A few years ago, I was privileged to spend three days with women from around the world, thanks to the work of Thrive—a ministry dedicated to providing respite and replenishing for women ministering overseas.
While in the meal line, I chatted with a 20-something lady who’d just left Sweden after years of serving there. As I reached for the fresh berries (berries! I missed those in Uganda), I was getting her name, her country of service, her tenure.
Me: “And you’re back now?”
Her: “Yup… Transition stinks.”
Me: “Yes. Yes, it does.”
“Saturday can really stink”—the uncertainties of waiting
Some of the very least favourite parts of my life are the days of waiting. Which, I guess, doesn’t say that much. After all, so much of life is waiting for something.
I sense this as I wait for a Christian friend to come back to God. The farther she wanders, the more damage I see corroding her soul. The more tragic patterns become entrenched. But even as I cultivate and make way for His presence, awakening the heart is God’s job. Not mine.
God has bolstered my belief through other times of waiting. Perhaps the one most distinctively etched in my mind are the eleven months we waited for whether our work permit would be revoked in Uganda.
Some of the blackest parts of waiting are the questions, the “what-ifs” that wrap its icy fingers around my chest, squeezing just enough to keep me from breathing deeply. It’s a rapid-fire tutorial on the full spectrum of things I can’t control, honestly exposing my fear and sometimes unbelief.
Sometimes I’m just so done with uncertainty. I’m ready to call the shots out of my own fear or discomfort. But when I begin to steer away from waiting, struggling, or utilising the choices God’s joyfully given me, Peter Scazzero’s cautionary words keep coming back to me: “I, like Abraham, had birthed many “Ishmaels” in my attempt to help God’s plan move forward more efficiently.”
Waiting, I think, is a lot like that famous Saturday: the one between Christ’s death and His resurrection. If I’d been alive then, would I have known for sure it was coming?
I’ve thought about what Mary and Martha must have felt when their brother lay fatally ill, and the one man who could’ve helped them deliberately withheld himself from coming, from doing anything.
And yet, He was completely aware. And He waited because He wanted to show them something new. Something that would revolutionise who they knew Him to be.
Waiting takes its own brand of muscle
I think of waiting as holding a workout position—that burn that spreads through your taut core, or biceps, or quads. What the instructor requests can so often seem beyond our capacity. As with any workout, the muscle is first broken down. It will be days before the product of waiting is visible, ready for use.
God has bulked up my waiting muscles through the heaviness of a summer with no job and a new baby. Working through depression and anxiety. Praying through disappointment when the book contract I’d waited years for fell through.
He’s even built me up through waiting that ended in a “no for now”—like waiting for some of my Muslim refugee students to come to know Jesus. Bending against the resistance of doubt, fear, and loss, I grew more muscular in ways that make me more unmovable now.
God is with us in our waiting
God’s promises to those of us here in the greyness of waiting are sweeping.
- He waits to be gracious to us (Psalm 123:2); to have compassion on us (Isaiah 30:18).
- To those who wait, He satisfies their desires (Psalm 145:15).
- We’re never put to shame (Psalm 25).
- We’ll have the strength we need, with wings as eagles (Isaiah 40:31).
- He’s our help and our shield (Psalm 33:20).
- He’s good to us (Lamentations 3:25).
I experienced this when that lost book contract resulted in a contract with another publisher who provided critical edits and vision. I’ve known God’s goodness, too, standing in a dusty driveway in Africa, jumping up and down with the friend over the news that our work permit had been renewed for an unheard-of four years.Chances are, you’re waiting on something right now. Like it has been for me, it will require you to lean into belief and peace, choosing them over and over when fear comes so much more naturally.
For me, this meant dedicating time for my heart to chew on God’s goodness through His Word and prayer, letting these become bigger than my fear. I’ve learned to dive into journaling, which encouraged me to voice the fear inside of me so I could really deal with it in God’s presence. And wise friends have reminded me of God’s truth in waiting’s dusky haze.
Maybe that’s why Hosea says, Wait for your God continually. Perhaps, like me, you’ll be surprised when He shows up, bringing life with Him.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.