When Waiting Hurts

waiting_busstop+Last week I mentioned how irritated I was about getting cold pizza delivered two hours late. But at least I knew the pizza was coming. Eventually.

But the wait is harder when I don’t know the outcome. When God seems silent and I have no idea whether He’ll ever answer my prayer. When it seems like I’m waiting in the dark.

I have read and reread Psalm 13: “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?”

How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?

O Lord, how long?

I have asked that question many times. Waiting patiently. Waiting impatiently. Waiting well. Waiting badly. Waiting.

If I knew God would eventually answer my prayer with “yes” it would be different. But when the waiting seems endless and I’m not sure if there’s any point to it anyway, it feels excruciating.

Even an answer of “no” would be easier than “wait.”

I went through a period of agonizing waiting.

At the beginning of my wait, I had searched the Bible to find a promise that related to my situation. A word that I could “claim.” An assurance of the victory I longed for.

As I was waiting, I read in Romans 4, “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.” 

While I admire Abraham’s faith, to be honest, my reaction was, “Well if I had a direct promise from God, an assurance of my answer, then I’d be content to wait too. Abraham could wait because he knew he’d get what he wanted in the end.”

I wanted God to give me a promise like the one He had given Abraham, and so I kept begging God for a sign.

None came. No verse. No confirmation. Just silence on that issue. For years.

And in the end, God’s answer was “no.”

At first it felt unfair. And purposeless. I struggled to make sense of those seemingly wasted years. While I had grown closer to God, somehow I felt that I had received a lesser gift.

Though some time has passed since then, and I feel a bit raw about those years of waiting.

I start reading Romans again in my quiet time. I hesitate as I begin Romans 4, since it painfully reminds me of that time of asking and waiting. When I didn’t get what I had wanted. When I envied Abraham. True, his wait was horrendous. But Abraham knew what he was waiting for.

As I’m once again feeling disconnected from Abraham, I look at his life in Genesis. I see Abraham’s humanity as he sometimes doubted God’s protection, and even tried to fulfill the promise himself through Hagar. He figured maybe God could use his help.

That part I can identify with. Abraham’s struggle with impatience feels all too familiar.  Too many times I’ve tried to help God fulfill His plans. That is, the plans I’d like Him to have. Plans that would give me what I want. What I think I deserve.

As I peruse Genesis, I see that while Abraham was waiting, God was working. Molding his character. Teaching him patience. Building their friendship. It was in that 25-year wait that Abraham got to know God intimately. It was in those seemingly wasted years that God transformed him.

And after decades of waiting, Abraham was ready for the supreme test of his faith, when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise. The son he had waited for.

Then I see it. Why had I not noticed this before?  Abraham’s faith wasn’t rooted in the promise of descendants. If it was, he never would have taken Isaac to be sacrificed. Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promise to him.

Abraham’s faith wasn’t in the promises. His faith was rooted in the Promisor. 

Because his faith was not in what God would do for him, but in God Himself, Abraham could risk it all. He could do whatever God asked. It didn’t matter. His waiting had strengthened his faith. Taught him God’s ways. Showed him God could be trusted.

Abraham knew that God would provide everything he needed. 

I have the very same assurance that Abraham did. God will provide everything I need. Everything. He will take care of me. That is my promise.

I see that God delivered a thousand times over on that promise. He waited with me. He tenderly cared for me. He poured Himself out for me. He sang songs over me. He gave me everything I needed.

As I let my promise sink in, I see my waiting differently. Perhaps God is making me, and you, wait for the same reasons that He made Abraham wait. To forge our faith. To make us attentive to His voice. To prepare us for ministry. To transform us into His likeness.

In retrospect, when I see that all God does as we wait, “wait” is the most precious answer we can receive.

I am thankful God has not answered all my prayers with a “yes.” He knows what I need. I don’t. He will give me only what is best for me. When it is best for me.

As Paul Tripp says, “Waiting is not just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.”

  • May 17, 2014 - 9:58 am

    Jayde - Thank you for this post. I just found your blog while I was reading the Desiring God site and it really spoke to me this morning. I’m struggling with the wait and you confirmed everything I have felt God telling me lately. I need to save this post and read it often to remind me.

    A link to the post about my wait is below. I’m doing better now because I was finally so broken that I had to give it fully to the Lord because it was too difficult for me to carry anymore. I haven’t cried once since I gave it to Him and I am grateful to Him for taking it from me. I know He must be working on me and I need to be molded even if I don’t understand the reason. The wait is awful and I am always wishing I could be Abraham and have a promise from God but God is also quiet and doesn’t answer. I can relate so much to your post. Thanks again.

    http://jaydesjourney.com/2014/02/26/the-hated-m-word-i-am-broken/ReplyCancel

    • May 17, 2014 - 2:20 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Jayde… I just read your blog post. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and so breathtakingly honest. I can’t imagine how hard that has been for you, though I do know the agony of waiting. Of unanswered prayer. Of being sure of having a “yes” at the end but getting a “no” instead.

