How to Wait (For Anything) Well

girls at table

It’s a reality I try to ignore most of the time: Life is full of waiting. I’m not talking about the kind of waiting that bothers but doesn’t overtake me: the time in the grocery store line, the time at the post office, or even the miles crawling through construction. I mean the deep soul waiting, the kind that threatens to undo me with its consistency and pain.

We all know this type of waiting — the type that causes our hearts to ache and our minds to unravel:

The wait for a spouse who hasn’t yet materialized.
The wait for a job that will fulfill and not exhaust us.
The wait for a desired child when our womb is barren.
The wait for stability when our mind betrays us with anxieties and depression.
The wait for reconciliation in a relationship that still strains with hurt.
The wait for healing in a body still weak and broken.

In our own ways and through our own experiences, all of us know the deep yearning that waiting births in us — the ways that waiting makes us question our purpose and our dreams and our hopes. Left to linger for months and years, waiting can become a place of sorrow, even of fear.

So how do we wait well? How do we learn to live in these seasons of waiting — knowing we have no clear end in sight — with hope? Even with joy?

I’ve waited for healing from a stubborn medical condition for over twenty years, and I’ve shared my story on the page: There’s no easy answer. But here are three ways I’ve found to wait well, no matter how long we’re waiting for what we deeply desire:

1. We wait well by acknowledging our desire rather than ignoring it.

In the long seasons of waiting for the things we can’t always control — a spouse, a child, healing, wholeness — one of the best ways to wait well is to embrace the longing rather than run from it. It seems counterintuitive, to accept what we can’t (yet) have, but it’s part of living wholeheartedly rather than locking our hearts away.

This is because waiting unlocks our truest desires, and we can only uncover those if we sit in the waiting long enough. We might truly want a spouse, but beneath that desire may be the deeper desire of wanting to be loved for who we really are — the longing for acceptance and delight from another person. That’s a good desire, but it won’t be ultimately satisfied through a wedding or a significant other. No single person on earth can meet that longing completely. But the waiting can help us reach a place of being willing to see where else we can have that longing met — in friendships, in community, in God.

We can’t usually create the answer to what we’re waiting for. We can’t make a husband or a child appear out of thin air. But we can let the waiting show us what we want most of all, and from that place we can pursue that longing with an open heart and a hopeful spirit.

red blue chairs

2. We wait well by choosing character over immediacy.

One of the hardest tests that waiting offers to us is the test of character. If we aren’t getting what we want when we want it, how do we respond? Who are we when life is hard and unbending?

Waiting well requires choosing the less-traveled path of character over immediate gratification; it means pursuing integrity rather than a quick fix. It means doing excellent work in your current position and refusing to cut corners, even if it feels like nobody notices you and your dream job is a million miles away. It means learning how to love and support your friends when they’re having the engagement parties and baby showers and you feel unseen. It means choosing to be thankful for what we do have rather than becoming bitter about what we don’t.

This is where the rubber meets the proverbial road, and if we allow the painful seasons of waiting to shape us into women who are refined under pressure, we will be closer to becoming the truest and most whole versions of ourselves that we can be, no matter what happens in our waiting seasons.

It seems counterintuitive, to accept what we can’t (yet) have, but it’s part of living wholeheartedly rather than locking our hearts away.

3. We wait well by discovering the gift of resiliency in ourselves.

When we live in the tension of longing for something but not yet seeing it fulfilled, we can ultimately respond in two ways: in hope or in despair. It might not feel like a choice, but it is, and it’s one that is always before us: Will we give in to the fear that what we most dearly want might never happen, or will we embrace the life that we do have and plant our feet in the garden of hope?

If we choose despair, every day will feel like drudgery, like walking through waist-high sand. But if we choose hope — if we choose to embrace this life we’ve been given with gratitude and love, and if we choose to believe that what is ahead can be far better than we might imagine — we will find within ourselves a resiliency that can’t be bought or manufactured.

We will find that what we have, right now, is enough — because we know our worth and purpose in our hearts, no matter what it is we’re waiting for.

Are you waiting for something right now? Where does your hope come from?

