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Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 16th May 2021.

Waiting

On the day during the past week when I wrote this reflection (Thursday), I read in the Telegraph that a lady in Kent, whose elderly neighbour was ill, had to telephone the neighbour’s GP practice 123 times before she got through, and even when she got through she was sixth in the call queue. By the time she could speak to someone, she was told there were no appointments left. She carried on calling in the afternoon, and after five or six calls she got through. She was told to fill in a form online for her neighbour, and eventually a district nurse visited the elderly lady.

I admire the patience and determination of the Kent lady. This must be just one of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of stories of people waiting to get a GP appointment and/or treatment. The GP system does not seem able to cope. And yet the lead story in Thursday’s Telegraph said that, ‘New NHS guidance instructs family GPs to embed a system of “total triage”, meaning that anyone seeking to see their doctor must first have a discussion online or by telephone.’ It seemed to me that, if that is the new way forward, waiting to speak to someone at a GP surgery can only get worse, unless more telephone lines into surgeries become available. However, the following day the newspaper reported a u-turn by the NHS: ‘NHS England has now ordered that the system be abolished amid a mounting backlash from patients’ groups and doctors. New guidance issued to all GPs will instead say that every practice in England must make “a clear offer of appointments in person” – and respect the preferences of its patients.’

We spend a large part of our lives waiting: waiting for a bus, taxi, train or flight; waiting in a queue; waiting to be served in a restaurant; waiting for exam results; waiting for items to arrive in the post; waiting for a birth; waiting to fulfil an ambition; waiting for someone to fix a problem in the house; waiting for the results of medical tests; waiting for an urgently-needed operation; and so on. I am sure you can think of many other things.

Sometimes our patience can be stretched to the limit and cause anxiety, which some people may find difficult to cope with. Oscar Wilde once said: “I hate waiting even five minutes for anybody. It always makes me rather cross. I am not punctual myself, I know, but I do like punctuality in others”. It can be beneficial if we can try to avoid resenting waiting, which can have a negative effect, but rather to focus on the positive benefits of waiting, namely, the outcome we are hoping for.

Waiting is not just about patience, but also about optimism. The English playwright John Osborne said: “There’s no such thing as failure – just waiting for success.”

Our willingness to wait will depend on the value or importance of what we are waiting for. If a thing is worth having, it is worth waiting for. The more we want or need something, the more we are prepared to wait.

Does the Bible offer us any wisdom about waiting? There are in fact not many instances in the Bible of the use of the words ‘wait’ or ‘waiting’. In the Old Testament, we find four times in the Psalms the expression, ‘Wait for the Lord’. Wait is here used in the sense of trust. The instances of ‘wait’ in the New Testament tend to be used in the sense that we are encouraged to wait for the fulfilment of the promises of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, the promises of salvation and eternal life, wherein lies our hope. So those are two things worth waiting for.

Prayer is about waiting. It’s about offering our concerns to God and waiting for his response, which may not always happen as quickly as we may wish. I am reminded of the story about someone who prayed: “Dear Lord, teach me to be patient, and do it NOW.”

In talking about waiting, I have used such positive words as ‘patience’, ‘benefits’, ‘optimism’, ‘success’, ‘value’, ‘importance’, ‘trust’ ‘salvation’, ‘eternal life’ and ‘hope’. If anyone reading this reflection is struggling with waiting for something positive to happen at the moment, I pray you may find it easier to cope with your wait by thanking God for the positives in your life and placing your hope and trust in him.

Fr. Ray