What to Do When You Are Forced to Wait

I am good at a few things. But waiting is not one of them. Whether it is being put on hold when I call a business, sitting in the waiting room of my dentist’s office, or standing in the security line at the airport, I am impatient.

Three Bored People in a Waiting Room - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/drewhadley, Image #12692697

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/drewhadley

As I am writing this tonight, we are waiting on the test results for my granddaughter, Libby. She has had strange symptoms for a couple of years. Finally, after she vomited again this afternoon, my daughter, Mindy, took her to the emergency room. My wife, Gail, dropped what she was doing to be at her side.

The emergency room was unusually busy, so they sat for more than four hours before getting in to see a doctor. He ordered some tests. Unfortunately, it will be several more hours before the results come back. The good news is that Libby is comfortable and seems stabile. Meanwhile, we wait.

But you’re probably waiting on something, too. Perhaps you are waiting for:

  • Word that you landed that job you want
  • News about a possible raise or promotion
  • Mr. or Ms. Right to show up
  • Your pregnancy test results
  • The judge’s decision on your court case
  • A response to an important email
  • Approval for a loan
  • The answer to a prayer
  • The pain to stop

While I am still not very good at waiting, I have gotten better. Here are five strategies I am currently using:

  1. Embrace it. I don’t believe anything happens by chance. To say it another way, everything happens for a reason. If I am waiting, there is something for me to learn. Waiting might actually be a gift.
  2. Ask the right questions. I’ve blogged a lot about this recently. An unhelpful question would be “Why can’t they hurry up?” or even “Why is this taking so long?” A better question is “What can I learn while I am waiting?” or “How will this kind of waiting make me stronger?”
  3. Redeem the time. There are lots of things you can do while you are waiting if you are prepared. This is why I rarely go anywhere without my MacBook Air or my Amazon Kindle. Worst case, I can read a book on my iPhone.
  4. Encourage someone else. One of the best things you can do when you are waiting is get the attention off yourself. I have to keep reminding myself, “It’s not all about me.” Encouraging someone else while I am waiting doesn’t solve my own problem, of course, but it makes me feel like I am at least doing something—and making a positive contribution.
  5. Trust God. This is the difficult but important part. God has not forgotten about you or me. He not only knows exactly what we need; He knows when we need it. His timing is perfect. I like how Jesus showed up in the story about Lazarus. It looked like He was two days late. His friend had died. But He arrived right on time—for what He wanted to do (see John 11).

Suffice it to say, I have a lot more to learn. This is not easy for me. But I am certainly getting plenty of opportunities. How about you?

Questions: Are you in a season of waiting? How are you coping with it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Susan Fontaine Godwin

    ‎”As I wait, You make me strong.” Song lyrics by Lamont Hiebert. It is a privilege to wait on the Lord. My husband, Gary, and I experienced an intense and enduring season of waiting last year when we moved to Birmingham, AL in hopes of Gary receiving a lung transplant. We had waited for 5 months before he was placed on the list as a candidate for transplant and received news on May 1 that he was “listed.” We moved to be near UAB (Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham) May 23 and received our first phone call 6 days later saying, “Mr. Godwin, we may have a lung for you. Don’t eat or drink anything and be at the hospital within an hour.” It turned out that the lung was not viable and we went home to our rental apt. to wait for the next call. Over the course of the next four months, we received 4 more calls for a possible lung, and each time we went home after 4-5 hours disappointed and crest-fallen. Each time, we would once again fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, for His strength, promise and hope. Each time He reminded us that that our hope and trust was in the One who created the heavens and the earth with His spoken Word and we continued to pray for the perfect lung in His perfect time. On Sept. 28, we received our sixth call and we went to the now familiar ATC room at the HTIC unit to wait. This day we waited for 8 hours, when suddenly they the doctor came in to tell us Gary would be transplanted that night. Suddenly, everything came together and he was wheeled into surgery. Less than 3 hours later, the doctor came into the room to tell our family that the surgery went perfectly and that Gary had a new beautiful lung. Today Gary is back announcing his beloved Jaguar basketball and baseball games and working out 5 days a week. Psalm 84 says It is indeed a privilege to wait upon the Lord, for in our weakness His strength is made manifest.
    Is. 40:31
    “But they that wait upon 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.”

  • BeverlyMChi

    Dear Mr. Hyatt:
    I lift your granddaughter and your family in prayer for God to give the doctors wisdom and direction in treating her.

    Thank you so much for this blog article. I have been waiting on the Lord to send me to my next workplace assignment. In the meantime, He continues to show Himself as faithful, I have what I need. Give us this day our daily bread right! I hold on to His promises in the Word of God and seek to encourage and pray for those who are also looking for their next workplace assignment. I have also used this time to heal from the trauma of the departure and recognize that God wants to do a new thing in me. I continue to stay in tune with my industry and to seek God for how He wants to use the skills and talents for the Kingdom. I am in seminary and that as well has been a challenge and as God continues to reveal His plan I pray to stay open and move at His commands.
    Most importantly what I am doing in this season is to love the Lord with my heart, mind, soul, and strength. The circumstances are tiresome, I am so over being in this place but at the end of the day I trust my life to a loving God who keeps His covenant, so I worship Him in spirit and in truth. As noted in the movie Facing the Giants,” I resolve to give my very best to God and to leave the result to Him”. As William McDowell says: “My life is not my own to Him I belong, I give myself away, my dreams, my ambitions, my plans.”

