FORT WORTH, Texas – When I was about 8 years old, my family had a bunch of people over for a pool party. I was so excited to jump in with the crowd until my parents told me that since I’d just gotten over being sick, I’d have to sit this party out.
I was disappointed, to say the least. I had my very fashionable goggles and was ready to go, only to find out that “for my good” I would have to sit on the sidelines, by myself, when everyone else was having a party. To my 8-year-old social life, this was devastating. All the people were there, the pool was right there – all I had to do was jump in! I was supremely bummed.
But later, as I was sulking on the porch, my parents surprised me with the reason for the restriction: In just a few days I’d be getting on a plane and traveling 3,000 miles to see my favorite childhood friends. My little 3rd grade heart was elated. All of sudden I didn’t feel so left out. Another sniffling nose or earache would have made for a rather miserable trip. Then I realized that what seemed like a joy-stealing restriction was actually a preparation. Once I realized what was coming, I didn’t mind temporarily sitting off to the side.
While the days of pool parties may have passed, there are still times when it seems like I’m sitting on the sidelines, waiting for some divine revelation to make sense of all the “whys.” Maybe you’ve been there too, asking God: Where do I go from here? What’s the next step? Is this ever going to change?
Sometimes we feel stuck waiting for the answer. Or, perhaps we’ve convinced ourselves that we have the answer, but God doesn’t seem to be on the same page. The solution is seemingly right there – you could just jump in! But, for whatever reason, you’ve been given what seems like a joy-stealing restriction or another closed door and you’re left wondering whether God really is the caring, involved Father that He says He is.
But learning to wait on the Lord seems to be an unavoidable aspect of the Christian walk. Miles Stanford said, “God does not hurry in His development of our Christian life. He is working from and for eternity! So many feel they are not making progress unless they are swiftly and constantly forging ahead” (Principles of Spiritual Growth). If the pace of our lives is in His hands, then even our seasons of silence are for a purpose that goes way beyond our current circumstance.
In fact, one biblical woman shows us that how we wait for God is just as important as what we’re waiting for Him to do. Hannah had wanted just one thing from the Lord – a son. After enduring years of being reproached in her society, ridiculed by the child-bearing second wife, and perhaps feeling forgotten by God, she pleaded with the Lord: “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11). She prayed, wept and poured out her soul. Then, without any guarantee that the Lord would even fulfill her longing, Hannah got up and “her face was no longer sad” (verse 16). She trusted the heart of God even before she knew His answer. She had surrendered herself to whatever He had in store.
But what’s even more striking about Hannah’s request was her focus. In the deepest cry of her heart, her focus was still not on her own happiness. She had already determined that, should God give her the one blessing she wanted, she wouldn’t hold onto it for herself. Hannah vowed that if the Lord gave her a son – the one thing in this life that she wanted – she would give that son back to the Lord, dedicating him to His service.
Perhaps we can learn something from this woman in waiting. Hannah surrendered to trusting the will and timing of God, even if it meant giving back the very blessing she’d hoped for all these years. God did give Hannah a son (1 Samuel 1:20), and Hannah gave her son back to God (1 Samuel 1:28). It was only when she determined to give God glory in whatever He chose to give her that she was finally blessed with it.
It’s true – we don’t have any guarantee that our specific request will be given. If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to hear Hannah’s story and think “OK, great! All I have to do is want God’s will above all else and then He will have to say yes!” Our hearts could be entirely surrendered and yielded, and in the wisdom of God, our circumstances may stay the same. But perhaps what Hannah’s story would teach us today is that when we pursue God for who He is more than for what He can do, our waiting seasons don’t have to be miserable. When we rest in the truth that the same God who ordered our steps (Psalm 37:23) is our loving Father who wants only our good, and gives only good things to His children (Matthew 7:11), then our seasons of waiting can become times of expectant hope. What may seem like a setback or a delay is actually His perfecting preparation. Like Hannah, when our hearts are more intent on displaying the reality of God than obtaining His blessings – when we let go of those hopes we cling to so tightly and surrender to His perfect will – perhaps then we come to a place where He can act for and through us.
What do you find yourself waiting on today? Will you trust that even in your seasons of silence, God has a refining purpose? Sure, you could jump into the convenient, “quick-fix” solution, tired of feeling restricted and like you’re on the outside looking in. But God has promised that He is good to those who wait for Him (Psalm 27:14) and that if you’re called according to His purpose, He will work all things together for your good (Romans 8:28).
He has only good in mind for you! Even more, The Lord has already promised that He will fulfill His purpose for you (Psalm 138:8) and that none of those who wait for the Lord will be ashamed (Psalm 25:3). Will you trust His kind intentions for you, even when it feels like you’ve been forgotten? Will you wait for Him to act when it seems like you’ll never see the results?
“For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” (Isaiah 64:4). Will you wait on the Lord in your waiting season?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column first appeared at BiblicalWoman.org, a blog of Southwestern Seminary. Katie McCoy is the editor of BiblicalWoman.com and is pursuing a Ph.D. in systematic theology at Southwestern Seminary.)