Queuing is arguably one of the things we Brits do best; we are prepared to arrive early at the supermarket and wait for hours to get the last loo roll or carton of eggs. If there is a queue, we want to be in it! In fact in the days of World War Two, it was a well-known maxim: “If you see a queue, join it.” (This was in the days of wartime rationing, when folk didn’t know when the next delivery of vital foodstuffs would arrive.) Now, of course, we have to queue at least two metres apart because of coronavirus!
But as we self-isolate and wait for Covid-19 to burn itself out, there will inevitably come a sense of frustration that the end of it all is still far off. How many more days and weeks will we have to wait before we can resume our normal everyday lives? We may in fact find ourselves saying with the psalmist, “How long, Lord, how long?”
This present situation can very easily become like a prison, with no end in sight: no outings, no social activity, no nights out, no family gatherings, and no corporate worship. We discover the same frustration that the people of God felt many times when they were at their wits’ end and God seemed far away. Many times they cried out that same phrase, “How long?”
But that cry begs the question in reply, “What are we impatient for?” If we read the Psalms, we soon discover that God’s people were thirsting after several things, like deliverance, revenge, mercy and forgiveness. But when they had calmed down a little, they realized that their needs were for much more than a sense of vindication or victory over their enemies. They were desperate not so much for their own bodily comforts but for the reassurance that God loved them and would be with them, no matter how long their present situation: “Turn, O Lord, deliver my life.” (Ps. 6 v 4), “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” (Ps. 37 v7) “with you there is forgiveness, …. listen to my cry for mercy.” (Ps 130 vs 2,4). There clearly had to be some point to all this waiting, and for us in 2020 the same truth holds good.
It’s not the waiting that is the problem; it’s how we respond to the waiting. Psalm 130 again: “I wait for the Lord … more than for the morning … and in His word I put my hope.” “We wait for the Lord; he is our hope and shield.” (Psalm 33). The psalmists had clearly moved beyond their immediate feelings of frustration, boredom and uselessness to see the higher purpose in such a trying situation: “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90).
Now that is an outcome well worth aiming for!