The Agony of Waiting


agony waiting God+

Waiting can be agonizing.

It’s hardest to wait when I am uncertain about the outcome. When I’m trusting God for the best, while at the same time preparing for the worst. It would be much easier if I had a guaranteed good outcome. Or at least a promise from God to hold on to. Or some reassurance to anchor my prayers.

But God often seems silent when I’m waiting. I have no idea whether He’ll ever answer my prayer, so it feels 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,” waiting would be easier. But when the wait 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.”

Several years ago, I went through a period of torturous 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, this passage often frustrated me. Of course Abraham never wavered. He had a direct word from God. 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. 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.

I put it out of my mind after a while. It was senseless to keep dwelling on it. But whenever I read that passage in Romans, it stung. I spent so many years waiting. Why didn’t God tell me His answer from the beginning?

Somehow, I start reading Romans again in my quiet time. I hesitate as I begin Romans 4; 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 long. But Abraham knew what he was waiting for.

As I’m once again feeling disconnected from Abraham, I decide to look at his life in Genesis. I see Abraham’s humanity as he sometimes doubted God’s protection. He even tried to fulfill God’s promise on his own through Hagar. Perhaps he thought God needed his help and ingenuity.

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 study 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. He wouldn’t have relinquished what God had promised him years earlier. He would have clung tightly to Isaac, feeling entitled to this son.  

For Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s long-awaited promise to Abraham.

Abraham wasn’t clinging to his own understanding of the fulfillment of God’s promise. God could fulfill His promise any way He chose, including raising Isaac from the dead if He needed to (Hebrews 11:19). So ultimately Abraham’s faith lay in the trustworthiness of God.

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

Because his faith was not in what God would do for him, but rather in God Himself, Abraham could risk it all. He could do whatever God asked. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t holding on to a particular outcome. He was holding on to God. It was up to God to fulfill His promises.

Abraham’s waiting had strengthened his faith. Taught him God’s ways. Showed him God’s faithfulness.

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.

God has delivered one hundred-fold on that promise. He waits with me. He tenderly cares for me. He pours Himself out for me. He sings songs over me. He gives me everything I need.

As I let that 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 deepen our relationship. To solidify our trust. To prepare us for ministry. To transform us into His likeness.

In retrospect, when I see all that God does as we wait, “wait” is the most precious answer He gives. Waiting draws us to God in ways that having answers cannot. It makes us rely on the Giver and not His gifts.

God knows what I need. I do not. He sees the future. I cannot. 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.”



 Adapted from a post in the Archives
  • May 5, 2016 - 9:24 pm

    Dora A. K. - Very inspiring post, thank you. However, wasn’t Abraham confident and rooted in the promise that Isaac would be his heir and that God would, if need be, bring him to life again as well as the Promissor? “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11:19 ESV) Undercutting the promises of God makes faith in Him as the Promissor shaky.ReplyCancel

    • May 6, 2016 - 4:32 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much for pointing that out. I totally agree that undercutting God’s promises makes our faith in Him shaky and I especially appreciate the Hebrews reference.

      I was trying to say that Abraham wasn’t clinging to his own understanding of the fulfillment of the promise. God could fulfill His promise any way He chose, including raising Isaac from the dead if He needed to. So ultimately Abraham’s faith lay in the trustworthiness of God.

      I am going to make that change on the post itself. Thank you!ReplyCancel

      • May 6, 2016 - 5:47 pm

        Dorah A. K. - Thanks to you for your shining faith as we make our journey home to Him who loves us.ReplyCancel

  • May 5, 2016 - 10:39 pm

    Jacob David - Thanks Vaneetha for this beautiful article. You echoed my thoughts. I am waiting and waiting. No answer. “How long, Lord?” Psalm 13 has been my chorus over the years. All seems like wasted years. “Will you forget me forever?” Years have gone and no answer. Only pain and suffering. This promise keeps me going. “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”