      It feels so raw and hard to share, especially when other people feel sure that it will turn around…and you have no such assurances. I have no idea what God will do in all of this, Jayde, but I do know God loves you extravagantly. He will use every piece of this, every tear you’ve cried and every unfulfilled dream, and turn it into something amazing. Through all of our painful waiting, He’s changing us and preparing us for a weight of glory that is beyond comparison. That’s often what I hang onto.

      Thank you so much for writing, Jayde. I’m praying for you.ReplyCancel

  • May 20, 2014 - 12:17 pm

    Tiffany - Hello. I came across your blog after reading your post on the (in)courage website today. I’m glad I did because I happened to see this post, which is something I definitely needed to hear today.
    God gave a promise over a year ago – a specific one like Abraham – on eventually getting married. I’ve been single for almost 10 years & I’m almost 40, but through a trusted prayer warrior, God assured me that he hasn’t forgotten about me. I’ve been clinging to the promise that God gave to Abraham & Sara because they were getting up in age & God promised to give them a son.
    Even though I did receive a promise from God, I can truly relate to how Abraham dealt with impatience. I attend a pretty decent sized church, so I keep wondering why I’m still single & not meeting any prospective dates. All I keep getting is “trust” & “wait”. Maybe God hasn’t brought him to my church yet or maybe we will meet in some other fashion. But, in either case, I can definitely relate.
    Anyways, I just wanted to thank you for the post. Obviously it was God’s doing in leading me to your blog today & for that I’m praising God the He will give us what we need when we need it.ReplyCancel

    • May 20, 2014 - 12:30 pm

      Vaneetha - I understand how hard the wait is, Tiffany. It can feel excruciating. But I’m so thankful our faith is in the Promisor, who will never fail us! He will give us what we need, exactly when we need it.ReplyCancel

  • May 23, 2014 - 8:19 pm

    Katie - This was shared on Facebook by another adoptive mom. We are waiting, without an end in sight, to bring home our children and the wait has shown me where my faith is and where it needs to be. Thank you for sharing.ReplyCancel

    • May 23, 2014 - 10:25 pm

      Vaneetha - Katie, I can imagine this wait feels endless right now. I’m so glad God used my blog to encourage you through this difficult time.ReplyCancel

  • July 18, 2014 - 2:40 pm

    JD - This post is beautiful and encouraging. I’m going through an extremely complicated and difficult marriage crisis. I wish I could see how God is working in the situation but I just can’t. Its scary. I love what you said “Abraham’s faith wasn’t in the promises. His faith was rooted in the Promisor.” This is where I’ve been trying to constantly refocus from my situation to the God who is in control.
    Thank you. I found your blog through Desiring God and have been going through a few of your posts and finding much encouragement.ReplyCancel

    • July 22, 2014 - 7:11 am

      Vaneetha - Marriage crises can be so hard, and oh so lonely. Many times I’ve had to cling to the Promisor alone, when I can’t see anything but darkness around me. But He is always faithful. Praying for you today…ReplyCancel

  • September 23, 2014 - 8:26 pm

    Quixote - I’m having a bit of the opposite problem. God did make me a promise. I had that very same conversation with him (“Abraham, St. Elizabeth, etc all had an easier time keeping faith regarding God’s promises to them because they had something concrete and in-your-face to base that faith on!”). I asked him for a sign so I could bolster my faith as well, and God gave it to me. He’s actually given me several, but back in January, after two weeks of asking for an “unquestionable sign,” He provided it.

    And yet, here I am, eight months and dozens of small signs and reaffirmations of His promise later, and I feel farther away from seeing the fulfillment of that promise than ever. It’s not that I don’t believe God will honor his promises, but rather that I start to doubt whether He actually made one…I begin to doubt my understanding of even the most outlandishly clear signs. “What if it was just a coincidence?” How human of me!

    And then I realized I’m not so much like Abraham, but Peter. God has promised to help me walk across the water, but rather than keep my eyes fixed on him and tune out the obstacles, the temptation to look at the angry waves of my situation and doubt overcomes me from time to time, and I begin to sink.

    He is definitely using this period for cultivating spiritual and personal growth for me and the other people involved in the situation, but the promise He made was very definitely for a particular desirable outcome (He never promised the growth, but that seems to be part of His plan, of course).

    And I doubt, and I ask for affirmation, and He gives it to me that this tremendous gift is definitely in His will and that He is working to bring it about…

    …but still…the waves…they are so big and angry…

    Please pray for me.

    Thanks.ReplyCancel

    • September 24, 2014 - 5:42 pm

      Vaneetha - Waiting for God is hard. I know firsthand. But I love Paul Tripp’s quote which says, “God is calling you to wait because He is doing things in you, through you, and around you that are very good. He has not forgotten you; He calls you to wait precisely because He loves you.”

      I am praying for you as I write this…ReplyCancel

      • September 25, 2014 - 10:26 pm

        Quixote - Thank you. And I promise that when this miracle comes to pass, I will report back here, that He may be glorified for his power and faithfulness.ReplyCancel

    • December 1, 2014 - 11:13 am

      Vaneetha - Waiting is such a challenge- I’m sure three years feels like a lifetime. I’m so thankful that God is faithful!ReplyCancel

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