“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.” - Isaiah 9:2
When I think of the stories that fill the pages of Scripture, I notice something that many of them have in common—waiting.
Abraham and Sarah waiting for their promised heir. The Israelites waiting for their freedom from slavery. David waiting for his time as king. Jesus waiting to reveal Himself as the Son of God. Paul waiting for his time in ministry. John waiting through his time of exile.
Waiting, waiting, and more waiting—usually after an incredible encounter with God and a life-changing promise made by Him.
The prophetic books of the Old Testament are particularly filled with the ache of longing for the Messiah, the One who would come and make everything right. Those men and women died without seeing the fulfillment of the promise, although that might have been merciful on God’s part, as Jesus’ first arrival on earth launched history into another season of . . . waiting. We’re waiting for Him to return and reconcile everything to Himself once and for all.
Some days, all this waiting seems very frustrating, maybe even discouraging. We live in a world that doesn’t want to wait for anything, yet this is a crucial aspect of how God forms our hearts.
One of the reasons we struggle so much with waiting is because, from our perspective, nothing is happening. We’re simply standing still, and we don’t understand why this could possibly be necessary or useful. But waiting should not be a passive experience; it should be an active one, full of intentionality and purpose.
It is so important to listen to the Holy Spirit and hear what He is saying about the pause you find yourself in.
It is so important to listen to the Holy Spirit and hear what He is saying about the pause you find yourself in. It could be that before He shifts you into the new season, He is asking you to use the in-between time for something specific: rest, family, learning, character building, etc. It is an opportunity to prioritize relationship with Him, not just things you’re doing for Him or answers you’re expecting from Him.
Personally, I have been in what feels like a very long season of waiting. I was venting a little bit about this to God recently, and I said, “What do You even want me to do right now? I know I’m not supposed to be just standing around, doing nothing!”
I felt the Holy Spirit impress these words on my heart: Change the atmosphere. Change the atmosphere that you’re waiting in.
As I pondered this, it began to unfold in my spirit. This particular season I am in was launched by some disappointments, loss, major transition, and even some broken relationships. As I’ve been bringing these things to God in prayer, waiting for answers or next steps or whatever He wants to say, it has been from a place of grieving and frustration. This is not wrong—the cycle of grief and processing emotions is important, but this cannot last forever. I knew that God was asking me to begin deliberately choosing to shift from an atmosphere of grieving to an atmosphere of hopeful expectation.
I do not know what it is your heart is waiting for or what atmosphere you’re waiting in. Perhaps yours is even the opposite of mine, and you actually need to allow yourself space to grieve. Maybe your atmosphere has been distracted, and the Holy Spirit is calling you to a place of quiet focus. You can’t control circumstances or force God’s timing, but you can be intentional about cultivating the atmosphere around your heart and mind.
You can’t control circumstances or force God’s timing, but you can be intentional about cultivating the atmosphere around your heart and mind.
Traditionally, these weeks leading up to Christmas are the Advent season—a time of waiting and reflection, a time to acknowledge the ache of prayers that haven’t been answered yet, a time to focus on the flickering hope God’s promises bring into the darkest night. For many, these days are used to look prayerfully at the chaos and pain in the world, to repent from the ways our own imperfect lives have at times contributed to the brokenness around us, and above all, to focus on the promise of a Savior who will return to make things right.
These beautiful words I read recently capture the essence of this time:
We wait and anticipate the transformation, but neither as relentless do-gooders nor as passive, restless heaven-bounders. We do not work in isolation under our own steam alone or twiddle our thumbs until the end times. The challenge is to trust in God’s involvement with us now . . . Something is about to happen and God sends us instant-by-instant invitations to be in partnership with this world-transforming, kingdom-building happening . . . When we hope for God to finish the work begun in Jesus, we are not just wishing our lives away until the better days come. We are on a day-by-day pilgrimage in partnership with God. Joy mixes with sorrow. Faith and fear hold hands. Light shines in the darkness. Something is about to happen, and we don’t know the time or date. (1)
If you are waiting for prayers to be answered or dreams to be realized, if you are just desperate for something to change, I want to encourage you to not lose heart. We may not know when God will move, but we can trust that He will. Let the atmosphere of your waiting shift from a place of frustration and despair to a place of hope. God is inviting you into daily partnership with Him, and He will not leave you behind. In His perfect time, light will break into the darkness, and clarity will come.
Sybil Macbeth. The Season of the Nativity: Confessions and Practices of an Advent, Christmas & Epiphany Extremist. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2014.