Think about the story of Abraham and Sarah. When I recount their story, I find myself thinking “hurry up and wait!” That phrase or something like it may have echoed in Abraham and Sarah’s minds. They received awesome promises from God but no timeline about when they would be fulfilled. They learned quickly that trusting this God and His promises meant a lot of waiting, hoping, and praying.
There were a few years when my life felt like one big waiting room. I spent so much time waiting in doctors’ offices that I had read and reread the same magazines, studied the fading pictures on their walls, and knew the receptionists’ names by heart. My heart’s desire was to become a mom, but my body just wasn’t cooperating. After a couple of years in the waiting room of my regular OBGYN, I moved on to the bigger and more expensive waiting room of a specialist, and a lab, and an operating room, and lots of other places where it seemed like all I could do was . . . wait.
It has always seemed strange to me that those who are in the care of a doctor are called “patients.” It was so hard to have any patience with a process in which I had no control. As we slowly unraveled the reasons for our struggle with infertility, more and more doctors prescribed treatments and medications and advised that I continue to wait in their care. I may have been their patient, but I didn’t feel very patient.
After what seemed like an eternity of trying, the joy of finding out we were expecting our first baby was quickly eclipsed by the devastating news that I had miscarried. That led to more tests, more doctors’ visits, and more practice being an impatient patient while I waited for answers and results. When our hearts desire something so deeply that we can’t think of or want anything else, the pain of waiting can be excruciating. I had been trusting God with my life since I was a child, but this was the toughest hurdle yet. When things looked and felt worse than ever, did God still have my hopes and dreams on His to-do list? It was hard to face the answer of “wait and see.”
Even if it’s not for life-changing news or results, waiting is one of the hardest things we do in life. We don’t even like the annoyance of waiting in line at the store, or waiting for our food at a restaurant. Learning to wait well is important, because we’ll always be waiting for something. Once we have what we’ve waited for, it seems to lead to waiting for something else. Hunger is a great example. Once we satisfy it, it’s only a matter of time before it returns. We can’t expect one meal a day to keep us full! Because our lives are filled with waiting, each of us has to make up our mind: Will I be discontent because I don’t yet have what I want, or can I find contentment along the way with God’s help? What will I learn in my time of waiting? Am I willing to listen for God as I wait?
Abraham and Sarah’s lives were full of waiting for their longing for a child to be fulfilled. Long after they had hoped to be grandparents, they were still waiting for the baby that God had promised twenty-five years earlier. That’s what I call a long time to be expecting!
From their perspective it must have seemed that their prayers were getting harder and harder to answer because of their age, but to a God who loves a challenge, the timing was just right. The more difficult something is to make happen, the more God enjoys rolling up His sleeves and impressing the world by doing what only He can accomplish. When God makes the impossible happen, we can’t deny that He’s the one behind the results.
Often we and that something powerful has happened within us while we were waiting. Waiting for the blessing can often be part of the blessing itself, since we have to rely on God in new and unexpected ways.
An old hymn talks about the learning and changing process that can happen in us while we’re waiting.
Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Thou art the potter; I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
while I am waiting, yielded and still.
Adelaide A. Pollard, 1902
Waiting may be one of the few times in life when we are forced to be still long enough for God to do some of His most important work in us, molding us into whom He wants us to become. Waiting is a struggle because we’re so used to the illusion that we control our lives by planning and acting on our plans. We believe that we are the ones who make things happen. Waiting strips us of that illusion and forces us to acknowledge the God who is in control and our need for Him.
Waiting may be one of the few times in life when we are forced
to be still long enough for God to do some of His most important work in us.
“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.”
In the Old Testament there are several words that can be translated to the English word wait. The most commonly used Hebrew word translated “wait” is Qavah. It means “to bind together” (by twisting strands, as in making a rope) or to “look patiently,” “tarry or wait,” “hope, expect, look eagerly.”
God used my time of waiting to bind my marriage and other relationships closer together and to bind my heart closer to His than it had ever been. I never would have chosen the path that we went down over those years. The pain of waiting and loss brings a twinge of tenderness in my heart even years later. But I recognize now that my practice being a “patient” actually strengthened my “patience” more than I could have imagined at the time. Those years gave me a deep appreciation for Abraham and Sarah. When I read their story of waiting, I see between the lines their years of discouragement and anguish but also their growth in trust and hope in God. I know all too well the longing they experienced for the gift they wanted to hold in their arms. But I also know they received countless gifts while holding their empty arms out to God.
Waiting means to trust that God is good, even when we can’t see it in the ways we wanted or expected. Waiting means seeking God’s help and comfort in prayer and worship when we can’t find it in our material world. Waiting means asking God to change us instead of expecting to change God. Abraham and Sarah had different hearts, a different marriage, and a different outlook on God’s promises after twenty-five years of waiting.
Trusting in God doesn’t mean that our prayers will be instantaneously answered, as if God were some cosmic vending machine ready to dispense our wishes and wants. Instead, it means that our waiting and longing can become a tool that transforms us rather than an obstacle to happiness and fulfillment.
Choosing to trust God’s goodness means that we turn our waiting over to Him. When we do, moments when we impatiently thought nothing was happening at all can become some of the most productive, transformational times of our lives.
What are some things you’ve had to wait for in your life? How did it feel to wait?