Waiting. We’re likely all familiar with it in some way. The pain of unmet expectations. The familiarity of disappointment. The confusion of unanswered prayers. The frustration of seeing your own impatience. The deep ache of an unmet longing.
In our waiting, joy can feel distant—and, if we’re honest, sometimes God can too.
If you chose to click on this blog, perhaps you’re in a season of prolonged waiting—one that has caused deep pain, confusion, and maybe even doubt. Waiting can leave us disoriented and dazed, and it can easily lead us to forget what we know is true.
My Story of Waiting
My story of waiting is likely different than yours, but I can imagine the emotions it has elicited are similar. For my husband and me, “waiting” has meant long seasons of depression with no end in sight, years of waiting for a place to call home, and a years-long struggle of infertility. These seasons of waiting were our thorns (2 Corinthians 12:7). They rendered us weak, needy, and desperate. They drove us to the foot of the cross as month after month, year after year, we were racked with disappointment.
I felt the heaviness of these waiting seasons distinctly when I turned thirty. Instead of entering my thirties like I’d imagined—my arms filled with babies, our marriage strong, settled into a stable home—I entered my next decade with my eyes filled with tears, wondering how long we would be in a place that felt like a desert of longing and loneliness.
Waiting is not just a word to me. It implies embodied experiences. It elicits memories of tears cried and scars borne and physical aches felt. In many ways, my various experiences of waiting have been the most difficult thorns I have dealt with. But they have also been the primary lens through which I’ve seen God’s goodness and Christ’s sufficiency.
Maybe your story of waiting includes a long-prayed-for and a-yet-unmet longing. Maybe it’s a daily physical pain you carry from an unhealed illness. Maybe it’s simply the deep ache you feel as you wait for this broken world to be redeemed. Regardless of what your story holds, your season of waiting has likely led you to some questions.
Why isn’t God answering my prayer?
Where is he in my longing?
Who is he amidst this pain?
Is he still good? Still kind?
Thankfully, there are a myriad of places we can look for answers to these questions. Most assuredly, we can look to Scripture, which is rife with stories of God’s people facing seasons of longing and waiting—Abraham waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise (Genesis 12-21), the Israelites wandering in the desert waiting for the Promised Land (Exodus 16-Deuteronomy 34), Job waiting and wading through his suffering, David waiting to step into his role as king (1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 5), and a host of women waiting with empty, longing wombs (Genesis 15, Genesis 30, 1 Samuel 1, Luke 1).
The Lies and the Truth
While waiting can—and often does—have a sanctifying and God-glorifying purpose in our lives, it can also tempt us towards forgetfulness, disbelief, and even sin. One of the most dangerous potential outcomes is when our season of waiting leads us to forget what we know is true.
You see, when our prayers aren’t answered, there are many lies we can start to believe. Some of these lies revolve around what we believe about ourselves:
Maybe I did something wrong to deserve to be stuck in this painful place of waiting?
Maybe if I had more faith God would answer my prayer?
Maybe it’s the subtle lure of the prosperity gospel in our culture, or maybe it’s our own struggle to see God’s grace past our own sin. But I think this needs to be said loud and clear: Your season of waiting is not a result of your lack of faith.
God is not waiting for you to trust him to bless you.
God is not waiting for you to fully surrender your desires to him to answer your prayer.
God is not a manipulative puppeteer just waiting for you to “get it right” before he chooses to grant your desires.
God is a good God, and his goodness is not determined by whether or not he answers our prayers.
God is a God of abundant grace, and his grace is the same regardless of the strength of your faith or the diligence of your obedience.
This is just one of the ways we can be tempted to misunderstand God during our seasons of waiting. But there are other lies we can believe:
If God’s not answering my prayer, then he must not care, right?
Surely if God was near he would end this season of longing, wouldn’t he?
Can God be good if he’s withholding this good thing from me?
But friends, God’s delay doesn’t imply his distance.
His no does not suggest his neglect.
Our God is sovereign and he is good. He can always be trusted. In both his giving and his taking. In his yeses and his nos. Always and in everything, the Lord is always abundantly gracious and steadfastly faithful. It is who he is.
