When I was in Uganda recently, my friend told me a story about waiting. (Africans always seem to have a proverb up their sleeve, offering wisdom for every occasion in a delightfully simple and engaging way).
The story was about a boy who asked his father for a fish to eat, because he was hungry. So the father went out, caught a fish, and began preparing it. The boy said impatiently to his father, ‘I want it now!’ The father told him he would have to wait until it was ready. But the boy became very cross, repeatedly shouting ‘I want to eat it NOW!’, throwing himself on the ground, kicking his legs and crying.
As silly as the story might sound, we are often like the little boy. Demanding things NOW, and throwing tantrums when we think we’ve waited long enough. But all the while, God is working carefully to prepare what we have asked for. And because he is a good dad who wants the best for us, he won’t allow us to have it before it’s ready…or before we’re ready to receive it.
We need to learn how to wait well
Our modern day culture does not exactly lend itself to waiting well. We want things, and we want them now…we are a microwave society.
But the reality is, whether it’s waiting for the bus or dinner to be cooked, or waiting for God to answer our deepest desires and prayers, life is full of waiting. Surely then, we ought to learn how to do it well. How can we do that? Here are some thoughts.
1. Stay present
There’s a big temptation to put life on hold when we’re eagerly waiting for something. We can feel like we’re in ‘limbo land’… just waiting until that ‘thing’ happens so life can begin again.
We’ve got to resist this temptation. Don’t disengage from life. Stay present – you can’t live in tomorrow. Don’t miss all the opportunities to live the life that’s right in front of you, now. It’s good to walk towards a vision, but don’t be so fixed on the destination ahead that you end up missing the beauty and purpose in your present surroundings.
2. Don’t be passive
Waiting isn’t supposed to be passive. If we choose to be passive, expecting what we’re hoping for to land in our lap without any effort on our own behalf, we’re more likely to delay the process. Or possibly stretch it out forever.
Waiting is not a waste of time unless you allow it be. Choose to stay fully engaged in your season of waiting. If you’re waiting for a spouse, for example, maybe ‘waiting’ looks like taking some risks, facing fears, and going on dates. Or maybe it just looks like praying a lot. Ask God what waiting looks like for you, and then do that!
3. Hold onto hope
Waiting a long time for something we desire, especially when we don’t know when or if it will come to pass, is hard. ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life’ (Proverbs chapter 13 verse 12).
It’s okay to acknowledge exactly how your heart is feeling when you’re waiting for something. In fact, it’s healthy. But how do we stop ourselves from descending into a pit of despair, frustration and bitterness when our longings go unfulfilled?
We hold onto hope. Not just hope that things we long for will come to pass…we cling to the God of hope. If he is our biggest desire and longing, he will not let our hearts grow sick. Holding tightly to him enables us not just to endure seasons of waiting, but causes us to thrive in them. He is the hope that never disappoints.
4. Stay thankful
Sometimes we withhold our thankfulness and joy until the moment we have what we want. It’s not often our first response to worship God when we feel like our prayers are going unanswered.
But guess what? God is good, and his love never fails. Even when nothing seems to be going to plan, and chaos surrounds us, God is still on the throne. He is sovereign, he is mighty, his plans for us are good. He didn’t promise an easy life, but he did promise he would never leave us.
So be thankful now. Praise him for who he is now. Don’t withhold yourself from him until you get what you want. If you do, you’re only selling yourself short of what’s available to you – the beauty of intimacy with Jesus through every season in life. After all, knowing Jesus is about walking with him and being in love – not just knowing him so we can get things we want!
5. Trust the process
When a woman is pregnant, there’s not much she can do to hurry up the process of giving birth. In the final weeks, she might try every old wives’ tale in the book to encourage the baby to come quickly, but ultimately it comes when it’s ready. She can’t try or work to make it come. The best thing she can do is rest and not stress.
God’s timing is impeccable. Often it’s impossible for us to see this, because we’re only looking at one piece of the puzzle, when he sees the whole puzzle from a bird’s eye view. We really need to trust God more than we trust our own judgement of how we think things should pan out.
God does not waste any of our waiting. He prepares us and gets everything ready to give us the absolute best. Be encouraged. God is in the waiting.
Bonnie loves all things old-fashioned, exploring new places, coffee with friends and being with her family. She is passionate about broken hearts and relationships being restored through the power of vulnerability and honesty with God and others. Bonnie has a Bachelor of Humanitarian and Community Studies and a Master of International Public Health, and hopes to work in developing countries one day.
Bonnie Dowie’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bonnie-dowie.html