    As you have written “Perhaps God is making me, and you, wait …… To forge our faith. To make us attentive to His voice. To deepen our relationship. To solidify our trust. To prepare us for ministry. To transform us into His likeness.ReplyCancel

    • May 6, 2016 - 4:42 pm

      Vaneetha - Waiting is such a struggle, isn’t it? Praying with you that as you wait, God will forge your faith, make you attentive to His voice and transform you into His likeness.ReplyCancel

      • May 6, 2016 - 10:26 pm

        Jacob David - There could be nothing greater than being transformed into His likeness.
        Thank you for your prayers.ReplyCancel

  • May 6, 2016 - 8:14 am

    Kathleen Owens - Thank you for sharing your experience on waiting on God. I too have prayed for some things that God has not answered. Rather He has not answered the way I desired Him too. Some of the prayers were prayed so many years ago, that the desire is not longer as strong as it was when I first made the request. However, through it all I know God does what is best for me. He does what is best for us. And I’m grateful for that. God Bless You.ReplyCancel

    • May 6, 2016 - 4:45 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your distinction here: “I too have prayed for some things that God has not answered. Rather He has not answered the way I desired Him too.” I need to remember that. It is comforting that He always does what’s best for us. Even when the wait is agonizing…ReplyCancel

  • May 6, 2016 - 8:18 am

    Elaine - Waiting is so darn hard, but verse 5 of psalm 13 is the key. To trust, which Abraham did and I need to be reminded of that. Thank you for the encouragement. As I read this blog several times, it made me think of my children when they were young. They would have a hard time waiting for the car trip to be over that they missed the beauty all around them. A good lesson for myself. As I have times of waiting, Lord please don’t let me lose sight of the beauty of each day and all your promises.ReplyCancel

  • May 6, 2016 - 10:09 am

    Debbie - Through this article, God has answered the question I’ve asked every day of April: Why am I just waiting? March 29 my doctor called to tell me I have cancer. Since then it has been waiting waiting waiting. No treatment started. No specific plan. No surgery date scheduled. Just waiting. And now you have told me “Waiting draws us to God in ways that having answers cannot.” And that’s all I needed to hear, because I’d choose being close to him above everything else. You’ve reminded me I already have everything I want.ReplyCancel

    • May 6, 2016 - 4:48 pm

      Vaneetha - Praying for you, Debbie, as you await next steps from the doctor. Your faith is a testimony to the surpassing worth of God.ReplyCancel

  • May 6, 2016 - 12:12 pm

    Trudy - Hi Vaneetha. Waiting is so hard, isn’t it? Like you said, sometimes it’s easier to get the “no” right away instead of waiting so long and still getting a “no.” I love how you bring out that Abraham’s faith was not in the promise but in the Promiser. And this is so encouraging – “It was in those seemingly wasted years that God transformed him.” Even when we don’t “feel” Him, he is busy working for our good. Blessings and hugs to you!ReplyCancel

    • May 6, 2016 - 4:49 pm

      Vaneetha - I keep reminding myself of these truths too. He is busy working for our good!ReplyCancel

  • May 6, 2016 - 3:55 pm

    Mike R - Wonderful post, Vaneetha. Thank you. Your words captured my feelings and thoughts. As I struggle with my health and the doctors fail to find a direction of treatment, I am left to simply wait, ashamed of my lack of faith. As I read the list of heroes of the faith in Hebrews, I see that they died without ever seeing their faith fulfilled in this life. As I study Job I see a man that suffered more than I can imagine. And he had not a clue as to why or if or when. If he could have known what God’s thoughts were towards him, how much easier would have been his suffering! “God has thought so much of me that he has made an example of me with Satan, himself.” And while I don’t presume to suggest that any of us are the righteous man Job was, or that we are similar in our trials, his situation was the same–he had to wait.

