Have you ever gone for a walk on a cloudy day and, to your surprise and delight, the sun unexpectedly breaks through the muted sky? Suddenly the entire landscape is changed by its light and warmth and you’re glad you stepped outside.

Life can bring similar moments. Perhaps you’ve been waiting for something – a job, test results, a spouse, a prodigal, a home – and suddenly the loose ends all tie together. The prodigal walks through the front door. The call comes to say you’ve been given the job. Suddenly life makes sense, the perfect timing of God’s will is obvious and you wonder why you ever doubted his provision in the first place.

Well, this post is for all the days that aren’t like that. This post is for when another day passes by without answer or result, when hope becomes a burden that grows heavier and harder to bear. This post is for that breaking point, when part of you doesn’t even care whether the answer is a Yes or a No, so long as there is an answer and you can move out of the limbo of waiting and onward with life. This post is for when all the doors seem closed and you’re stuck in the hallway.

Waiting is hard.

We live in a world obsessed with dramatic hyperbole: Extreme! Dramatic! Best-kept secret! In comparison, waiting seems bland and of the twiddle-your-thumbs variety. Even praying is difficult when you’re waiting. I read my Bible and see that we are to ask boldly, yet hold our requests with an open hand. How does one earnestly pray for something yet still be completely submissive?

Waiting is hard, and our instinct is to run away from hard things. We long to escape the awkward, painful tension of the “not yet” limbo.

But what if there was a way we could come to embrace those seasons of waiting? Just maybe there is a way we can learn how to wait well.

A crucial part to waiting well lies in remembering who we are.

Whether you are currently waiting for something very specific or not, we are the waiting people in a much bigger story. Granted, waiting for the guaranteed return of Christ is different than waiting for significant things God has not promised us, such as a spouse or job. But setting our hope on and waiting well for Christ’s certain return will transform the way we wait for less certain things.

I’ve been spending more time in the Old Testament than the New lately, but recently began the Gospel of Mark. What a jolt! Jesus suddenly appears on the scene proclaiming the good news of God, declaring that “the time has come, the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15). It’s such a contrast to all the waiting of the Old Testament people. How many lived and died and never saw the consummation of all those promises for a Messiah? How many had to learn to wait on the Lord, learn to see with eyes of faith, but reached the grave before a manger in Bethlehem cradled Christ?

The Old Testament saints were a waiting people.

The same could be said of us now.

Yes, we live on the other side of the Cross, but we too are waiting for the day when Christ will return and all shall be well once more. On that day, all waiting will be banished and we will rejoice for our Bridegroom has come…but for now, we wait with a holy discontent for Christ’s return (Romans 8:18-25).

Waiting is not the enemy. In God’s design, it is never meaningless or purposeless. On the surface, it may look like nothing is happening, but the One we are waiting for has much he wants to give us and much he wants to work in us through the waiting. Escaping, ignoring or reacting angrily against the agony of waiting are not the only options.

So take heart in your waiting. You belong to a waiting people whose God has tenderly promised good things to those who long for what they do not have and cannot yet see. Behind those stubborn grey clouds is a God who is gladly willing to sanctify our seasons of waiting and increase our faith – not shatter it.

Lord, I struggle with waiting. It’s uncomfortable and painful and I am so often hurting and confused when I cannot understand what you are up to or what you are doing. I often react to waiting in unhelpful ways –  I am easily tempted towards bitterness, despair, impatience and ingratitude. I quickly doubt your goodness and I begin to distrust you. Please forgive me.

Lord, please help me to see your purposes in my waiting. Help me to trust you even when I don’t understand. Help me to view waiting not as an uncomfortable experience to run away from but as an instrument in your hand to change me. Grant me eyes of faith, Lord, and a heart to trust your good design. Thank you that I am not alone in my waiting, but I belong to a people waiting for you to return and bring an end to all longing. I wait for that day in hope. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

Part Two of this blog will consider further how waiting can help us grow in our faith and trust in the Lord.