Waiting is a muscle that you practice using at an early age. Counting down the days till Christmas, waiting for your next birthday, waiting your turn, waiting for the weekend. It’s excruciating—feeling that eager anticipation of a reality not yet realized and having no power to speed up the process!
Childhood is just the training ground for the real work of waiting. As an adult, waiting is often coupled with uncertainty, which makes the process more difficult but also ripe for opportunity to lean on God.
When I look back on my own life, the hardest seasons I’ve walked through involved waiting, grappling with uncertainty, and testing my trust in God.
Panic and doubt in the waiting
Early in our marriage, when we moved from California to Michigan so my husband could attend grad school, I struggled to find another teaching job. As a special educator, I assumed I would have no trouble at all getting hired. We moved in June. I sent out resumes and received exactly zero interviews. By August, I was panicking.
I was to be the sole breadwinner for our two person household and that was going to be considerably more difficult with no income. We prayed. I widened my search to anything even remotely in the field of education. My heart sank as all the area schools started back up in September and I did not have a classroom.
I wrestled with God. Didn’t He lead us here? Why wasn’t He opening doors? Why wasn’t He paving the way with ease? Somewhere along the line, I had internalized the lie that God would make His plan easy to follow.
There are a few little verses in Genesis that speak volumes to this. Genesis 25 shares the story of Abraham’s descendants. In verse 20 it says that Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah. Verse 21 says he prayed to the Lord for his wife because she was barren, “and the Lord granted his prayer and Rebekah his wife conceived.”
But later in verse 26, we learn that Isaac was 60 when his sons were born!
We know that it was God’s plan to bless Abraham with descendants, according to His promise.
Isaac and Rebekah waited twenty long years before conceiving. God’s plan doesn’t always include a series of open doors that we can breeze right through.
Waiting can be a spiritual practice
And so I waited. My husband went to class every day and I searched online for jobs. In late September, I interviewed to be a daycare worker at a large facility. They liked me. I got a tour of the place, which included many diaper changing stations. I went home and cried.
Meanwhile, a woman named Tracy gave birth to her third child in a town 50 miles away. She quit her job as a special education teacher in October, leaving the school administrators to wonder, “Where will we find a qualified teacher this late in the game?”
Right here! ME! I’m your girl!
And so God provided for us, which He always does.
Waiting—as unpleasant as it is in the moment—can be a spiritual practice that draws us closer to God. The Hebrew word for “wait” is kavah, a verb meaning “to hope, to expect, to eagerly look for” and is rooted in the concept of twisting and stretching—suggesting that we are spiritually formed when waiting.
Psalm 127:14 says “Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Waiting can weaken us but it can drive us to our knees in prayer. For it is in these seasons of waiting that we truly learn to pray—fervently, expectantly, and with all honesty.
And it is during these waiting periods that we seek God more eagerly. Consider the Message paraphrase of Psalm 130:6:
I pray to God—my life a prayer—
and wait for what he’ll say and do.
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord,
waiting and watching till morning,
waiting and watching till morning.
When we wait, we are on high alert, extra attentive to His movement in our lives, listening more intently for Him. It’s no wonder these waiting seasons play such a large role in shaping our faith! I love what Henri Nouwen says in A Spirituality of Waiting:
To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.Henri Nouwen
5 ways to grow closer to God in a waiting season
Are you in a waiting season right now? I’d like to offer these suggestions for using this time to grow closer to God:
- Be honest
With yourself and with God! Name what you’re waiting for. Name the outcome you’re hoping for. Name what you think might happen and what you might feel if things don’t work out according to your plans. It might be helpful to journal your responses to make this more concrete.
Bring it all to God. Be brutally honest with your feelings, even your doubt, your questions, your fear. He is not surprised by any of it and nothing you can say to Him will make Him love you any less.
Be on the lookout, watching and listening for what God might have to show you or say to you. Leave space in your prayers for silence, and invite Him into it.
Take some time to reflect on God’s past movement in your life. Remember specific times you have experienced His goodness, faithfulness, and provision. Remind yourself of times He’s provided for others (in your life or from the stories in scripture.)
This is the hardest one! But we must relinquish our preferred outcomes to Him, and let go of the control and clarity we so desperately want. Cling to God’s unfailing love for you and lean on Him for patience and strength.
God can use our seasons of waiting to draw us closer into relationship with Him. Will you let Him?