Have you ever had to wait for something you really wanted? Maybe you were waiting to hear back about a college acceptance letter, a new job that could change the direction of your career or whether the offer you put on the house of your dreams was accepted? Perhaps you’re in a season of waiting for “the one” God has for you, or perhaps you’re still waiting to get pregnant or adopt a child. As believers it can be a struggle to trust God in the waiting for something we so desire. We know that God isn’t keeping us waiting for the sake of waiting, there is purpose in the waiting. There is His presence in the waiting. There is hope in the waiting.
So how do we wait well on the Lord?
In her book, Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams are Delayed, Betsy Childs Howard addresses this challenging and sanctifying season of waiting on the Lord and the questions we wrestle with along the way. There are five key areas of one’s life that she focuses on in “The School of Waiting:”
- Waiting for a Bridegroom
- Waiting for a Child
- Waiting for Healing
- Waiting for a Home
- Waiting for a Prodigal
Betsy does not take an unrealistic Christian stereotype to the wrestling we experience with God when we must wait on His provision or intervention whatever form it takes, rather she digs into the struggle we experience when God doesn’t bring things to fruition as quickly or in the way we’d prefer. Whatever we are waiting on, the biblical insight and principles Howard highlights are applicable to any situation as she writes in her two chapters, Sustained While We Wait and When the Waiting is Over. Lastly, she reminds the reader of the purpose of our waiting in her final chapter, Conclusion: What Are We Waiting For?
Shouldn’t Christians just be content with where God has them?
This is a tough question because yes, we are called to be satisfied in Christ and are rich in Him with spiritual blessings and yet, there are these desires of our hearts that may result in either a “not yet” or “not in this lifetime.” When we don’t know the “why” or “how long” we can struggle to trust God and believe in His goodness despite the truth we know. Howard does not shy away from the reality that waiting can be emotionally painful as well as a faith struggle. In cases where one is waiting on a health intervention, the waiting can also be physically excruciating. God has not called us to “fake it till we make it” with the longings of our hearts. If we are struggling to trust Him, to believe in His goodness or to believe that He has not forgotten us, He wants us to bring these thoughts and feelings before His throne of grace that we may experience His presence and comfort in our suffering of waiting in the unknown.
Is there a purpose to my waiting?
As Howard continues, she writes that whatever the thing is that we are waiting on, God’s purpose is to make us more like Himself by teaching us patience. Our God is long suffering and though there are certain Christ-like characteristics we all may want to have or aspire to, patience is not usually the first one on our list! Growing in patience is a supernatural work and when we wait well on the Lord, we are becoming more like Him! Betsy describes waiting well as delighting ourselves in the Lord taken (Psalm 73:4). What is the delight of our hearts? God Himself! This doesn’t obligate God to give us whatever we want but while we wait, but we can still have joy in Him because He is our delight. In our waiting, God shows us more of Himself, as we learn to wait well on Him, we are also able to point others toward Him as we wait with obedience and hope. I love how she writes that, “It is only by digging deeply into God’s story that we can hope to understand our own.” We are always looking for meaning and understanding, especially in seasons of waiting, as we seek to understand the waiting, we must look to the One for understanding who manages it all knowing that we may or may not get the answer we are looking for.
What do my long-awaited desires ultimately point to?
These longings of our heart ultimately point to the ultimate longing of our heart–Christ’s return to take us to our eternal home. As we seek to wait well and trust God in these painful situations, she reminds us that we need to and can cling to God’s promises. It is through His Word that He sustains us and gives us Himself. As we learn from the Isaiah 41:10,
“Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely, I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous hand.”
Howard reminds us that though we may not yet have the thing that we are longing for, God has given you exactly what you need to flourish for today. God has promised to supply what we need when we need it (Hebrews 4:15-16). She continues that, “God isn’t preparing us to graduate from the School of Waiting. We should want to learn how to wait well because we will always be waiting for something in this life. The Israelites lived on manna for forty years, and if your particular season of waiting lasts for forty years, God will supply your daily needs.”
So, what do I do in the meantime?
Learn to wait well. The author urges those in a season of waiting to take it one day at a time, waiting on the Lord and walking with Him. She states, “God does not look at your situation and wring His hands. He is not limited by the resources you have at your disposal.” Howard further implores the reader to take steps towards letting God meet our needs by praying that He will. “If I can’t imagine how God could meet a need, I won’t bring it before Him. I foolishly assume that I need to figure out how He might answer a request in order to ask it.” Remember that God delights in doing “far more abundantly than all we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). So, we can bring our fishes and loaves to Him or lack thereof, but we will have to wait for Him to reveal His provision day by day, just as He did with Israel.
Remember, God does not waste our waiting and neither should we. Howard writes, “God wants to give you a richer, deeper experience of Himself that is more precious than the thing he has withheld from you. God won’t waste your waiting” (Isaiah 30:18; Psalm 25:3a; Isaiah 64:4; Isaiah 40:31a). God’s presence in our waiting is not a consolation prize. Finally, Howard encourages the reader to seek fellowship in one’s waiting. There is so much to be learned from others who are also in a waiting season or who’ve walked through the type of waiting we are experiencing. We don’t have to journey through the school of waiting alone.
As a final caution Howard exhorts the reader that if God does see fit to grant our longing in this life, to not let it make us more at home in this world, but less. She writes, “Let it increase your hunger for the day when all your desires will be satisfied”– the waiting and the end of waiting tell God’s story. The fulfillment of our earthly longings and the joy they bring should point us and others to the Joy Giver rather than turn those things into idols. “If you wait with a heart fixed on God’s promises, you will bring Him great glory. If you are willing to let your story tell God’s story, non-Christians will notice. The world doesn’t understand waiting.”
So, the question is, will we let God tell our story even if it involves waiting? May God grant us His grace to wait well that we may experience Him more fully while pointing others to Him thus learning that the Giver Himself is the greatest gift of all.