Images via Yuri Orozco Rivera

Ann is the author of the new book, "Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want." You can find her online on Instagram and her website.

16 COMMENTS
  • Natalie Ann Redman May 23, 2017

    Great post! Very true!

  • Anonymous May 8, 2017

    I read this post when it first was published, and since have re-read it almost everyday. The past two years have been the hardest, unbearable and most devastating I have ever been through. I have come to face loss in the most raw and challenging of ways, and I have welcomed anxiety as a close friend rather than a passing stranger. This has been a touching reminder for me that there is much more to come and that my character CAN stand trials past, present and of the future.

  • Lauren April 27, 2017

    So well written. Some true gems in this article!

  • Eva April 14, 2017

    Beautiful and needed post, Ann. I am in my last semester of college and without any job prospects. It’s certainly been a test of character during this phase of uncertainty. Having integrity and hope, like you described, is so important to remember. How tempted I am to seek immediate fixes! Thank you for the reminder!

    • Jenny April 27, 2017

      Eva- I was right there with you last year. I was driving myself crazy with not knowing what the future held. I ended up getting a job at a local nonprofit and my whole world changed- worth every lingering minute of patience. It will work out and it will be wonderful. You’re doing great! (You are also certainly not alone!)

  • Anonymous April 10, 2017

    I needed this reminder! Thank you!

  • Thank you so much for this! Posts about waiting have been filling up my email inbox, Facebook feeds and Pinterest quotes recently. After so many prayers, I hear God speaking to me; I’ll patiently wait for his plan. I’m waiting for so much, but these words here helped me look at things a different way.

    “But if we choose hope — if we choose to embrace this life we’ve been given with gratitude and love, and if we choose to believe that what is ahead can be far better than we might imagine — we will find within ourselves a resiliency that can’t be bought or manufactured.”

    http://www.meadowsweetlane.com

  • Jess | Daring To Jess April 5, 2017

    This was a truly inspiring and refreshing post that hits the nail on the head. Waiting can be so painful, but your wise perspective has really helped me come to terms with my frustration.

    Although I haven’t experienced such soul-bending periods of waiting, I am currently waiting (and working!) for my final exams to be over so that I can truly enjoy the things that I really want to do. Waiting well is something that I’ll have to learn to master! Thank you for writing such an insightful post.

  • Maddison Cotterino April 4, 2017

    Love this so much! I’ve been in a place where I’m not really sure what’s happening next in my life, and I’m been waiting for the next thing to become clear. Thank you so much, Ann. The timing of this was perfect. I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels that way. Definitely encouraging.

  • Hannah April 4, 2017

    This is just what I needed to read today! More often than not articles and posts are about getting what you want not waiting for something you may never get, But this idea of waiting well is so beautiful and wise. I can completely relate too waiting for healing in a body that is still weak and broken. I had my thyroid removed almost two years ago due to thyroid cancer. I had a baby that was not yet one. To this day I am still getting prescriptions changed constantly and have a very unbalanced TSH, so sometimes strength and wholeness feel a long time in coming. But I choose to hope in a God who loves me and works everything together for my good!!

    Hannah http://www.recovering-hope.blogspot.com

  • Anonymous April 4, 2017

    absolutely LOVED and needed this post.

  • Mary Grace April 4, 2017

    I needed this today. Thank you, Darling. You guys are so consistent, and so spot on. Can I say anything but thanks for being a dear friend?

    • Darling Magazine April 5, 2017

      You’re welcome, Mary! Thanks for being a dear reader:)

  • Anonymous April 4, 2017

    Such a healthy perspective on a topic no one relishes to experience. There is a lot of wisdom to draw from this article. Very thought-provoking.

  • Micaela April 4, 2017

    That’s so good Ann. I know this article came to me at a time when I needed it most. This spoke to me so much, in fact, that I copied a section of it into my journal as a reminder to myself for when I’m feeling hopeless, as I often do during this season of waiting that I’m in. Thank you for sharing!

  • I need to work on waiting well. I’m often so impatient and get whiny when things don’t go my way as fast as I want them to! My hope comes from knowing that one day, I’ll achieve what I want if I work hard!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

POST A COMMENT