The Intimacy That Is Offered
You see, the pain of our waiting can lead us to start seeing only one facet of who God is. As we long and pray, we can begin to relate to him only in terms of what he can give to us. And while, yes, God tells us to ask of him (1 Timothy 2:1, Luke 18:1-8, Romans 12:12), and while, yes, he delights in being a giver of good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11), his character is more robust than just that of “giver.”
We must be cautious lest in our asking and longing we focus more on our desired outcome than on our desire for the God we are asking it of. We must be careful that in our waiting we remain focused on the ultimate good.
Because truly there is something so good that can be found in our seasons of waiting.
In the tension of longing and of waiting, we can find an intimacy with God that is impossible in times of plenty and of answered prayers. This intimacy is found in experiencing deep contentment not in our life circumstances, but in God himself. It might not be the type of intimacy you expected—with sweet quiet times and gentle prayers and soft worship. It might look more like a pounding-on-his-chest kind of intimacy where you cry out to God with anger and doubt. It might be the type of intimacy that, like Jacob wrestling with God, leaves you with a limp (Genesis 32:22-32). Sometimes it might be ugly; sometimes it might feel more like fighting.
But friends, there is an intimacy that comes to knowing Jesus even more as he was described in Isaiah as a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3). There is a beauty that comes in understanding in some small way what Jesus meant when he said blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the desolate, the rejected (Matthew 5:3-10) and experiencing the comfort and hope that he offers. There is a depth to a faith that hopes in the “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” even if “now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6-7). There is a settledness and confidence that comes with knowing that in our weakness, Christ is able to sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15-16). There’s a remarkable intimacy that comes with realizing that more precious than our answered prayer or our met desire is our refined faith that, by God’s grace and strength, will endure.
And we must ask ourselves, would we trade this intimacy with God that comes in the waiting for the answer to our prayer?
If we never fully find comfort and solace on this earth, sojourning and dwelling in loneliness, yet we are held securely in Christ, is it enough? If our prayers are never answered and we are left continually holding longing, hoping for healing, left wanting and unsatisfied in this life, yet are fully filled with his presence, is it enough?
Oh may it be that we say in our waiting, “I wait not for my answered prayer, but I wait longingly for more of Jesus.”
Our Waiting Redeemed
Let me be the first to tell you that if you aren’t yet at a place where you are able to say this, that’s okay. Your season of waiting might be riddled with grief, and a right and righteous way to hold grief as a Christian is to cry out to God in lament. There’s nothing more “holy” about being able to quickly slap a tidy Christian bow on your pain. In fact, as Christians it’s important to acknowledge the brokenness, to be honest about our doubts, and to come to the Lord with our anger and questions. Look to the Psalms if you need a model for how to bring your lament before the Lord. Acknowledge the tension you feel in your waiting. Recognize the darkness and brokenness you feel, and be encouraged that God is there too.
Maybe your season of waiting feels heavy and never ending. Perhaps you can’t yet see any good from the nos that God has answered your prayers with.
But my friends, let us remember the hope that we have—that when Christ returns, somehow every ounce of our waiting here on earth will be redeemed. Truly, every no we face here on earth will be completely reconciled, and in heaven we will finally and fully experience the yes and amen of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). And so even as we wait, we hope confidently in that secured future, where all will be made right and where we will be fully and forever satisfied.
A Prayer of Reflection
Lord, in our waiting, would we truly trust your kind hand and your perfect timing. Would we believe your goodness, even when you choose to walk us through difficulty and pain. In our longing, may we long for more of you, may we see your faithfulness, and may we be satisfied with your presence.
May we believe that you are a God who is near—intimately near—to the point that you entered broken flesh and experienced deep suffering so that we would never have to—so that we could be with you forever. May we believe that because you are alive, we have an abiding hope.
Lord, would even the disappointing of our earthly hopes deepen our faith in you, our True and Lasting Hope.
Scripture for Further Study
- 1 Peter 1:1-12
- Romans 8
- 2 Peter 3:8-9
- Isaiah 43
- 2 Corinthians 4
- Lamentations 3
- Habakkuk 3
- Psalm 103
Photo Credit: Emilee Carpenter
Lauren Bowerman is a writer and a wife to Matthew. She has been privileged to call many cities, states, and countries home, and it is this nomadic lifestyle that cultivated in her a love for people, cultures, and missions. She has received her Masters in Christian and Intercultural Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is particularly passionate about writing on the intersection between suffering and faith, specifically in her experiences with depression, doubt, and infertility.