Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from Lisa’s new book The Hard Good: Showing Up for God to Work in You When You Want to Shut Down. Instead of waiting for your emotions to fall in line, the hard good can help bring a new way of living with healthy, managed emotions.
Waiting Isn't Wasted
My mother married at the wee age of twenty, so by the time I was twenty-two and single, I dramatically deduced I must be doomed. Since childhood I had dreamed of being a wife and mother. But when I got to the age it could become possible, God wasn’t moving as quickly as I’d hoped. The year before, after a hard breakup with a fiancé, I’d been left with a monogrammed cake cutter and a dress.
Struggling with my self-esteem, I was sure it was impossible to get proposed to twice, since it turned out that the one man who did ask me to marry him didn’t really want me. As my impatience with God grew, I began to take things into my own hands.
The problem with impatience is that it leads to mistakes. I learned this very quickly. Here are the three mistakes I made:
Compromise what we truly want.
In my desire to find a husband, I went on many dates in seminary—more than I care to remember. Many should never have happened. In each case that I compromised, I talked myself into a date and hurt myself or someone else in the process. I knew what I was looking for, but I didn’t want to wait around to find it.
Impatience added to limited vision makes anything seem reasonable. We don’t want to think of rushing as a lack of confidence or even a lack of belief in God, but we have to consider it. Taking matters into our own hands is a sign of distrust. Otherwise, we would find rushing unnecessary. David said in Psalm 5:3, “In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (NIV). If we struggle with rushing God, it’s good to look at our expectations: Do we expect God to disappoint us? Or do we expect him to come through?
I know we’re tempted to give the churchy answer, but let’s give the honest one instead. This is not a matter of name-and-claim theology—it is a matter of truth. God can be trusted. God knows more than we do. Therefore, waiting instead of compromising changes nothing about his plan. Most of the time, our hurried decisions are historical: we let our past convince us God won’t because he hasn’t yet.
But we don’t know what all he does.
Retreat to what we know.
An ex-boyfriend re-entered my life while I was in seminary, one I loved deeply. Wanting so much to find the man I would spend my life with, I reverted back to what I was familiar with even though I knew it was wrong. My heart wanted so desperately to experience love being rekindled, that I couldn’t recall any of the old reasons we broke up. Never mind that he hadn’t been good for me back then and our compatibility level had not changed. The only difference was I’d grown tired of waiting on God.
Often, when we get impatient, we cash in our good sense. It’s not that our circumstances change; it’s that our willingness to stay wise for a prolonged period of time might. We view familiarity out of rose-colored glasses. We long for the comfort of what we knew because at least we had something. What was once not what we wanted, for good reason, has been accepted in an impatience haze. David, again, wrote us a beautiful patience anthem for moments like these. Psalm 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” It’s easy to go back to what we know. But it’s better for us when we wait on God instead.
Take matters into our own hands.
In any waiting scenario, as I wait on God to do what I want, I often become more and more frustrated. During my season of disappointment, gloomy thoughts, and desire to rush God’s plans for my life in seminary, the one and only thing I was sure of was that he wasn’t doing what I wanted. Like all situations where we cannot see past our own desires, I was convinced he wasn’t listening to me. And when we think God isn’t listening to us, things can get especially rocky.
I began daydreaming about how I could make something happen with someone—often, scenarios that didn’t even make sense. I considered calling old boyfriends in case I had somehow not recognized that they had been the one. I thought of transferring to a different school in the event my husband was over there somewhere. After all, God sure wasn’t helping dream things up. When you lose faith in God, you do lots of plotting. If he is no longer trustworthy to manage your life, it becomes a wild scramble to make up for his lack.
When God Makes Us Wait
When God makes us wait, it’s because he wants to save us from something, give us something better, or form in us something we need. For me to write this, it rolls right off my fingertips. For you to highlight it probably feels right too. But living it is a whole different, hard story.
But it’s good, and we can judge by the fruit it yields. When we have to wait on God, we have to need God. We have to open up our hearts and express our deepest desires to him. Sometimes we have to linger long enough to get something out of our system that was a bad idea.
And we are forced to find the new thing that is the actual right thing. Get that? All those things I mentioned are for us. They are for developing deeper communication with the Lord, helping us make fewer mistakes, giving us greater opportunity to discern and do the right thing. Meanwhile we develop character we’ll never regret in places we otherwise wouldn’t. Developing character doesn’t feel worth it until sometimes years down the road. I wish we could get all the good things right away and become better people automatically.
But waiting is one of the best producers of good things.
Meet the Author:
Lisa Whittle is the author of eight books, and her wit and bold bottom-line approach have made her a sought-after Bible teacher. A pastor’s daughter and longtime ministry leader in issues relevant to the church, Lisa is the founder of Ministry Strong and the popular Jesus Over Everything podcast. Her love runs deep to see people pursue Jesus for life, grow deep roots of faith, and walk strong in the midst of a world that so often seems to have gone crazy. She and her family live in North Carolina. Learn more about Lisa’s new book, The Hard Good, and take her free quiz about bossy emotions at https://lisawhittle.com/good/.