What's happening when nothing seems to be happening?
Waiting is hard. It’s one of our poorer skills. The other day, I arrived at an event earlier than a friend (who had the tickets), and immediately used my phone to pass time. It didn’t take long to scroll through the socials, handle emails, check texts…. Still, there was more waiting. Standing there seemed awkward and I grew increasingly antsy until she arrived. That, my friends, was a mere ten minutes. If we are challenged by brief waiting, how do we handle it when God’s timing seems to have no visible end?
“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)
Life hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would, both in delightful surprises and plot twists that left me baffled. The season until I got married stretched on beyond what my adolescent self once imagined, then ended abruptly in divorce before I could catch my breath. Now I wonder what happens next. What about the family I anticipated? Visions of other future events remain out of reach. Will I ever live in a house instead of a small apartment? What about past dreams of a career in film or television production? Where is my writing going? I’m often convinced that it would be easier if only I knew what to expect on God’s timeline. Waiting is hard and lacking certainty increases the difficulty.
Discussions on this topic inevitably result in someone reminding us that God’s timing is perfect- which is true. Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time for everything. Proverbs 16:9 points out that God directs our steps. Stories about God fill the pages of the Bible, demonstrating His careful attention to detail, provision, and care. However, when we feel that perhaps He’s forgotten us, these words don’t comfort us as intended.
God’s promises to give us a glimmer of hope, even when that glimmer appears to be nothing more than a glowing ember. The same God who promised good future plans to the exiled Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11 has equally good purposes for us today (Ephesians 2:10 for reassurance). We reference Romans 8:28 when we forget that the Lord works all things for the good of those who love Him. It’s there in scripture, allowing us to cling to His hope.
And yet. We wake up each day and still we wait. Time brings along its friends, questions and doubt. This season stretches on, seemingly infinite. We can’t help but ask if our hopes will ever become reality. Do we want the wrong thing? Does God have a different plan? Why have things happened this way and where the heck are we going?
Does this mean that we lack faith? Or are we merely being realistic? Where do we draw the line before we give up? We recognize that sometimes God’s design varies from our plans. Often, He gives us something amazing that we never imagined! However, while we trust that He has our best interest in mind, we don’t have the luxury of His wide-angle view. Disappointment, longing, and confusion are real, and they can be intense. How do we handle this without giving up on God or giving up hope altogether?
1. Honesty- We can ditch the idea that we must follow a script or a formal protocol when we talk to God. I mean, He already knows us so well that there’s nothing to keep from Him. So we talk to the Lord with every ounce of genuine sincerity in us. Discuss the hopes, the disappointment, the confusion, the questions. Express difficult feelings. When we have deep, real conversations with God, we grow closer to Him.
2. Request- Ask for answers, understanding, and peace. Sometimes those appear delayed, but God doesn’t ignore or abandon us. He even has purpose for our season of waiting! So keep requesting and keep listening.
3. Take each day, each step, at a time-When we try to rush ahead to big results, we overlook the treasures along the journey. Let’s keep our eyes open for God’s gifts in this abundant life that He promised. Often, they come in the forms of surprises or the very thing we desired in an unexpected way.
While I questioned unfulfilled milestones, God took me by the hand and led me down a more adventurous path. A published book, a meaningful job in ministry, a home near the beach… blessings that fill my heart with gratitude. Yes, waiting remains difficult and the future unknown, but simultaneously I give thanks and treasure these gifts.
Remember the three guys in the book of Daniel who found themselves thrown in a fiery furnace? The last thing they expected when they began serving the king was to be punished for their obedience to God. Before being tossed into the flames, they said:
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)
They had hopes of survival, but they were ready to accept any outcome. Their trust in God went beyond their own vision. In the depths of despair, they tightly grasped that faith. Then, they walked through the fire alongside the Lord. We can be disappointed, scared, worried, confused, frustrated, or angry… and simultaneously continue to pray, worship, seek, and live in His love. Trust happens while we wait; faith exists when much is unseen.
Finally, pause for a moment, turn around, and look back. Where did you see God on your journey? What good things has He done so far? Celebrate them while holding space for the waiting. Know that He is the same God now, full of the same compassion, trustworthy in His care as much tomorrow as yesterday.
I pray that you receive peace and encouragement as you wait. May your spirit be refreshed when you feel tired, and love surround you when life is hard. God has given us a gift of hope. Let’s help each other keep that ember aflame as we walk together into His good promises.
Thanks for reading! Catch what happens next; new posts will be delivered to your inbox.