You’re probably heard the idiom, “Good things come to those who wait.”
Have you ever pondered where this phrase came from?
Some cite the phrase simply as an old English proverb. However, in doing a quick Google search, two familiar names pop up in relation to the phrase and its use.
The first familiar name is Abraham Lincoln. He is quoted on the internet on site after site as saying this:
Things may come to those who wait,
but only things left by those who hustle.
Did President Lincoln coin these words? Probably not. The word ‘hustle’ was not in American vocabulary use until the late 1800’s. In addition, there are no letters, speeches, notes or other printed materials that provide evidence that Lincoln ever said this phrase. So, Friends, if you ever hear some one say that this phrase originates with Lincoln, it’s not likely.
The second familiar name that is attributed to “all good things come to those who wait” is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In “A Student’s Tale: The Falcon of Sir Federigo,” Longfellow penned these words at the end of the poem:
All things come round to him but who will wait.
This poem is found in Longfellow’s, Tales of a Wayside Inn written in 1862. Longfellow wrote this collection of poems as he grieved over the death of his wife Fanny. At the same time, his oldest son sustained injury and was overcome by illness as a result of serving in the Civil War. His son’s suffering compounded Longfellow’s pain and grief. Writing this collection of poems helped him release his feelings of loss.
So, Abraham Lincoln didn’t say it.
However, Longfellow did incorporate the English proverb, it seems.
This familiar phrase made me wonder how the bible would comment on this old English proverb. Do good things really come to those who wait and wait and wait?
What does the bible have to say about waiting from Genesis to Revelation? Some might suggest that this phrase comes from the Bible. However, you will not find it there. The concept maybe there, but not the words.
It’s a pretty common human characteristic not to want to wait for anything or anyone for that matter. Waiting is hard. Waiting requires patience. Waiting increases our longing.
What have I waited for this year? Here’s an incomplete list…
A grade on a test
For a website to load…(sometimes it takes forever!)
A biopsy result
For John to come home from Zimbabwe
For my kids to learn and apply a concept in school
For a vehicle to replace our Trajet
These are just a few of the tangible things I’ve waited for this year. You probably have your own list. Some things have come about, while other things or people we are waiting upon remain unfulfilled.
We find in Scripture many situations in which people were asked to wait, to be faithful in their waiting, and to work while they waited.
As many of you know, our plans for moving to Zimbabwe were placed on hold for an indefinite period of time due to my cancer diagnosis and treatment last year. I have completed my first year of follow-ups. If everything remains stable and no cancer returns, I have four more years of routine follow-ups. From what I’ve heard from other oncology patients, I should anticipate a long-term relationship with my oncologist for years to come. This is to ensure that I remain cancer-free. Thus, remaining in South Africa, where medical care is much more available than in Zimbabwe; makes the most sense right now. So, we wait.
What are we waiting for?
Well, that’s a great question.
What does it mean to wait in the middle of a health situation that appears at this early juncture to be pointing towards a good outcome?
What is our posture of waiting when something we hoped for is removed for an indeterminate period of time?
What does it mean to wait in regards to future plans and goals…do good things truly come to those who wait?
Or perhaps the question is do good things come to those who wait upon their God for their answers, their purpose and their future?
How did the men and women of the Bible wait…and wait with confidence, with hope and with determination? Did their times of waiting consistently result in something good? Or were there times when they waited and their hopes were dashed and their dreams never came true in their lifetime? Is there work involved with waiting? And if so, what kind?
You may have the answers for these questions. For me, I think there is still a lot to learn about what it means to wait upon our God. For like I said, our family is in the middle of a wait zone.
We are waiting and wondering what is ahead.
If so, then perhaps you would like to join me in the days and weeks ahead as we explore waiting in Scripture. I have located 153 verses in the New International Version from Exodus to Revelation that use the word wait and its word forms. We’ll see what the word of the Lord reveals in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, wait….and stay tuned as we learn whether good things really do come to those who wait.
Photo by anandham of Flickr