I talk a lot about waiting, and that’s because I’ve done a lot of it and most of you have, too. Sometimes it seems like there’s always something that’s not going right, and the part of me that likes things to go right just can’t stand it. That’s why our gracious God is always, always, always teaching me about His better way. Isn’t it funny how the things we’re most passionate about can be the things we struggle with the most?
So… all that to say. There is a situation in my life in which I am waiting. I can’t really share about it on the internet, because it’s not really the kind of situation one shares on the internet. But let’s just say that the deepest, most inner parts of me sometimes feel like this wait is a special kind of prison. One with a really big cage, but a prison all the same.
And you know what’s happened? I have tried everything in my own little human power to get out. I am trying to earn it. Like maybe if I’m good enough and I show God, “Hey, I don’t mind this prison! Look I can be loving and gentle and joyful and happy in this prison because I have the joy of the Lord!” Or “Look, I am doing everything right. I am so good, because I love you.” He will be impressed and I will have passed the test and then I can move on! Yay!
Of course that would work awesomely if the joy of the Lord was something I could conjure up all on my lonesome. But it’s not, which is why it’s called the joy of the Lord. It comes from Him and not from me trying to impress Him.
Then I’ve tried to change who I am. Maybe if I wasn’t so me-ish, this situation wouldn’t be so bad. Look, other people are in the same situation and they aren’t upset about it at all. They even like it! They wake up thinking about how nice it is to be in this situation that feels like a very long form of purgatory, and I’m all like that main character in Shawshank Redemption, [spoiler alert!] putting on happy face and making the best of it while I’m secretly hatching plans to make a break for it.
Then of course came the shame.
Whyyyy for the love of all that is good can’t I just get it together?
Why can’t I make it through one day of this situation-that-never-ends without feeling like I’m going to freak out? There are starving people across the world who are happy, and I am sitting here feeling like a senior in high school before graduation day. Make. It. Happen.
And then resignation. This situation is never going to end. This is just how it is. Just learn to fake it through the day, and everything will be OK.
Can I tell you what has happened to me in this phase of resignation? Nothing good. Because I lost my hope. And not only did I lose my hope, I lost who I am.
I have chiseled away at myself until this square peg fit into a round hole. And sometimes that’s good. Shouldn’t we let our Lord prune us and refine us like a jar of clay or gold in the fire? When He does that, we can be sure we’re never losing something that was doing us any good.
But when we do it to ourselves, to fit in, it’s like shoving ourselves into pants that are two sizes too small. Eventually something is going to come busting out, and it probably won’t be beautiful.
The person that I have been trying to be in order to survive this waiting game is just not who I’m created to be. I’m as much that person as my husband is white, which is to say not at all.
So now something crazy has happened… God is saying, “Come back to me. Why did you stop bringing me into this situation? Why hasn’t it been in your prayers? Why do you take it for granted that you have to go through this alone?” And you know what? I realized that’s totally what I’ve been doing. My prayer time was awesome. I got to lift up so many people in prayer, and I have seen each of them being carried through some really tough things by our gracious God. But I wasn’t asking Him to carry me.
In trying to make myself something I’m not, I forgot who I am and whose I am.
I am someone who needs to be carried through this situation by loads and loads and buckets full of grace. Because no matter how much I try to “like” the waiting game I’m in, this situation is just not something I’m ever going to enjoy – and guess what? God already knows that. I’m someone who needs the joy of the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit, because my own self is not going to conjure it up just out of pure bliss for the circumstance I’m in. I’m someone who needs to be filled with gratitude, for sure. And I’m someone who can know that no matter how much I’m waiting, I’m loved for exactly who I am.
And sometimes I’m going to grumble. I’m working on it. But David wailed too, in between his praising, and now we have the book of Psalms. So it’s no surprise to God how I feel about things, and He still chose to wash me with grace and call me His own.
I’m not suggesting we give ourselves license to freak out whenever we feel like it. But for those times when it’s all too much and we’re hanging on by a thread, and it’s all we can do not to crack (or even if we do crack), we can remember God is there. He’s with us in the midst of it. And even when it doesn’t feel like it, He’s for us.
God is not expecting us to impress Him with how well we hold up in every situation. He’s waiting for us to call out and ask Him into it. He knows who we are. He knows who He created us to be. And He definitely knows when we’re in a situation we literally just cannot stand. What He wants from us, more than our perfection, is our trust. He’s waiting for us to acknowledge we just cannot do this on our own. We are faltering. We are freaking out. And we need Him more than anything in the world. He wants is for us to know He loves us, even when we grumble, and He’s not letting go.
This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9 (NLT)
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)
Lord, I wait for you;
you will answer, Lord my God. – Psalm 38:15 (NIV)
How do you guys feel? Have you been or are you in a waiting game, and has it been as hard for you as it’s been for me?