One of the by-products of an instant society is that waiting for anything causes stress. Unfortunately, it is even true for those of us who trust God unconditionally (well almost…).
When those of us who needed unemployment benefits for the past year have had to wait months, even a year, for these benefits to start flowing, we got a little anxious (sometimes very anxious) as we saw our bank accounts dwindle and our credit card balances rising.
During this past year, some found that relationships were strained. Perhaps you did everything you could to connect, but you were unable to pull it off. All you wanted to do was to “fix” things and make them right, but it was impossible. So, you retreated and waited.
Perhaps you discovered that you had an illness that might be life-threatening. You sought treatment, you had surgery, and then you waited to see if you were cured, or at least in remission. This waiting plagued you, day and night.
Re-entry after COVID into “normal” life may have been challenging for you. The groups you inhabited before didn’t fit anymore. Something in you had changed. You needed a place to let down and just be, and could find nothing out there without strings attached. So, you waited for something, someone to appear on the horizon that you could peacefully walk toward.
What does one “do” during the waiting time, especially when the outcomes are really out of our control? We can try to manipulate outcomes. We can beg and prod. We can beat the bushes hoping something will appear that will soothe our waiting soul. We can be angry, make phone calls and try to make something happen. When none of this does us any good, then what?
Deborah Smith Douglas, in “Enclosed in Darkness,” (Weavings) shares “(Our) suffering or waiting (italics mine) in this life may be unspeakable;we may feel ourselves to be completely isolated and alone, but in truth, God is with us. Not...assuaging or canceling the pain, but inhabiting it--and thereby transforming it.”
The pain of waiting and suffering is what resides within us. But we can be transformed as we move along the path, continuing to live. We intentionally invite God into the waiting. One thing that helps is to be able to see the larger picture or to be soulfully transported into it by the power of the Holy Spirit. Some find waiting livable if they balance it with awe. Awe brings with it a sense of God’s purposes in the world, God’s creativity. We see what God is capable of and know that our waiting shrinks in size when we can move into the larger scheme of things.
God can use anything to cause the waiting to be less painful. My husband and I drove into the city to experience an “Immersive Experience of Van Gogh.” I had no idea what would happen when I entered the room to see images of his paintings cast upon the walls and floors of the room---moving. I turned to my husband and said, “I can’t even name this thing inside of me, but I feel myself opening up. I feel nostalgic and pensive at the same time.”
On the way home, I revisited in my mind memories of my grandparents and family long gone. I was able to go back in time and experience the long view. Again, a change in perspective helped ease the waiting.
On the other hand, what works for some people is a singular focus rather than a broad view. Perhaps attending to what is in front of you, something you have put off forever draws you in and all else slides away. Maybe gardening gives you a space with a tight boundary that allows focus and may even bring gratitude. Listening to a song pulls at your imagination and removes you from anxiety to joy.
The Creator God gives us so many things to help us in these times as well as appropriate Scripture, kindred Spirit friends and a well-placed sermon which feels like it was “just for me.”
I have found that waiting is truly transformative. The anger disappears. The blame evaporates. The loneliness is filled with Christ’s presence. I believe that God places things in my life during these times to change me and to deepen my trust in God’s goodness. My prayer for you today, especially if you find yourself in a waiting mode, is that you will be able, with God’s help, to let go of the need to “fix” things and surrender to the process. God intends everything in your life for good, even when it appears to be destructive. He always brings life out of death, and Jesus' resurrection is the perfect analogy for this!