an hour, which gives the impression that all these challenges took place before breakfast one morning. We’d be wiser to pace our reading over a couple of decades.
Take Genesis 37 into a dry cistern, and sit there for a couple of hours while the sun beats down. Recite the first verse of Genesis 39 over and over for a couple of months:
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt.
Joseph needed at least this much time to walk the 750 miles from Dothan to Thebes.
Then there was the day or days or weeks on the auction block. Add to that probably a decade in Potiphar’s house, supervising the servants, doing his master’s bidding, learning Egyptian. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. Time moves slowly in a foreign land.
And time stands still in a prison.
Joseph had asked the butler to put in a good word for him.
Remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house… I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon. — Genesis 40:14-15
We can almost hear the butler reply, “Certainly, I will mention you to Pharaoh. First chance I get. You’ll be hearing from me.” Joseph hurried back to his cell and collected his belongings. He wanted to be ready when the call came. A day passed. Then two. Then a week… a month. Six months. No word. As it turned out,
Pharaoh’s cup-bearer… promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought. — Genesis 40:23 NLT
On the page of your Bible, the uninked space between that verse and the next is scarcely wider than a hair ribbon. It takes your eyes only a split second to see it. Yet it took Joseph two years to experience it. Genesis 41 starts like this:
Two years passed and Pharaoh had a dream. — Genesis 41:1 MSG
Two years! Twenty-four months of silence. One hundred and four weeks of waiting. Seven hundred and thirty days of wondering. Two thousand one hundred and ninety meals alone. Seventeen thousand five hundred and twenty hours of listening for God yet hearing nothing but silence.
Plenty of time to grow bitter, cynical, angry. Folks have given up on God for lesser reasons in shorter times.
Not Joseph. On a day that began like any other, he heard a stirring at the dungeon entrance. Loud, impatient voices demanded, “We are here for the Hebrew! Pharaoh wants the Hebrew!” Joseph looked up from his corner to see the prison master, white-faced and stammering. “Get up! Hurry, get up!” Two guards from the court were on his heels. Joseph remembered them from his days in Potiphar’s service. They took him by the elbows and marched him out of the hole. He squinted at the brilliant sunlight. They walked him across a courtyard into a room. Attendants flocked around him. They removed his soiled clothing, washed his body, and shaved his beard. They dressed him in a white robe and new sandals. The guards reappeared and walked him into the throne room.
And so it was that Joseph and Pharaoh looked into each other’s eyes for the first time.
The king hadn’t slept well the night before. Dreams troubled his rest. He heard of Joseph’s skill. “They say you can interpret dreams. My counselors are mute as stones. Can you help me?”
Joseph’s last two encounters hadn’t ended so well. Mrs. Potiphar lied about him. The butler forgot about him. In both cases Joseph had mentioned the name of God. Perhaps he should hedge his bets and keep his faith under wraps.
Not I, but God. God will set Pharaoh’s mind at ease. — Genesis 41:16 MSG
Joseph emerged from his prison cell bragging on God. Jail time didn’t devastate his faith; it deepened it.
And you? You aren’t in prison, but you may be infertile or inactive or in limbo or in between jobs or in search of health, help, a house, or a spouse. Are you in God’s waiting room? If so, here is what you need to know: while you wait, God works.
My Father is always at His work, Jesus said. — John 5:17 NIV
God never twiddles His thumbs. He never stops. He takes no vacations. He rested on the seventh day of creation but got back to work on the eighth and hasn’t stopped since. Just because you are idle, don’t assume God is.
Joseph’s story appeared to stall out in chapter 40. Our hero was in shackles. The train was off the tracks. History was in a holding pattern. But while Joseph was waiting, God was working. He assembled the characters. God placed the butler in Joseph’s care. He stirred the sleep of the king with odd dreams. He confused Pharaoh’s counselors. And at just the right time, God called Joseph to duty.
He’s working for you as well. “Be still, and know that I am God”1 reads the sign on God’s waiting room wall. You can be glad because God is good. You can be still because He is active. You can rest because He is busy.
What if you give up? Lose faith? Walk away? Don’t. For Heaven’s sake, don’t. All of Heaven is warring on your behalf. Above and around you at this very instant, God’s messengers are at work.
Those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. — Isaiah 40:31
Fresh strength. Renewed vigor. Legs that don’t grow weary. Delight yourself in God, and He will bring rest to your soul.
You’ll get through this waiting room season just fine. Pay careful note, and you will detect the most wonderful surprise. The doctor will step out of his office and take the seat next to yours. “Just thought I’d keep you company while you are waiting.” Not every physician will do that, but yours will. After all, He is the Great Physician.
Excerpted with permission from You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
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I’m in a waiting season. How about you? Sometimes it seems like I pray and I look for an answer… and nothing is happening. Is that true for you, too? But, even though we do not see it, God is on the move working on our behalf! Let’s wait on Him and let Him renew our strength. Come share your thoughts on waiting on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full