    Thank you for remaining me of God’s provision. No matter how desperate I sometimes become, God sustains me. He gets me through the night, even though it feels as though it is insufferable. It is easy to fail to notice the myriad of ways that he provides for me. To forget his goodness. Depression sets in and God seems to disappear behind a dark cloud. Yet he is there. Surely God moves in mysterious ways. We are humbled and he is glorified.

    It is easy to mouth the words, “Thy will be done,” but learning to say them sincerely is surely only obtained through the furnace. I’m not there yet, I admit. But God is surely faithful. May I learn to desire his will more than the desires of my own heart.ReplyCancel

    • May 6, 2016 - 4:51 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for writing Mike. Praying that you will sense the Lord’s presence afresh in your trials as you lean into Him. So thankful that the Lord sustains you, me, all of us, when we are in the furnace.ReplyCancel

  • May 6, 2016 - 5:43 pm

    Joel - Hi Vaneetha, I saw this post on crosswalks before coming here. This is EXACTLY what I am going through and I had the same thoughts as you about Abraham as well. Really glad to see that someone else understands!

    I was thinking, maybe God didn’t say no to your request? Maybe he answered it in another way? I don’t know if this is being intrusive but if you don’t mind, could you share what was it you were praying for and the situation/circumstances surrounding your issue?ReplyCancel

    • May 7, 2016 - 12:24 pm

      Vaneetha - I can’t really share the issue, but God did say no. But having a “no,” while disappointing, is not a bad thing. I truly believe that God’s refusals are always His mercies- we just may not see why in this life.ReplyCancel

  • May 7, 2016 - 2:02 am

    the agony of waiting | what heights of love - […] The Agony of Waiting As I let that 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 deepen our relationship. To solidify our trust. To prepare us for ministry. To transform us into His likeness.- Vaneetha Rendall  […]ReplyCancel

  • May 7, 2016 - 8:43 am

    Jeannine Weeks - I adopted Psalm 13 three years ago as my “personal” Psalm. I,too, have wished that if God is going to say no, I’d rather He Had told me sooner than 3yrs desperate,gut wrenching praying only to still suffer great loss, questioning why, trying to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. I have been comforted by so many of your posts; weeping as I read; finding someone who GETS it.ReplyCancel

    • May 7, 2016 - 12:27 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Jeannine, I’m so sorry for all you have been through as I know how difficult waiting has been. But my comfort has been that God sees and knows what’s best for us. Praying for you now that you will sense God’s presence and love afresh today.ReplyCancel

  • May 16, 2016 - 12:13 am

    fullmoons - Hi Vaneetha! Your column just made my eyes well up! Thank you for putting into words what has been a heart struggle for me for a long while. The only comfort I find in waiting is Who I am waiting for, not what, or when, or how. Though i would not deny that it has been a difficult time -filled with heart breaks and agonizing silence, I trust that the Lord hears the deepest groans of our hearts even in our silence. Holding on to His promises and love as I go through each day.ReplyCancel

    • May 18, 2016 - 10:13 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful that you are holding onto God and His promises in the midst of your wait. God is doing so much we cannot see in this often gut-wrenching process- that one day we will thank Him for!ReplyCancel

  • May 19, 2016 - 4:14 pm

    Suzanne (princapecos) - After reading this wonderful post, it occurred to me that the Christian life (mine, at least) is full of waiting. I tend to get bogged down with all of the on-earth stuff I’m waiting for, neglecting the ultimate, the true hope that I have. Thanks for a lovely piece reminding me of God’s never-ending faithfulness.ReplyCancel

    • May 19, 2016 - 5:05 pm

      Vaneetha - I get bogged down too, Suzanne. So I wrote this post to remind myself of His faithfulness too!ReplyCancel

  • June 7, 2016 - 12:05 pm

    Kristen - Thank you so much for this post as well as so many others of yours that I have read. Waiting can be such a difficult thing to do. Especially when we really aren’t sure of the outcome. This post really expressed a lot of what I am constantly reminding myself and my kids of…our hope is in God, in who He is, and His faithfulness. He will take care of us!ReplyCancel

