For me, 2022 was the year of waiting—a word that managed to define our lives, thoughts and actions to an unexpected degree.
The pandemic, the extreme natural phenomena, the war on our doorstep, and the drought have turned us all into a generation of people who expect a bewildering and volatile future.
At the end of last 2021, the World Economic Forum website published the results of a survey of 22,000 people in 33 countries, asking them how they saw 2022, what they expected of it, and how they thought the global economy would evolve. The results were surprising, to say the least.
When asked if they expected their country to experience more extreme weather events than the previous year, 60% of respondents said yes. As for prices, 75% thought they would rise faster than incomes. When asked if people in their country would be more tolerant of others in 2022 than in 2021, over 61% of respondents answered “no” and only 28% answered “yes”, with the rest undecided. In terms of major threats in the near future, 39% were concerned about a major natural disaster, 38% were concerned about hackers stealing important data from government websites, 34% were concerned about the threat of a nuclear bomb, and 14% were concerned about the possibility of an alien invasion. However, when asked if 2022 would be better than 2021 on a personal level, 77% said yes and 75% admitted to setting specific goals for themselves and their family at the beginning of the year. As many as 61% believed that the global economy as a whole would be stronger in 2022.
It seems paradoxical, to say the least, that while we expected extreme weather, higher prices, and growing intolerance in society, we were convinced that we would be fine on a personal level and that the economy would grow enough to provide us with the wealth we craved.
Looking back, however, we realise that 2022 brought us something different from what we expected. Even if we were convinced that things would not go well, most of us probably did not expect the world to change so much, especially as we were coming out of a period in which we had already experienced more change than we were prepared for. And this gap between expectation and reality has shaped our lives in much more radical ways than we probably realise. What we expect has to do not only with our future, but also with our present and with the way we relate to ourselves, to others, and even to the absolute truths we believe in.
What is waiting?
Waiting is an essential part of our lives. From waiting for the results of a medical test, to waiting at the checkout, we all practise waiting every day, although sometimes it seems so commonplace that we don’t even think we need to think about it.
Yet, what I find significant about 2022 is that the big expectations of humanity invaded the space of personal expectations to the point where we confused them. And the bad news that kept coming our way led us to believe that everything going on around us was ominous. At the same time, we were waiting, sometimes with no perceptible difference, for a green light at the traffic lights, the outcome of unrest in the Middle East or the result of a sporting event. The disappearance of boundaries turned waiting into a nightmare from which we didn’t know how to wake up. The mixture of hopes and fears about what tomorrow will bring often makes us give up critical thinking and forget what we can do today and what is worth waiting for tomorrow.
It is true that the break between us and waiting has been gradual. Modern society, with its technological progress, has for years made us feel that it is not good to wait—that we can and must have what we want much sooner.
The image of our grandparents travelling tens or even hundreds of kilometres in an ox-drawn cart or waiting months for an answer to a letter sent by post seems ancient.
Today, the loss of mobile phone reception is seen almost as a catastrophe. So, perhaps counter-intuitively, I think we need to relearn how to wait, what to wait for and who to wait for. We need a new perspective on waiting, lest the avalanche of bad news steals our joy and hope, love, and authentic peace forever.
For me, this was the greatest lesson of 2022. First, I discovered that you have to know what to expect. A confused, uncertain expectation only adds to the stress and anxiety of tomorrow. The feeling of being caught unprepared for what is to come can rob you of the joy of seeing each day as a gift of God’s grace. An adjustment of expectations is needed. Are they based on what we can do? Is it in our power to change anything? Can we prepare for the day when they will be fulfilled? What assurance do we have that what we expect is achievable? I have rediscovered that it is often more comfortable for our minds to worry about things they cannot change than about things they can. That is why we need to rethink our expectations.
When the light at the end of the tunnel is near
From a Christian perspective, the future is not only the place where evil will multiply to the point where God will decide to intervene personally and cataclysmically to stop it, but also the place where grace will “multiply” and God will continue to lead His children to “quiet waters” (Psalm 23:2).
It is the same as the biblical flood. Noah prepared for it, building day by day the ark that would save his life, but at the same time waiting for the better world that would come after this unknown event. In this hope, he wed his sons and did everything God told him to do so that the great ship would be ready to withstand the greatest crisis of all time and to shelter all those who wanted to enter it. Waiting can be beautiful and desirable if you’re sure that what’s coming is better than what you have now. And by learning to wait and what to expect, we also help our children learn one of life’s most important lessons.
The Bible offers two perspectives on waiting—Solomon speaks of a deferred hope that “makes the heart sick,” but he also says that “the prospect of the righteous is joy” (Proverbs 13:12; 10:28). It is precisely this ambivalence that I have discovered more concretely this year. The more difficult and unexpected the context, the more the need to wait either fills us with anguish or gives us the most beautiful perspective on life. Speaking of the end, Jesus Christ described a category of people who will “faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world,” while others will lift up their eyes (Luke 21:26, 28).
I have discovered that the Bible speaks of God in the same way, saying that “the Lord longs” (Isaiah 30:18). It is not only we who are waiting for God, but He is waiting for us as well.
In fact, every day can be seen from this perspective of waiting for Him. A God who waits for you to come and talk to Him, to rejoice with Him or to weep with Him, is an image that fills our hearts with gratitude and gives us reassurance.
This reunion with waiting has been good for me. When I discovered that every day is a new opportunity to wait for Him, to see Him in the eyes of the people around me, in nature, and in the Bible, I realised that the world is beautiful because of Him. And the fact that He is waiting for me has been the most beautiful invitation to responsibility. I would like every reader to rediscover this anticipation. Not the anticipation that makes the heart sick, but the anticipation that transforms, that gives peace and assurance in a future where God is already present.
Adrian Neagu has rediscovered that, from the perspective of the Christian religion, waiting can be a great joy in life, and God is waiting with us.