by Candice Watters
Recently a local church e-mailed me with an invitation to speak about waiting on God for a husband. I wondered if they had the right person.
With a book title like Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, I’m not exactly known for messages about waiting. Having spent so much of the past few years writing about all the ways we can delay marriage — to our disappointment and frustration — I wasn’t sure I had much to say about waiting in a positive light. Is there anything good about waiting for marriage?
At first I didn’t think so. Especially in our culture where the waiting is often a painful consequence of someone’s bad decisions. But Steve encouraged me to accept the invitation. So I did. And we started reading the waiting passages in Scripture. Which left me wondering, in my campaign against intentional delay have I diminished godly waiting?
Because we inhabit time with a past and a future, we’re always waiting forsomething. For Christian women especially, when it comes to marriage, there will inevitably be a wait. It will be longer for some, but because women aren’t charged with finding a husband, nor expected to get down on our knee, at some point (even in the rare whirlwind romance) we must wait. The relational brokenness of our culture only intensifies that.
Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man,all human wisdom is summed up in these two words: “Wait and hope.” (Alexander Dumas, “The Count of Monte Cristo”)
Dear Sisters in Christ,
When I was in my teens, it seemed like I spent half my life waiting. Waiting to be picked up from dance class, waiting until I could get a driver’s license, waiting to grow up and get married. That last one was the worst: I’ve known my entire life that I wanted to marry and raise a family, and I knew that desire came from God. I also knew it clearly wasn’t God’s desire for me to marry when I was, say, thirteen, and so I had to wait.
The hardest part about waiting wasn’t even the waiting itself—it was trusting that, ultimately, God would work out His divine plan for my life. I knew plenty of verses about trusting God, and I took comfort from passages likeMatthew 7: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you ar evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”
But knowing something in my head and feeling it in my heart were two very different things, and I found it difficult to believe that God might someday actually give me what I most desired.
As it turned out, I eventually did grow up (funny how the passage of time works like that) and I did get married, and my husband and I have three beautiful children. The season of waiting has now been usurped by the season of dashing—dashing to clean up spilled drink, dashing to grab socks on my way out the door, dashing to catch the baby as he plummets headfirst down the slide. A friend of mine asked me the other day if I could even remember what I did with all my time before I had kids, and instantly I said, yeah—I moped around and wanted a family! When I look back, I wish I could have found the strength to trust that God did indeed have a plan for my life, a plan to give me a future and a hope, as promised in Jeremiah 29:11. I was so busy waiting and worrying and biting my fingernails down to the cuticles that I couldn’t hear my Father’s voice, calling down to me with utmost tenderness: “Sweetheart. Look up. Trust me! What you long for is just around the corner.”
A few weeks ago, I took my children to a local nursery to look at some flowers. As we were walking through one of the greenhouses my daughter spotted a wagon used for transporting plants, and wanted to give her baby brother a ride. There was no one else around, so I set my son on the wagon, my daughter picked up the handle, and off they went. As I walked beside them I glanced down at my son, and the expression on his face as he rode along was nearly indescribable. He was so full of joy as they trundled down the walk, completely happy and completely trusting in his big sister. He absolutely believes that anywhere she’s taking him is going to be a good place to go, and so he’s perfectly content to ride along.
My son’s implicit faith in his big sister may be a bit misplaced—at not quite three years old she’s likely to pull the wagon too fast and knock him off, or accidentally crash him into a cactus—but what I saw in my son’s eyes that day is what I think our Father wants from us: complete and utter trust in Him, confidence that where He is taking us is going to be a good place to go. We may not have control of the wagon, but we know Who is pulling it up ahead. And that can be our comfort during the season of waiting: the knowledge that God will be with us once we get where we’re going, and every single step along the way there. He is with us—loving us, treasuring us, planning out our future and our hope.
Elrena Evans is coeditor of the essay anthology Mama, PhD: Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life (Rutgers, 2008) and she is a contributing blogger at Christianity Today’s women’s blog, Her-meneutics. She lives with her husband and three children. Visit her website at www.elrenaevans.com.
So, what happens inside of you when you are asked to wait? Is waiting, for you, a time of stengthening or weakening? Have you ever stopped to consider why God asks you to wait? Let me point you to one of his purposes.
