Joyful in the Waiting

Joyful In The Waiting...

"But the fruit of the Spirit" Galatians 5:23

This is the scenario; I'm in a foreign country - Uganda - with a team of twelve from the UK, waiting to set off on a two and a half hour journey (or so we are told). It's 9.30am and we're waiting to leave. 11am...and we're still waiting. One of the locals who was travelling with us has yet to arrive. Frustration. At this rate, we'll never get there.

We finally get going at 11.15am. Four and a half dusty, sweaty and bumpy hours later we are still driving...waiting to arrive. I can hear the happy chatter of voices in the back of the van. Increasing gloom in the front. We eventually get to our destination, tired and jaded. I'm meant to be preaching at a local church, but no one knows when. Afternoon, evening, who can say? I'm waiting to know. We get out of the van. "That was a dreadful journey", I said, expecting nods of agreement. "We really enjoyed it", came the reply. Annoyed.

The team, need to change up some currency at a nearby bank. That shouldn't be a problem, surely? One hour later...still waiting. Ugandan banks clearly don't do "quick." "Never mind", I tell myself, "At least I can get to my hotel and freshen up before going to the church." "The church closes at 5", I'm informed. It's now 4.30. "We'd better go straight there." No freshen up then. I guess I'll just have to...wait. More frustration.

"I don't want to preach", I find myself saying to my wife, in my best sulky-five-year-old voice. We arrive and the church is literally in the middle of nowhere. No phone signal. Actually, no electricity at all. And it's getting dark, which means mosquitoes. Where is a cold shower, fresh clothes and an ice-filled drink when you need them?! Was this what I came thousands of miles to experience? Was this it? It had been a long day, I was tired, and most of all, I'd spent most of whole day waiting. Endlessly waiting to arrive.

But then, broad smiles greet us. Praise, laughter, dancing, clapping, enthusiastic welcome. The joy is contagious. It's hard to be miserable in such a place. Pastor William gets up to introduce us. "Patience is a fruit of the Spirit." Ouch! Is he singling me out? Can he see into my heart? I feel the gentle stab of the Holy Spirit and my heart softens in response. I get up to preach. All is well. The waiting is over.

It was a privilege to be in Uganda and to be there that day. The people were so full of joy, patiently enduring their meagre circumstances. To be honest, I'd hated the journey and was just glad to arrive. Once there, my joy resurfaced.

But God showed me something that day. Sure, the circumstances weren't ideal. But in my desire to arrive, I'd forgotten something; that I could be joyful on the journey, joyful in the waiting. That was the fruit God was looking for in me.

Patience is indeed a fruit of the Spirit, as is joy. Are you in a time of waiting? Are you on a difficult journey? Remember, the destination is important, but nothing like as important as what you learn on the way. Be joyful on the journey. Be joyful in the waiting.