Few things can demonstrate our challenges with patience more than when we face a delay. Despite planes, trains, and cars going faster than ever before, they still cannot guarantee we will not face a delay. And it doesn’t stop with traveling. It happens any time there is something we want or believe we need and it doesn’t happen “on time” (our time).
Delay is a bold reminder that we are not in control and we don’t need to be a ‘control freak’ to struggle when we face it.
In our modern day culture we expect everything to happen quickly. The technology of our day helps create that illusion. We “instant message”, use the drive-through to pick up our Starbucks, microwave, tweet, and listen to more books than we read. All are designed to help us while we are “on the go” and to access anything and everything we need while doing so.
The problem is that technology still breaks down. We are so tied to our computers, iPads, and smart phones that we are almost helpless when they break down, a server crashes, or we lose one of them.
And it isn’t just a technology issue that creates delay. Construction barrels and detours slow us to a crawl or stop for minutes or hours. The weather’s fickle predictability (despite satellites) delays and cancels flights, trains, buses, and cruises.
More and more medical portals are designed to keep us in touch with appointments and test results that we are eager to receive, but using them is too often still a grab bag and not nearly as easy to utilize.
Vacations can reward us by disconnecting with time, but they pass too quickly and sometimes still do not release us from the grip of time.
I have experienced more than a few delays in my lifetime and have had a front row seat to others in my family who have had them as well. Recently I watched as our oldest grandson waited to receive an acceptance from a medical school that appeared to be very much delayed.
How easily we can forget (if we even know) that delays serve a purpose. The delay in our travel plans sometimes helps us avoid an accident or some other thing far worse than being later than we wish. A delay on getting a job we hoped for can sometimes mean a better offer comes through.
Delays are not new to humanity.
Long before cell phones and jet travel, speed limits and computers, humanity had to wait and face delays. The Bible shows us many examples.
An angel was delayed on the way to Daniel for 21 days. A child didn’t arrive for Sarah and Abraham until they were very old. The children of Israel were delayed in slavery in Egypt after Joseph’s death until Moses was raised up. Entering into the Promised Land was delayed 40 years. Making a list of all the delays in the Bible would be an intriguing exercise since we most struggle with delays that come from God.
When prayers are not answered, answered as we wish, or in a timely manner, everything in us can struggle with questions about God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and love for us.
One of the most poignant passages in the New Testament is told in John 11 when the close friend of Jesus (Lazarus) becomes ill and then dies. Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus, are in sorrow and know if Jesus had been there this would not have happened. They had seen Jesus heal others and knew He could do it.
More upsetting perhaps was that Jesus knew Lazarus was sick and delayed going to his bedside before he died.
While reading this passage I noticed a note about the passage that offers so much wisdom to the dilemma of delay:
“The discipline of delay is one of the hardest lessons we must learn as followers of Jesus, especially when it is God who does the delaying. Only grace can enable us to accept God’s rich vocabulary of answers to our earnest prayers − “yes,” “no,” “not yet,” or even “yes, but it’s going to feel like no” − because we trust that he “is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.” (Eph. 2:30)