    Thanks for the opportunity to share.

    God bless,

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  • Anonymous

    Yes, I am waiting. Like you, I DO NOT LIKE WAITING. Unfortunate for us humans, God seems to find it necessary to put us in “waiting seasons” frequently throughout life.

    I read a quote once that basically said, “When you can’t do anything else, just do the next thing.” When I find myself in these seasons of waiting, I purposefully focus on what I KNOW to be God’s will. The future is sometimes cloudy and uncertain, but there is always light for today. Today I can walk in joy and obedience. Tomorrow always belongs to an all-knowing God.

    (By the way, hope your granddaughter’s test results come back clear!)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. I have heard it put like this: “When you don’t know what to do, just do the next right thing.” In fact, I am working on a blog post on this now.

      Unfortunately, we still don’t have a diagnosis on my granddaughter. We have a eliminated some thing, but still searching. Thanks!

  • http://www.convenientcalendar.com Free Calendar

    You tend to do things you regret out of impatience, and it really shows your character! Could you imagine if David was impatient to become king after he told he was going to be king, that could have been disasterous!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Agreed. Saul is the perfect example of NOT waiting.

  • Sue

    Let me start out by saying that my husband and I have one beautiful miracle in our son. This year we have foun out just how much of a miracle he is. I found out last summer that I could, “medically”, not have any more children without help. This prompted my husband and I to investigate In Vitrofertilization. We just finished our cycle and 2 weeks ago found out that it didn’t take. We only have one embryo left and we will try again in May. In the meantime waiting on God has been a real challenge. We have had many suggestions such and adoption and maybe we are only meant to have one child. The most helpful thing anyone has said to me came from my grandfather, a retired pastor. He said that it’s not about having enough faith or praying enough, it’s about submitting your path to God no matter what the outcome may be. This is a very tough lesson to hear and learn because I really want another child and I know that God is able to work around my issues. I mean, who knows my body better than He does. My work, however, is to submit to His authority over every area of my life and this can sometimes be even harder than the waiting. I just have to keep praying that He will give me the strength, humility and grace to submit my way to Him no matter the outcome of my circumstances.

  • Halee smith

    This is my first time being bullied in school and i cant cope with it the day before i started to be bullied i was asking the lord to forgive me for all my sins and the next day im being teased about how ugly i look and i have been ran over stepped on for 8 years or since i started school and now im being bullied this is too much i was bullied well not quite bullied but teased and now its to a point where im teased everyday i am always nice to people but that doesnt do mw any good i keep questioning whether i should keep my faith or not cuz I dont think it has gotten any better for me but im trying to hold on hoping god will give me the blessing i have been waiting for.

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  • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

    I go everywhere with my Kindle; sometimes my wife makes fun of me for taking it with me to family gatherings, even though I rarely use it. I always tell her, “Someday, we’ll be sitting in an airport lobby with nothing to do, and you’ll be the one without anything to read.” There have been a couple of times in our 4-year marriage where she’s already said to me, “Man, I wish I had something to read at this moment.”

  • http://www.susiefinkbeiner.wordpress.com Susie Finkbeiner

    This might sound funny…but I like waiting. I’m the mom of 3 kids 4 and under. I’m rushing around so much all day that when I get a second to stop and wait – ah, that’s pretty nice! 

    It gives me time to wonder about life, to daydream. And, amazingly enough, it’s a moment that I’m able to read or write a little!

  • http://www.magascene.com Marie Fuzzell

    Great advice. I’m not good at waiting either; one of my strategies is to tell friends. It’s easier to wait with friends than alone. 

  • http://www.nancyjcommunications.weebly.com Nanc

    Waiting? It has been part of my life for years. As a sales representative for years waiting was part of my daily life. Now I travel internationally and I spent time waiting to get to where I desire to go. What I see during my times of waiting as I wait with others, anger, anger, anger. My feeling on this, my anger will only hurt me and it usually will not speed up the wait.

  • http://twitter.com/churchpunk Chris Walker

    I have been waiting for a year and I am still not sure what I am waiting for. I just keep doing what I am supposed to be doing now.

  • http://twitter.com/DarrylHarris Pastor Darryl Harris

    Great and helpful post as usual.  Sounds like a book I wrote, When God Says Wait for someone else.  Love all your helpful information!

  • http://www.lambpower.net Steve D

    Michael, great post. I would like to add two other thoughts.  I learned this the hard way, spending 6 weeks in the hospital waiting for a liver and kidney transplant

    First, understand that most waits are beyond your control. They are also probably beyond the control of most of the people who you directly deal with. What we may think are simple transactions are very complex. Therefore, stewing about it is useless.

