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God Leads Us Into Waiting Rooms

God leads us into waiting rooms, but there's always a purpose to waiting, and ways to cope with it.

Have we noticed that rooms speak for themselves? Walk into a freshly decorated nursery and the room speaks of joy and excitement. On a cold winter evening, enter a cozy den, with a large fire playing percussion in the fireplace and shadows dancing in syncopated rhythm on the walls and ceiling. The room invites us to sit down and succumb to its atmosphere. Or walk into a festive holiday dining room. Plates at each chair await a sumptuous feast. Friendly voices and warm laughter drift from down the hall. The room sings with the theme of celebration and reunion.

Other rooms aren't nearly as inviting - for example, waiting rooms. For all of us, life brings many experiences that develop into "waiting rooms." Maybe we're launching into a new arena of education. Or maybe we've completed our formal education and are waiting for employment. Maybe we are waiting to have children, or at the other end of the spectrum, maybe we are waiting for them to leave home. Maybe we're waiting for a long-anticipated trip.

It's impossible for a person not to be waiting for something. And waiting is never easy. It's always been difficult, our culture has made it even harder. We live in a society that has ready-made frozen dinners and instant potatoes. Our phones are touch-tone and mobile, so we can do two things at once. Our ovens are microwaves. Our information is generated on a computer screen at the touch of a keyboard. Our culture demands instant gratification and immediate success.

Yet all of us face times when God seems to hit the "pause" button in our lives and He invites - and sometimes forces - us to accept a posture of waiting. This is true for the biblical character Joseph. He lived in a "waiting room." Imprisoned on false charges, his deliverance didn't come quickly.

Genesis 40:1-23
1 Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt.
2 Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker,
3 and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined.
4 The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. After they had been in custody for some time,
5 each of the two men--the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison--had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.
6 When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected.
7 So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why are your faces so sad today?"
8 "We both had dreams," they answered, "but there is no one to interpret them." Then Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams."
9 So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, "In my dream I saw a vine in front of me,
10 and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes.
11 Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup and put the cup in his hand."
12 "This is what it means," Joseph said to him. "The three branches are three days.
13 Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer.
14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.
15 For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon."
16 When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, "I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread.
17 In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head."
18 "This is what it means," Joseph said. "The three baskets are three days.
19 Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh."
20 Now the third day was Pharaoh's birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials:
21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh's hand,
22 but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.
23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

Joseph met the Pharaoh's chief baker and cupbearer in prison and interpreted their dreams. Joseph requested that when the cupbearer was released from jail, that he would speak to the Pharaoh on his behalf. But the cupbearer forgot his imprisoned friend and Joseph's life continued in a holding pattern for two years.

Then, suddenly, the holding pattern was interrupted. Pharaoh had a couple of dreams: seven sickly, skinny cows devoured by seven fat cows, then seven scorched and dry ears of grain swallowed by seven picture-perfect ears of grain. Suddenly the cupbearer remembered Joseph and told the Pharaoh about the young man in jail who had successfully deciphered his and the baker's dreams.

Joseph was immediately summoned and he rocketed from the pit to the pinnacle in one quick step. The time of waiting in the stone-cold dungeon had finally expired. He had been in Egypt for 13 years. His arduous ordeal had put him to the test and he had passed with flying colors.

Joseph's principles for coping with the rigors of waiting are still valid today.

1. Wait alertly.

During waiting periods, we should be especially sensitive to God's intentions and actions. God often uses cool-downs and waiting rooms to prepare us for something we will encounter later in life. If we are docilely folding our hands and enduring these faith-stretching times, we are wasting valuable time. We either choose to draw close to the Lord or we drift from Him.

2. Wait expectantly.

When circumstances require patient endurance, the Bible is the best source of encouragement and hope. From the examples recorded in His Word, we learn that waiting is part of His plan for preparing His people. When we are in the midst of waiting, we can honestly say, "I know that God has a reason for this and He will bring me through."

3. Wait quietly and patiently.

Patience is a commodity in short supply. The word most often used in Scripture for patience is a word that means to "abide under." It means that we are unwilling to surrender and collapse under trying circumstances. Abiding under has an active quality in that it indicates pressing on and not giving in; it has a passive quality often referred to as endurance. Once we have done all we can, we must also trust God to accomplish His purposes.

4. Wait realistically.

God is never in a hurry. He works from and toward eternity. He will take every bit of time needed to make a person the best he or she can be. Nothing that lasts happens quickly. God is not the author of shortcuts.

5. Wait cautiously.

Our natural instinct is to complain when the delay lengthens. When we test God in our waiting we have the tendency to look toward Him as a last resort, rather than a first source. We can also veer toward deliverance by our own timetable and method rather than His. We also border on preferring not to have an answer if God's answer does not agree with ours.

In the midst of waiting, we are never without hope. If we are waiting for something right now, remember that nothing is impossible with God. If God has us in a time of waiting, let us be sure to wait effectively. But if the time of waiting is drawing to a conclusion, let us be sure we are not numbed into inactivity. Be willing to step out in the boldness of faith. Remember, life's cool-down periods and waiting rooms not only have entrance doors, but exit doors as well.