Waiting is Never Wasted: Lessons from the ICU

Dr. Robyn Wilkerson

As I sit within the stark, yet strangely comforting walls of the ICU hospital isolation unit at the University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center Stem Cell Transplant hospital, the concept of waiti​ng takes on a new dimension. It’s a forced pause, a liminal space filled with anxiety, hope, and profound introspection. For two weeks, my husband, Richard, and I have made his hospital room our temporary abode as he undergoes chemotherapy and a Stem Cell Transplant for bone marrow cancer.

Waiting has become our constant companion. Waiting for treatment to begin. Waiting for his body’s reaction to the potent chemicals. Waiting for results that will dictate our next steps. And yes, even as we navigate through this journey, we know there’s more waiting to come.

In these moments, it’s easy to feel that waiting is a thief of time, a purgatory of sorts, stealing precious moments and replacing them with uncertainty. However, as I’ve walked this path alongside Richard, I’ve come to understand that waiting is never wasted in God’s economy.

The Purpose in ​the Pause 

First, waiting teaches us patience. In a world that prizes instant gratification, patience is a virtue that seems almost counter-cultural. Yet, James 1:4 reminds us, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Waiting refines us, helping us to grow in maturity and faith, trusting in God’s timing rather than our own.

A Time for Growth

Secondly, waiting is a time for growth. It’s during these periods of seeming inactivity that our faith can take root and flourish. Just as a farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains (James 5:7), we too are called to wait on the Lord, allowing Him to work in and through us in ways we might not immediately understand.

Drawing Closer to God

Most importantly, waiting draws us closer to God. In the stillness, away from the distractions of our daily routines, we find ourselves in a unique position to hear His voice more clearly. It’s a time to deepen our relationship with Him, to pour out our hearts, and to find comfort in His promises. Psalm 27:14 encourages us, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

The Ministry of Presence 

During this waiting period, Richard and I have also discovered the ministry of presence—being there for each other and for others, even when words are inadequate. It’s in the quiet moments, the shared glances, and the simple acts of holding hands that we find strength and solace. Our situation has allowed us to witness to others, sharing the hope and peace that come from trusting in God, even in the midst of trials.

Embracing the Waiting

As we continue to navigate through this season of waiting, we do so with the assurance that this time is not wasted. Each day brings its own challenges, but also its blessings. We’ve learned to embrace the waiting, finding joy in the small moments, gratitude for the medical team’s dedication, and a deeper faith in God’s plan for our lives.

Waiting is never wasted when we wait with God. It’s a time of preparation, of growing closer to Him, and of learning to trust in His perfect timing. Our journey is far from over, but we move forward with the confidence that comes from knowing we are never alone. God is with us in the waiting, transforming our hearts and minds, and preparing us for what lies ahead.

As we wait, we do so with hope, remembering the words of Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” In this season of waiting, let us wait with expectation, looking to God, the author and finisher of our faith, who makes all things beautiful in His time.