    Second, deal with those who are on the opposite side (receptionists, customer service representatives, nurses, etc.) politely and with grace. As I said before, quite often the people who you have to interface with cannot change the bigger picture. Treating them with respect an courtesy shows the love of Christ and sometimes will even get them on your side.

  • Dshick

    Mr Hyatt…..

    Another wonderful post.  I’ve always considered myself very impatient and I will keep your advice in mind the next time I can’t relax and let things happen.

    But to what is most important – tonight I will pray for your granddaughter, your daughter and your entire family….as well as all those who posted their medical and other challenges.  There is such power in prayer.  Feel the Spirit.


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  • Reggie

    I am “between jobs” currently.  Our money is running low and bills are coming soon.  I know that God is at work in my life.  I have seen Him at work before. 
    Although I get uneasy at the, “last minute” intervention, I know that it will be there for me.  He is a wonderful God.  He knows the circumstances we each face and is at work in all our lives.  He will bring us through.  He said he would.

  • http://twitter.com/DarrylHarris Pastor Darryl Harris

    Should take a look at my book on this important subject: When God Says Wait” on amazon.com.  Similar helpful insights

  • Heikki

    First of all I would like to thank you for your blog posts. I’m a young product manager still learning the job and I’ve found your posts to be most helpful and resourceful. At first I thought that your posts would only help me on my job but I’ve found help from them on my personal life. This post got me to think that I will write a reply. It took a couple of months to write a reply but here it goes.

    The reason I wanted to write a reply was that at the moment when I read this I was waiting for something to show that will my and my spouse’s seven year relationship continue or end. At the beginning of 2011 we realized that all was not well in our relationship and we started to see a relationship counsellor. It helped a lot but after six months it started to show that we’re going nowhere. Then we decided to move apart and wait another six months to see what would come. I had been living by myself for about a month when your post came and from that I got some extra power to carry on.

    I had read your previous post about when something bad happens and you adviced then not to think “why me?” but “what will this make possible?” and with that in my mind and this post I changed my way of thinking. I was pretty messed up about the moving apart but I managed to change my thinking every time it started to look bad. I realized that now I can do everything I like and I don’t have to ask anyone for a “permission” or try to get the schedule working. I also thought that there has to be a reason for this and found comfort in that.

    So thank you Michael for your posts and giving so good advice in life and work. Wishing you and your family all the best.

    Sincerely yours,

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Heikki. I’m so glad you have found it helpful.

  • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

    I was in a season of waiting. Now I’m just in the season of reaping from that wait. The thing that got me through the tough times was knowing that God is and always will be faithful. Knowing that he has taken me from somewhere to put me higher and that he wouldn’t make things worse for me.

    All these tips are really great. I wish I had them during my wait. I had to learn a few of them by doing the wrong thing and learning from that! God still teaches you through it.

  • http://twitter.com/LeadingGodsGen Michelle Eichner

    My new attitude on waiting: http://wp.me/s29UZK-waiting  (I don’t have it down, but I’m working on it! :-)

  • Hckclb

    Even when working, I’m always in a state of waiting…for my novel to be accepted by a publisher. For myself to finish the latest short story. For the opportunity to straighten my work room after the 2-month furor of matting, framing and packing artwork to take to the 8-day venue I attend each year. How soon I begin the first draft of my second middle grade novel, depends on how soon the fallout from all that top-speed preparation, gets cleared from my early-morning writing area. That would be enough to wait for, and work my way through, so when I find myself in waiting situations (doctor’s office, long supermarket lines—I make sure to have some meaningful reading with me. I also people-watch and think about the development of characters for the new novel. Keeping a spiritual outlook is most essential. When I maintain that, I can stay positive.

  • RoryPeebles

    Some excellent ideas!

  • Walker Nobrega

    Im waiting for a dumb thing, i dont really want say what is it but is something material that i can only get it in april 22th, im counting the days and i cant concentrate in nothing else.
    The only thing that keeps me going is that someday april 22th will come and this will be only a old and useless comment, but im trying to type all the bad feelings im having.

  • Shelly Calcagno

    Thank you – I so needed to read this today!

  • Bobby

    When I find myself waiting, I like to redeem the time back but review scripture using the Topical Memory System by the Navigators. http://www.navpress.com/product/9781576839973/

  • Scott Lippmann

    Waiting is a wonderful opportunity to pray. We are so busy in our lives that we often neglect important things for lack of time. Waiting is “found time”! By using our waiting time for prayer, we do several things – obviously, we get an unexpected opportunity to spend time with God; doing so also calms our mind, focuses us on what’s important and relieves the stress of the moment. When we do walk into someone’s office after a wait, we are relaxed, focused and functioning at our best.

  • Sheryl Floris

    Great post! I tend to carry a book with me as well as a notepad so that I’m prepared in case I have to wait. So many books, so little time!

  • Haristg

    Oooh Comeon You gotta b kiddin man, even ma illiterate mom knows this :3