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.
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