If I were to make a list of my least favorite things to do, I'm pretty sure waiting would rank in the top five. There aren't many things I enjoy less than remaining in that agonizing place of staring my hopes and longings in the face and wondering how, and when, and if God will ever allow them to come true.
"Why doesn't anything just happen for me?" I often find myself grumbling, tired of waiting, tired of trying to hang onto hope as the months and years slip away and so many questions remain unanswered. I long for a breakthrough in a tedious career that does little to spark life in my heart. I struggle to find a meaningful purpose to center my life around. I wonder when God will finally bring the right man into my life to love and be loved by. I look inwardly at all the healing, growth, and freedom I've yet to experience and wish God operated on my timetable instead of his.
So many times I've begged God to finally reach down from heaven and move, speak, act, shine a light on my path. But so often when I go to him with my questions and restlessness, he doesn't reveal anything instantly. Yes, he brings hope, he renews my faith, and he gives me strength to keep going.
But in that gentle, quiet voice, he also speaks the words I've heard over and over again . . . my daughter, wait.
And so I do. And as the years pass by, I'm finally beginning to realize it's in these seasons of waiting and being still before God, pouring out my heart before him, that he does some of his greatest work. It's in the desert, the wilderness, the quietness that God can restore hope and vision and deepen my character. It's in waiting that I get to know God's heart more intimately and finally begin to realize he is my life.
Here are a few of the things I'm learning as I continue to walk through my own season of waiting.
Don't Try to Do Life Alone
There was a time when I struggled through life on my own, too scared and stubborn to let anyone in. Although meaningful relationships were the one thing I longed for above anything else, I was terrified of being rejected. And so I became known as the girl who never admitted a need, never burdened anyone with my problems. If there were tears to be cried, I cried them behind closed doors. If there were hurts and fears to be dealt with, I waited until no one else was around. I was the one everyone came to with their problems, but rarely would I risk letting them see the wounds in my own heart.
Thankfully God didn't let me stay there, but it's been a long, slow, painful (and scary) journey to realize we were never meant to walk through life alone, and that God actually designed some of his most powerful work to happen in the context of community. If it's growth, freedom, maturity, wholeness, and restoration we're after—then people, the right people, are going to be one of the biggest tools God uses.
Every week now I meet with a small group of women from my church, and almost always I leave marveling at what God does as we get real with each other. Doubt, confusion, loneliness, questions, victory, heartache, joy, sickness, disappointment—every week we lay it all out in the open, we pray together, we remind each other of the truth, we call out gifts in each other we see God developing. And as we do, our confidence is restored that God is working.
I don't know how I lasted so long trying to do it on my own. But I see now that time spent waiting for God to shake things loose is never wasted if we're staying vitally connected with people who help us not to lose sight of who God is and what he's doing.
Look Back at What God Has Done
I've kept a regular journal since I was 12 years old, and every now and then when God feels silent and it seems like nothing is happening, I'll take out a volume or two of my messy scribbling and allow myself to be transported back over time. It's all in there—my awkward teenage years, college, settling into a career, the joys and heartaches of a few romantic relationships, traveling the world, finding my place in the body of Christ, working at an orphanage in Africa, moving a few times, buying my first house, stepping out in faith. I read and laugh and shake my head, and somehow as I do, faith begins to seep back into my heart.
It's so easy to lose perspective in a long period of waiting, but looking back and seeing God's faithfulness gives me the courage I need to keep hanging on. If he's already brought me this far, why should I doubt that he'll keep leading me in the future? Why should I think he's not going to finish the work he started? I'm like the Israelites wandering around in the desert, so quickly forgetting how God led them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, giving them manna to eat and water to drink and rescuing them from their enemies. But I don't want to lose sight of everything he's done, even though right now the next thing seems so far away.
Figure Out What Makes You Come Alive
A few years ago I made a list of everything I want to do before I die—a list that ranges from sky-diving to writing a novel to adopting a baby from Africa to learning to drive a motorbike to going to a Broadway show in New York City. I looked at the list the other day and was pleasantly surprised at how many items I've already checked off. Just like reading my old journals, my list keeps me in touch with who I am at my core, my unique personality and interests, the passions that make me come alive, the fears and challenges I'd love to overcome.
I've come to realize that even in waiting and wondering, our hearts can be alive and growing. Every day we can pursue joy and growth and opportunities to really live. That's why I took a break from work today and went to play tennis with a friend, then had a picnic in the park and listened to the sounds of spring. That's why I often have my niece and nephew over for sleepovers where we watch cartoons and eat insane amounts of junk food and giggle late into the night. That's why I write and travel and have taken up re-finishing old pieces of furniture—because these things, in their own small way, make my heart come alive. And as long as there's life in my heart, I know I can keep waiting and trusting and hoping for the day when God will bring answers to the deeper questions I'm wrestling with.
Learn to Rest
"Cease striving and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10, NASB). I can't count how many times that verse has made me stop in my tracks and realize that all my hard work and all the self-help books in the world will never bring about the kind of lasting change I long to see in my life. And it takes God speaking those simple words for me to realize, again, that instead of laying out ten quick steps to becoming a godlier woman, instead of burdening me with more that I need to do, God is instead inviting me to rest. He's instead calling me into relationship with him, inviting me to get to know his heart and his character. He's instead speaking to me of his love, of his delight in me, of his desire to sit with me for awhile and talk.
I'm so good at letting the trap of busyness consume me, at working tirelessly at every area in my life that I'm not satisfied with. But it's only when I step back from all that hard work and finally rest that my thirsty soul is actually satisfied and that peace and balance are restored to my striving, unrestful spirit.
"Cease striving and know that I am God." Okay, Jesus, I will.
Yes, the season of waiting is difficult. But our roots go down deep as we wait and trust and hope in God. So whether you're waiting for guidance in a major decision, or waiting for a broken heart to heal, or waiting for love, or waiting for a clear career path to unfold, know that Jesus longs to walk with you right here, right now.
"This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a child-like 'What's next, Papa?'" (Romans 8, The Message)
Expectant. Hopeful. Confident. Now that's what I want to be known for in my season of waiting.
Copyright © 2009 ChristianityToday.com