    • June 7, 2016 - 11:50 pm

      Mike R - God will deliver his saints. Not always in our timing and not always in the manner we desire. But always, and always to our ultimate benefit. What you are teaching your children is wonderful, and they are seeing your faith lived out before them. What a blessing for them, even if you visibly struggle to hang on. I think pf Paul who even “dispaired for his life.” O that God would give us peace in the furnace. I find myself reciting Psalm 23, which has become my most constant prayer of late. Praying for you and your children.ReplyCancel

  • June 11, 2016 - 6:55 am

    PRECIOUS - “……. I see that while
    Abraham was waiting, God was
    working. Molding his character.
    Teaching him patience. Building their
    friendship.” God truly builds our friendship with Him in the process of waiting. So we can have the right perspective on His answer after the wait.If He says ‘No’ We know it is out of Love and He has a better plan. Like our dear friend,if He answered ‘yes’ to your prayers you may not write this article on ‘the agony of waiting’. Which is as refreshing as an oasis in this desert-like-world where ‘wait’ seems like a cuss word.Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • June 15, 2016 - 10:50 am

    Cathy - Think you enjoy reading the poem entitled “Wait” by Russell Keller (google it), which summarizes in poetic form your steps of waiting (and mine).ReplyCancel

  • June 15, 2016 - 11:04 pm

    Michi - Amen. Thank you for stating so eloquently why God makes us wait. I am in a waiting period now and found your post encouraging and a good reminder of what God’s goals for us are. His goals are often different than ours. We often focus on the destination but God focuses on the journey.ReplyCancel

  • June 16, 2016 - 2:24 pm

    Caitlan M - Vaneetha, this post is beautiful and raw and touched a spiritual nerve just right. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You encourage me to do the same.ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2016 - 5:01 pm

    Carrie Dahl - Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I cried the entire way through. The Lord gave me these words as a gift at the perfect moment.ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2016 - 3:43 pm

    Crow - Thank you again Vaneetha for a wonder insightful article. How we all struggle with waiting. God does indeed use waiting to strengthen our faith in God AS GOD. We want to know so we have a sense of our controlling our lives. We belong to our Creator God. He alone is God and that is the hardest lesson we have to learn. Adam & Eve failed to learn it initially. Abraham came to see God as God and so could seemingly give up his long promised son because it was God’s will that mattered to Abraham now. It took many decades for Abraham to trust God to be God and to stop wanting to be God himself. The whole book of Job is about the loss of the gifts and submission to the Giver as God Almighty. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised” said Job, but only once he had made his argument and had been shown it was God who was in charge of everything, and Job had no right to be angry at the loss of anything for all is God’s and is from God, including Job himself. It wasn’t about sin, it was about Job recognising who God is and who Job is relative to Him – just as Abraham did. Even Christ wrestled enormously in Gethsemane before he could say “Yet not my will but yours be done” – perhaps his divine nature was wrestling with his human nature so that he was whole-hearted towards God His Father when the final trial came. While he was without sin, we do have a new nature and an old nature and they will wrestle with each other until we also are whole-hearted towards our Master. Then the blessing will come.
    Just one more point – Abraham did not have the whole of Scripture, replete with promises and truths about God, Christ, salvation etc as we are blessed with. That is why Hebrews speaks of our being blessed and of our forefathers wishing they knew what we know. We really already have the richest of God’s blessings in Scripture – with the Holy Spirit of Christ within us to inform our meditations. You’re absolutely right Vaneetha – it is in the waiting that we truly come to meet with the all-sufficient God Almighty who alone is God. It is the breaking of our prideful sinful nature that God would bring about in us (our sanctification). We need to learn just how weak and needy we really are – the hardest lesson indeed. Thank you again.ReplyCancel

    • June 19, 2016 - 3:33 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing! Although waiting is hard, it is truly amazing all that God does in us as we wait.ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2016 - 11:07 pm

