Five Ways to Thrive in Seasons of Waiting

“Show me good waiting” is a common phrase in my home. My toddler, like all toddlers, struggles with waiting for things that he wants and wants instantly, primarily snacks. In an effort to cultivate patience and keep the peace, I started using the phrase “show me good waiting” when he was two, and it stuck. Even as I type this, I am cringing with the realization of how hypocritical I am in this area. Seasons of waiting do not bring out my most graceful side. Rather, I’m often marked by anxiety, stress, and time spent begging God instead of worshiping Him in prayer.

My family has continually been in some sort of waiting season for the past four years. When I say this, I mean that we have been waiting on major life changes that we knew lay ahead and were eagerly anticipating. We have been or are waiting for job opportunities, job trainings to end, babies, a relocation, and to buy a house, among other things. While it’s true that nearly all of life is characterized by waiting, there is a distinction between waiting on something nebulous and far in the future (i.e. retirement) verses something we desperately long for or believe would make a tangible difference in our life at this moment.

We could probably spend all of our mental energy thinking about the “one days…”. One day we will buy a house, one day we will start a family, one day the kids will be in school, one day we will get that promotion, one day we will take our dream vacation. One.Day. The problem with our “one day” scenarios is that they can rob us of our ability to fully enjoy our life today. If our minds are continually fixed on the next big thing, we will miss out on the many blessings that are right in front of our noses. This, of course, is a truth with which we generally agree but it is just so difficult to remember and live out when we feel like we are on the edge of something new or have an intense longing for a change of circumstances.

In a recent season of waiting (I guess it was really sub-season, since it’s been one long drawn-out season of waiting), I was reading the story of Mary and Martha and, although I have read this account many times, the words Jesus spoke to Martha seemed to jump off the page and straight into my heart, as though spoken only for me in that moment:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

It occurred to me that I had a choice. I could choose to spend these seasons of perpetual waiting being worried and upset (as I was at that time), or I could decide to relinquish my fears and anxieties to Jesus and rest with Him, walk with Him, and face each day with the confident assurance that regardless of the outcomes, He would remain steadfast. Since I’m human, I still had (and have) days where I revert back to fretting and causing myself to be upset, but over the past four years, I have learned some tidbits about how to thrive, and not just survive, in a season of waiting. I’m sharing them with you here in the hopes that they may encourage you if you find yourself in a similar season.

Remind Yourself of the Past Faithfulness of God

When we are waiting, it can be easy to focus only on what we perceive as a lack and to forget the past faithfulness of God in our lives. We aren’t the only ones. The Israelites struggled with this too. They were rescued out of slavery in Egypt (by a series of miracles, I might add) and yet grumbled and worried about whether or not they would be fed on the journey that followed. (Exodus 16). We must be intentional about remembering His goodness, lest we sink into a pit of self-pity in our waiting seasons.

For me, this has looked like telling and re-telling my husband about all of the ways we have seen God provide over the years. There is something about verbalizing past events that puts my heart back on solid ground. For you it may be something different. If you journal your prayers, dust off your old journals and read through them as a reminder of the ways that God has answered prayers in the past. If you are someone who documents everything with pictures, scroll through the albums on your phone and remember the days that God filled with goodness, hope, and joy. Figure out what works for you and make it a habit to remember God. In doing so, you’ll shut down the lies that are so tempting to believe in waiting seasons; namely that God does not and will not pull through for you.

Spend Time Daily in the Word and Prayer

When I am anxious or upset, as I often can be in times of waiting,  it is downright challenging for me to sit still and focus enough to read or pray. Instead, I am constantly trying to escape both mentally and emotionally by binge watching Netflix or filling up my schedule with places to go and people to see. If there’s someone in the Bible that I just get, it’s Martha in this regard. However, our feelings cannot and should not be allowed to dictate our actions, which is why it’s so important to create space for being in the Word and in prayer daily. If we do not pause to saturate our souls with truth, we will become susceptible to the lies of the enemy and our anxieties will only multiply as a result.

We have access to the God of the Universe in every season of life. From Him alone comes true, lasting, soul-satisfying peace and joy, regardless of our circumstances. Let’s run to Him, dive into His Word, and pour out our hearts to the maker of our souls.

Intentionally Focus on Gratitude and Praise

There is a lot of talk about gratitude these days, and for good reason. A steady practice of gratitude can actually rewire your brain for the better1. Of course, we are just now finding this out, but God has known it all along. Paul exhorts us in I Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in all circumstances” and a quick search of the Psalms will reveal an abundance of thanksgiving and encouragements to live as thankful people. As believers, we are called to be thankful. Our gratitude flows from a deep sense of wonder and awe over who God is and what He has done. The act of giving thanks puts our focus back on Him and removes it from our circumstances. And it rewires our brain so that’s a win-win-win if you ask me!

As we read, pray, and give thanks, we also need to remember to praise God for who He is. When we sit in His presence, our world becomes less and less about us and more about falling in love with the God of the Universe. Since we are created for relationship with Him, I would go so far as to say that no other practice does more to bring us to a place of peace. When we know the character of God it becomes increasingly difficult to dwell on the uncertainty surrounding us. If you’re unsure where to begin with praising God, one way I have approached this is to go through the letters of the alphabet and praise Him for a characteristic of His that begins with each letter. Once you get rolling, you won’t want to stop. There is just so much to praise Him for!

Cultivate a Sense of Humor

You know that saying, “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry”? Listen, it’s not in the Bible, but it’s a saying for a reason. If we don’t maintain our sense of humor during the course of this wild and unpredictable life, we will begin to grow callous, hard, and straight-up sad. This statement isn’t scientific by any means, but we probably all know someone for whom life has been difficult and as a result, they grew bitter and angry. On the flip side, we likely know someone else whose life has had an equal amount of heartache, but who somehow managed to maintain a sense of joy and the ability to belly laugh at even the little things. Decide to be a person who cultivates and fights for joy in life. We cannot control most of our circumstances, but we can be intentional about our reactions to them. Be willing to laugh at yourself and, dare I say, even be a bit irreverent at times with regards to your situation. If all else fails, fake it ‘til you make it, friend! Even fake smiling “can lift your mood, lower stress, boost your immune system and possibly even prolong your life.”2

Be Intentional about Relationships

We need to be people who are intentional about building into the relationships that God has put in our life. Particularly in this age of social media and superficial connections. Seasons of waiting can take us out of the present and tempt us to live within the made-up what-if scenarios of our thoughts. It’s a rabbit hole that leads nowhere and produces nothing of value. Being fully present with those around us, however, produces a fruit that is rich, life-giving, and helps us to more fully appreciate the life we have right now. I am so grateful for people who have lived life with me in seasons full of anticipation, anxiety, joy, challenges, and everything in between. Because of them, I know Jesus infinitely better than I would have otherwise. As Dr. Henry Cloud says, “God’s solution is people.” Amen to that.

If you are in a season of waiting, I hope this encouraged you. You will make it to the other side, but in the meantime, I pray that you can focus on Jesus, cultivate humor, and purposefully engage with those around you. If you aren’t in a season of waiting, I pray that the Lord will strengthen you now so when that time comes, you are a house built on the rock who can confidently stand with unshakable hope in Jesus.

 

1 https://www.huffingtonpost.com/emily-fletcher/the-neuroscience-of-gratitude_b_8631392.html

2 https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/smiling-can-trick-your-brain-happiness-boost-your-health-ncna822591

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