COVID-19 Is Teaching Us How to Wait

COVID-19 is teaching us some hard lessons but one of the main ones may not be the most visible—we’re learning how to wait.

I’m not trying to downplay the severity of the pandemic by imagining some sunny upside. The medical crisis is real, and the way the virus has swept across the globe in three months terrifies almost everyone.

The economic disruption left in its wake may turn out to be an even greater problem, with unemployment and financial suffering perhaps lasting years.

But America has weathered worse storms than this. The global crises of the last century—the Great Depression and World War II come to mind—prove that by God’s grace we have the spirit and resources to overcome any challenge. If the Charleston Naval Shipyard from 1941-1945 was able to build a Navy vessel every 30 days, I’m confident that we’ll figure out how to deal with COVID-19 in ways that shortly will return life to normal.

In the meantime, life has changed and for most of us the change means learning how to wait.

We wait for school to go back in session.

We wait for businesses to reopen.

We wait for medical researchers to develop a vaccine.

We wait for the stock market to rebound.

We wait for our church to gather again for worship.

We wait for the grocery store to get a toilet paper delivery.

Instead of rushing through each day with our hair on fire and powering through appointments and meetings only to fall into bed at the end of the day feeling like we’re further behind, COVID-19 has brought in a different—and radically slower—pace of life. We can’t see clients. We can’t travel. Many businesses have slowed or closed. We’re forced to wait.

Students who each day were slammed with classes, events, sports, friends, travel and entertainment now must sit at home with their parents and siblings. The highlight of their day is if Netflix has something worth watching. As hard as it is, they have to wait.

Moms forced to teach the curriculum sent home from their children’s schools pray the lessons don’t include subjects they failed when they were in school. They also pray to survive the next few weeks without losing mind or religion. Waiting isn’t their preferred position but what choice do they have?

We’re people in hurry, obsessed with getting things done quickly and efficiently–but that’s all changed now. And the new normal of waiting pushes us so far out of our comfort zone that we don’t know what to do with ourselves. We feel like someone set down in a foreign country without knowing the language.

If hurry is a statement of autonomy, as if by our own speed we can reshape the world to our liking, then waiting is the admission of weakness and a confession that life is out of control. You can read more about our national obsession with hurry in a previous blog.

On a deeper level, waiting can turn toxic and lead to frustration, depression or even spiritual collapse. If we continually call out to God to improve our situation but nothing changes—or at least it doesn’t change on our timetable—then good people sometimes can abandon their faith.

The Bible pays special attention to waiting. But for the men and women in its pages, waiting is far from the abnormal condition our modern perspective make it out to be. Instead, it’s the time we’re given to prepare our hearts for God’s work.

So whatever your waiting looks like during COVID-19, here are some things to remember:

  • When faced with powerful enemies, David chose to wait for God to work instead of taking matters into his own hands:

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

  • The prophet Isaiah points to waiting as the source of spiritual renewal:

They who wait for 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)

  • Paul tells us that waiting restores perspective to life:

The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

As COVID-19 works its way through our community, nation and world, let’s take the lesson to heart that it has to teach us and learn to wait on God.

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