    Faith - Thank you so much for this wonderful post 🙂 I have been discouraged quite a few times because I am unsure of the outcome and many times I imagine the worst outcomes. Right now I am in the process of waiting and your wonderful post reminded me the reason why I chose to wait in the first place: to learn to be fully satisfied in Him before anyone else and to be moulded into the woman He wants me to be. Thank you for an encouraging post <3ReplyCancel

    • June 19, 2016 - 3:30 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing, Faith. Praying for you as I write this that God would encourage you as you wait.ReplyCancel

  • June 21, 2016 - 1:38 am

    Madeline - Thank you for your post! Currently, we are going to a “waiting” period and it is gut wrenching. We put plans in motion, but it has not come into light yet. Waiting upon the Lord and His timing is very hard. We want to jump the gun and do something in our own power…..but the Lord shuts that door also, which leaves us to turn to Him alone. We think that He will fulfill our prayers in our own time, but I learned that it is in His time. He has put us in very uncomfortable situations in order to help us be creative and patient .ReplyCancel

  • July 15, 2016 - 5:19 pm

    Tamara Walker - Thank you for posting this… It comes at a time that I am also ‘waiting’ in… 3 years of IVF, 5 miscarriages, countless money and time spent, and still no baby… And still we wait…

    I also ‘stumbled’ across this recently… It’s a poem I found that had also encouraged me. I thought I’d post it here. I hope that’s okay.

    Wait – Russell Kelfer

    Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried.
    Quietly, patiently, lovingly God replied.
    I plead and I wept for a clue to my fate,
    And the Master so gently said, “Child, you must wait!”

    “Wait, You say? Wait!” my indignant reply.
    “Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
    Is Your hand shortened? Or have You not heard?
    By FAITH I have asked, and am claiming Your Word.”

    “My future and all to which I can relate
    Hangs in the balance, and You tell me to WAIT?
    I’m needing a ‘yes,’ a go-ahead sign,
    Or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign.”

    “And Lord, You promised that if we believe
    We need but to ask, as we shall receive.
    And Lord, I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
    I’m weary of asking! I need a reply!”

    Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate
    As my Master replied once again, “You must wait.”
    So, I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut
    And grumbled to God, “So, I’m waiting…for what?”

    He seemed then to kneel and His eyes wept with mine,
    And He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
    I could shake the heavens, and darken the sun.
    I could raise the dead, and cause mountains to run.
    All you seek, I could give, and pleased you would be.
    You would have what you want — but, you wouldn’t know ME.”

    “You’d not know the depth of My love for each saint;
    You’d not know the power that I give to the faint;
    You’d not learn to see through the clouds of despair;
    You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there;
    You’d not know the joy of resting in Me
    When darkness and silence were all you could see.”

    “You’d never experience that fullness of love
    As the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove;
    You’d know that I give and I save … (for a start),
    But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.”

    “The flow of My comfort late into the night,
    The faith that I give when you walk without sight,
    The depth that’s beyond getting just what you asked
    Of an infinite God, who makes what you have LAST.”

    “You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,
    What it means that ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’
    Yes, your dreams for your loved ones overnight would come true,
    But, oh, the loss! if I lost what I’m doing in you!”

    “So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
    And though oft may My answers seem terribly late,
    My wisest of answers is still but to WAIT.”

    Thank you again, and may God bless you, your family and your ministry…

    Emerald, Australia xReplyCancel

    • July 26, 2016 - 8:38 pm

      Vaneetha - That poem meant a lot to me during some dark times of waiting. Thank you for reminding me of it! Praying you will find God’s comfort as you wait…ReplyCancel

  • July 26, 2016 - 10:36 am

    John - I just reread this post. So good. I recently learned about the translation of Yahweh-Yireh found in the passage about about Abraham being told by God to sacrifice Isaac. The meaning is helpful to me: “the Lord will provide” and/or “the Lord who sees ahead of me” – so I find myself repeating Yahweh-Yireh as a mantra when I need strength. This is where I found it:

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