Finding hope in the waiting

Waiting on God can feel hopeless, but it isn’t!

Waiting goes against human nature. In a world filled with instant gratification, times of waiting often feel excruciating. And waiting on God isn’t any different. We pray and seek Him. We call on others to pray. Yet, sometimes He doesn’t move in a way we can see. Waiting on God can feel hopeless. But the good news is that it isn’t.

I shared a while back about the lessons I learned during a season of waiting. It wasn’t an easy time. I am again in a time of waiting on God. It’s a wait that’s been going on for seven long years and has been the most heart-wrenching journey I’ve been on. While I have learned that God is always in control and on His throne, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never had moments of doubt and frustration. Where is He in all of this? What could His plan be? Why isn’t God doing something?

I don’t have answers to what His plan is in this situation or why He hasn’t moved in the ways that really make the most sense to me. But I also know that He has been with me every step of the way. Where is He? Right there with me. How do I know that? Well, God and I have a history. I can look back throughout my entire life and see His hand in everything — even in the times when I wondered whether He’d forgotten me. (He hadn’t.)

Time and again, God shows up in my life and in my story. I can’t tell you the story of my life without telling you how He has impacted it. I’m so thankful for that! My daughter recently went to a small group meeting with us and noticed the other members talked about times they’d gotten totally away from God, but her dad and I didn’t have those same pasts. My testimony may sound a bit boring, but I only thank God for all the things He’s spared me from. I find hope in knowing God has never let me down or forgotten me. And I find hope in stories from the Bible that remind me what waiting on God can look like.

Waiting on God in the Old Testament

From childhood, I’ve known the story of Jonah getting swallowed by a whale. It’s one that comes up in children’s Bibles and Sunday School lessons. But it wasn’t until I taught a Sunday School lesson about Jonah a few years ago that I saw Jonah’s testimony of waiting.

What got to me in teaching this story is the three days Jonah spent inside of that whale. For three days and three nights, he sat in a dark, stinky place. He surely thought he was going to die there. He had to have regrets for not following God’s leading to go to Nineveh. Chapter two of Jonah includes his long and pleading prayer to God.

“When my life was ebbing away,

    I remembered you, Lord,

and my prayer rose to you,

    to your holy temple.”

Jonah 2:7 (NIV)

The Bible just tells us that Jonah prayed this prayer to God. It doesn’t tell us when he prayed it. I think getting swallowed by a whale would be such a monumental and dramatic life moment that you’d pray right away. After all Jonah had been through until that point, I think getting tossed out of a boat and swallowed by a fish would have been his moment of repentance.

So if we assume Jonah immediately saw the error of his ways and turned to God for help, then we also see that Jonah had a time of waiting on God. He stayed in that whale for three days and three nights — probably even after he prayed. Jonah was definitely in a time of waiting. He didn’t know the whale was going to spit him out. He couldn’t have known how God was working behind the scenes. Instead, he just had to sit and wait.

In the end, Jonah lived when the whale spit him out onto dry land. And, the people in the city of Nineveh were saved. They turned from their wicked ways and got back on track with God. Jonah got a bit perturbed at God’s compassion and mercy for them. Even though he should have learned a lesson while waiting on God inside of a whale, Jonah still had a ways to go. God was faithful to remind Jonah of how great His love is, even after all of that.

That’s how seasons of waiting can go. We can learn lessons in the waiting and think we’ve figured them out. Then, bam! A new time of waiting on God arrives, and we again have doubts creep in.

Waiting on God in the New Testament

Another example of waiting on God that I’ve looked at different in the past few years comes in the resurrection story. The story of Jesus dying on the cross and coming back from death is one that I have heard so many times as a child and an adult. It is the most hopeful story of all time!

A couple of years ago, though, thinking about Saturday struck me. This day is sometimes called Silent Saturday. It’s the day God was quiet. On Friday, He was present as Jesus took His last breaths. God may have turned away, but He was there.

We certainly know He was there on Sunday when the tomb was empty. But what about on Saturday? Where was God on Saturday? Why did we have to wait for Him to move? Why didn’t he immediately raise Jesus from the dead?

Obviously, I can’t answer all those questions. But I at least know where God was on Silent Saturday. He was still on His throne. He didn’t forget about humanity for one single moment. While I don’t know any theological reasons, the takeaway I get from Silent Saturday is to hang on and hope. Know that God has a plan. While we are waiting on God, He is working things for our best.

On the days of waiting and pleading and wanting God to move, we can rest assured that He hasn’t forgotten us. He may be silent at the moment. Or He may send us encouragement along the way. But there is hope in the waiting, because He is always at work.

I also think Sunday is all that much more special because we had to wait. We had to see if Jesus was going to come back. What if He didn’t? How many doubts the early believers must have had after He died! After the wait, the good news was even better. After times of waiting on God, we appreciate all the more His movement and blessing that comes.

What it means for us

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Though waiting isn’t listed, I have learned there is a time for waiting. Waiting on God can seem pointless, hopeless and frustrating. I struggle with getting discouraged. But my Heavenly Father is always faithful and always good, even when my situation isn’t. He holds me close. And even in the waiting He is working.

We can rest in that today and every day. We can remember all the times He’s been faithful and trust that He is working and moving in ways we can’t see. For the times that we are struggling most, we can ask Him to strengthen our faith. When our hearts break in the waiting, we can ask for His peace and comfort. He will be with us every step of the way.

One day, we’ll look back and see why we had to wait, whether that’s here on earth or in heaven. But I know beyond all doubt that whatever that reason is, God is using it for good. He has plans to give us a future and a hope and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). Rest in that as you wait.

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