Waiting rooms are strange spaces. Elevator music lofts throughout the room. A stack of outdated lifestyle magazines awaits perusal on a table. People busy themselves with a book, an app, or a television set to avoid conversation with others.
The placidity of these spaces hides the thoughts of those sitting in them. While we stare blankly at screens, our eyes not really seeing, our ears not really hearing, our minds churn in tumult. Some of us await reports about a loved one in an operating theater. Others anticipate news of our own biopsy results, to determine whether a glowing spot on a CT scan means life as we know it will either carry on or screech to a halt. While we flip through gardening magazines, our eyes scan pictures without absorbing their details, and our mind and heart work to untangle a mess of anxiety, grief, and doubt.
Elizabeth Reynolds Turnage knows the paradox of waiting rooms all too well. She frequented their awkward chairs both when her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and then when she discovered that her son had a brain tumor that required surgery. She sat in them again when her son’s course went awry, and an infection sent him back into the operating room. With his life in the hands of a surgeon, and her own hands powerless to help the boy she’d once cradled and nursed, Turnage turned to the only means of influence she had: prayer. She knew that in such moments, when helplessness and worry bear down upon us, our one hope, the rock that shields us, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In The Waiting Room: 60 Meditations for Finding Peace and Hope in a Health Crisis, Elizabeth Turnage, an author, teacher, and story coach, invites us to sit beside her in the waiting room and turn our eyes toward Christ. In clear and empathetic prose, she offers 60 devotions for those struggling in the midst of a health crisis. The devotions are short, heartfelt and thoughtful, each a draft of cool water to slake our thirst for God when he seems most remote. She begins each entry with a passage from Scripture, and interweaves God’s word with thoughts from her experience, her study of the Bible, and even the lyrics from hymns that believers have sung throughout the centuries.
For those of us contending with illness, either sudden or prolonged, the intervals of waiting can erode our resolve and pull our faith taut. In such moments, The Waiting Room offers poignant reminders of what God has done for us in Christ. Turnage’s book is one to which I’ll return in the years ahead, when anxiety in a waiting room prompts me to busy my eyes and hands with meaningless activities. Turnage encourages us to fill such idle moments with a focus on the Lord, to let his words pour into us and overflow like water. I am grateful for this book, and for Turnage’s reminders of God’s grace at work even in the intervals of waiting.