“If you can wait and not be tired by waiting.”
Rudyard Kipling, If
Are there any waiting benefits? Rudyard’s thoughts often haunts me in the impatient moments of life, whether standing in line at the store with one item or during an existential crisis when you ask where you are going in life.
The reality, regardless of our willingness to accept it, is that waiting is part and parcel to living. Without waiting, nothing would ever happen in the future. The present would become filled with so many events we could never hope to keep them straight.
Waiting in line at the store can be annoying, but bearable. We can look at the people in line ahead of us and rationally predict when they will finish unloading their cart. We know the cashier will eventually check out all of their items.
Waiting in life is a different matter. We cannot look at the line ahead of us. No rational predictions can evolve based on what we can see. We only can have hope that everything will work out in the end.
When Kipling wrote about waiting, it was a far different world than what we live in now. In the 19th century, emails, texts, cell phones or Amazon Prime did not exist. Everything took its good time getting to you or going to someone else. Today we wait less than any other generation before us and it is still not quick enough.
The defining moments of our lives are the ones we usually feel like we’re waiting for: Finding the right job, the right girl, making your mark on the world. These are the things you hope for life to bring and impatiently wait for. Yet, it often seems that they are also the things that surprise you out of nowhere. Though you wait for them expectantly, you don’t realize they are happening until after the fact.
The patience we advocate isn’t simply sitting on your hands, or idleness. Idly waiting is the easiest way to waste your life away. The time in which you wait is to be used in preparation, reading yourself for the endeavors you seek in life. By diligently applying yourself in this manner you not only use the time wisely, but also make it go by faster.
There will be moments, regardless of how busy you keep yourself, that feel idle. From where you stand it appears you are no closer to the end of the checkout line. In these moments, the only solution is to give your grief to God and stand fast. You can follow another of Kipling’s admonitions:
And so hold on when there is nothing left within you except the will which says, ‘Hold on.’”
Here are 3 waiting benefits in an instant gratification world:
Waiting Benefit 1: creates value
When we wait for something it gains a value that cannot come elsewhere. No amount of work or money can increase the value of something that has been long waited for. The anticipation builds the value over time.
Waiting Benefit 2: builds character
Whether we like to admit it or not, we need to wait for the big moments. Waiting allows a period of reflection before great events, preparing the individual for the things that are to come.
James 1: 2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Patience works and tries us in ways that action and events do not, testing our ability to hold by faith and not by sight. Through this, character is built in a man or woman, preparing them for what is to come.
Waiting Benefit 3: relieves our egos
A by-product of our self-interest, we tend to view everything that happens as pivoting around us. Yet, often to our surprise, the world does not revolve around our lives and stories. Even as we are waiting for something, the world is still spinning, working, and functioning. Our waiting is merely allowing life to unfold. Behind the scenes, our future is being prepared without our noticing, with people and events moving closer to our lives and futures.
In Gaining Favor With God and Man, William M. Thayer wrote,
Any one can give up the contest, but only the bravest and best can follow it up to victory. It requires no particular talent or wisdom to lose courage and decline to go forward, a very ignorant and inefficient person can do that; but the nobler attributes must push to the front to overcome difficulties and triumph; and patience is by no means the least important of these.”
Of all the enemies to face, waiting can be the most trying. It cannot be fought physically, but must be dealt with through raw grit and determination. To do this requires both moral strength and spiritual support.
Regardless of where you are in life, an existential crisis or a grocery line, remember that good things are worth the wait.