When God asks you to wait, what happens to your spiritual muscles? While you wait, do your spiritual muscles grow bigger and stronger or do they grow flaccid and atrophied? Waiting for the Lord isn’t about God forgetting you, forsaking you, or being unfaithful to his promises. It’s actually God giving you time to consider his glory and to grow stronger in faith. Remember, waiting isn’t just about what you are hoping for at the end of the wait, but also about what you will become as you wait.
Waiting always presents me with a spiritual choice-point. Will I allow myself to question God’s goodness and progressively grow weaker in faith, or will I embrace the opportunity of faith that God is giving me and build my spiritual muscles? (see Psalm 27:4)
It’s so easy to question your belief system when you are not sure what God is doing. It’s so easy to give way to doubt when you are being called to wait. It’s so easy to forsake good habits and to take up habits of unfaith that weaken the muscles of the heart. Let me suggest some habits of unfaith that cause waiting to be a time of increasing weakness rather than of building strength. These are bad habits that all of us are tempted to give way to.
Giving way to doubt. There’s a fine line between the struggle to wait and giving way to doubt. When you are called to wait, you are being called to do something that wasn’t part of your plan and is therefore something that you struggle to see as good. Because you are naturally convinced that what you want is right and good, it doesn’t seem loving that you are being asked to wait. You can see how tempting it is then to begin to consider questions of God’s wisdom, goodness, and love. It is tempting, in the frustration of waiting, to actually begin to believe that you are smarter than God.
Giving way to anger. It’s very easy to look around and begin to think that the bad guys are being blessed and the good guys are getting hammered (see Psalm 73). There will be times when it simply doesn’t seem right that you have to wait for something that seems so obviously good to you. It will feel that you are being wronged, and when it does, it seems right to be angry. Because of this, it’s important to understand that the anger you feel in these moments is more than anger with the people or circumstances that are the visible cause for your waiting. No, your anger is actually anger with the One who is in control of those people and those circumstances. You are actually giving way to thinking that you have been wronged by God.
Giving way to discouragement. This is where I begin to let my heart run away with the “If only_____,” the “What if_____,” and the “What will happen if_____.” I begin to give my mind to thinking about what will happen if my request isn’t answered soon, or what in the world will happen if it’s not answered at all. This kind of meditation makes me feel that my life is out of control. And I am able to think my life is out of control because I have forgotten God’s wise and gracious contol over very part of my existence. Rather than my heart being filled with joy, my heart gets flooded with worry and dread. Free mental time is spent considering my dark future, with all the resulting discouragement that will always follow.
Giving way to envy. When I am waiting, it’s very tempting to look over the fence and wish for the life of someone who doesn’t appear to have been called to wait. It’s very easy to take on an “I wish I were that guy” way of living. You can’t give way to envy without questioning God’s wisdom and his love. Here is the logic: if God really loves you as much as he loves that other guy, you would have what the other guy has. Envy is about feeling forgotten and forsaken, coupled with a craving to have what your neighbor enjoys.
Giving way to inactivity. The result of giving way to all of these things is inactivity. If God isn’t as good and wise as I once thought he was, if he withholds good things from his children, and if he plays favorites, then why would I continue to pursue him? Maybe all those habits of faith aren’t helping me after all; maybe I’ve been kidding myself.
Sadly, this is the course that many people take as they wait. Rather than growing in faith, their motivation for spiritual exercise is destroyed by doubt, anger, discouragement, and envy, and the muscles of faith that were once robust and strong are now atrophied and weak.
The reality of waiting is that it’s an expression of God’s goodness not empirical evidence against it. He is wise and loving. His timing is always right, and his focus isn’t so much on what you will experience and enjoy, but on what you will become. He is committed to using every tool at his disposal to rescue you from yourself and to shape you into the likeness of his Son. The fact is that waiting is one of his primary shaping tools.
So, how do you build your spiritual muscles during the wait? Well, you must commit yourself to resisting those habits of unfaith and with discipline pursue a rigorous routine of spiritual exercise.
What is the equipment in God’s gym of faith? Here are the things that he has designed for you to build the muscles of your heart and strengthen your resolve: the regular study of his Word; consistent godly fellowship; looking for God’s glory in creation every day; putting yourself under excellent preaching and teaching of Scripture; investing your quiet mental time in meditating on the goodness of God (e.g., as you are going off to sleep); reading excellent Christian books; and spending ample time in prayer. All of these things will result in spiritual strength and vitality.
Is God asking you to wait? So, what is happening to your muscles?