Who likes to WAIT? “Waiting” recalls exasperating images of standing in a long queue at the post office or returning an item at Walmart. But I’ve been thinking about a different kind—a good kind of waiting spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “I will wait upon the Lord” (Isaiah 8:17). Making this verse personally relevant, I ask—What does it mean to WAIT upon the Lord? (1) I will wait upon the Lord like a server “waits” on a table in a restaurant. The server vigilantly watches the needs of his guests. When water glasses need refilling, he quickly steps up with a pitcher. He delivers piping hot food and clears away empty dishes afterward. He watches and attends his guests’ every need. I can WAIT upon the Lord by vigilantly observing and attending the needs of those around me. Waiting upon the Lord is to serve His children. (2) Waiting can also mean patience. The Lord’s answers come in His perfect timing, not always immediately. But I know that God loves me. He knows what is best for my growth and development better than I do. He is shaping me to become like Him. I am learning to trust His curriculum and His perfect love. I will WAIT upon the Lord in quiet service to others, and I will WAIT in patience for answers to my prayers.
If I want to learn how to change the oil in my car, I won’t seek the answer from a medical doctor. If I want to learn how to play rugby, I won’t ask an organist. It’s obvious that when we have questions, we seek out the experts in that particular field. After teaching the people, Jesus Christ instructed them to: “Go ye and learn what that meaneth” (Matthew 9:13). The Lord likewise wants me to research out answers to my questions and ponderings. But not all resources are alike in accuracy and authenticity. If I want answers to gospel questions, for example, I will go to the official Church website (lds.org) and study what prophets and apostles have to say about my question. I will also go to my scriptures. I will check the topical guide to direct me to verses which will clarify points of doctrine. As I research, ponder, and pray for help, the Holy Ghost will verify truth to my soul. Parts and pieces will slip into place as with a jigsaw puzzle. It will be an epiphany of light and knowledge. I must exert effort and desire in order to activate God’s power. I will advance in knowledge and refinement as I research accurate sources of information to solve my questions.
Do you sometimes feel that God doesn’t hear or answer your prayers? Although in truth He answers every sincere prayer, it’s not always in the way or as soon as we might expect. Thus, sometimes we miss it. “Seldom will you receive a complete response all at once. It will come a piece at a time, in packets, so that you will grow in capacity. As each piece is followed in faith, you will be led to other portions until you have the whole answer” (Richard G. Scott). So, when I pray for help, God will give me gentle promptings that make me ponder and learn to trust. I must act on the promptings and even struggle before the whole answer becomes evident. Sometimes an answer comes merely as a feeling of peace. I’m learning that answers come in a step by step process, and during that process, I am drawn closer to the Savior in my desire to hear and learn. Heavenly Father is a personal, living God. He knows our names, and cherishes us as His children. Because He loves me, He will answer my prayers in the way that ensures my greatest growth, change, and capacity for joy.
I have taught my children to ask themselves this important question every day: “What can I learn from this experience? Why do I need to learn it?” I continually ask myself these questions and record answers in my journal so I won’t forget. Sometimes answers come easily, but usually I must pray for help to discover the purpose of my struggles. Often I have to be patient and wait. But in time, answers always come. While on a hike together, my son tried to test the limits of this insight by asking, “Okay, Mom, but what could I possibly learn from getting a bee sting?” I paused to think. “Well, then you’d have compassion for someone getting a bee sting, because you’d know how it feels.” That’s not a last-resort type of lesson, because even the Savior suffered all things in the flesh partly for that purpose—to succor His children. “And [Christ] will take upon him their infirmities. . .that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people” (Alma 7:12). So when it seems impossible to find purpose for a particular trial, remember the bee sting. We can always learn empathy for others in a similar difficulty. We can understand and comfort them with more compassion because we know how it feels.
The idea came softly, as spiritual promptings often do, when I thought of 20 good questions to ask my aging parents during my daily visits. I didn’t have a fancy recording method. I just scribbled their answers in a notebook and later typed them up. They were in their early nineties, still mentally alert, but declining rapidly in physical health. I didn’t realize then that within a few months their cognitive window would be closed. It was a delightful project—for them and for me—resulting in a binder of stories, counsel, and life lessons for their posterity.
Here are just a few questions I asked each of them separately:
- In what ways are you like your mother? Your father?
- What legacy would you like to carry on from your mother? Your father?
- Describe an experience in your youth reflecting the beginnings of testimony of Christ.
- What qualities first attracted you to Dad (to Mom), and what other merits of character have you come to discover in each other over the years?
- Describe a trial in your life and what you learned from it.
- You have been married almost 70 years. What counsel would you offer your descendants about the makings of a good marriage?
If your parents are living—try this idea. Make up your own questions. You might discover as I did, invaluable gems to treasure forever.
I bolted out of bed to grab a pen while reading a line from Elizabeth Gaskell’s book, Cousin Phillis. A farmer, who was also a minister, prayed for his sick cow, but neglected one day to feed it the extra nourishment which would have given it a better chance of survival. After his prayer, the farmer chastised himself saying, “I was asking for blessing while neglecting the means.” I immediately applied this gem of insight to myself when requesting a particular blessing without doing all I can to bring about the desired result. I know Heavenly Father hears my prayers and desires to bless me. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11). But merely asking isn’t enough. I shouldn’t sit back passively and wait for blessings to drop into my lap, expecting God to do all the work. So I tried a little experiment. On one side of a page I made a list of blessings I had asked for in prayer that day, and on the other side wrote corresponding, specific actions I could take to bring about the desired result. I was astounded at how much more I could do in every case.