The Inevitable Thorn of Waiting

FullSizeRenderThis whole year the Mister and I have been waiting – or it feels that way, at least.

In December of last year, we found out that the Mister needed to have another leg surgery. We weren’t sure whether or not the surgery would work, but we were hopeful. We waited and we waited, and then June happened, the surgery was done, and we are now waiting to see if the surgery actually worked. In August, I had my blood taken and it came back positive for Tuberculosis. In the midst of thinking through the worst case scenario, we waited. We waited on chest X-rays, more test results, and ultimately, for the “all clear” note we got at the end of September. (It was a false alarm.) In October, we found black mold in our apartment, and if you know the story at all, you know we had to wait a month-and-a-half for the whole thing to be resolved. Toward the end of October, we began exploring new job opportunities for the Mister, and we’re still waiting to see what will eventually come from his search. In January, the price of oil continued to plummet, and, like many others in the industry, we are waiting for the storm to pass so that life can get back to normal.

And these are just the things I can tell you about.

If you’ve lived life at all, you know that waiting is just a part of if. It’s the inevitable thorn that pierces our flesh at random times throughout our journeys here on earth. And I have yet to meet someone who totally enjoys it.

A couple of days ago, I read a story about waiting in 1 Samuel – and it stirred my soul.

In this story, the Israelites are at war with their neighboring enemies, and Saul (king of the Israelites) is commanded to go to Gilgal to wait for Samuel (the prophet of God) to come and offer sacrifices and give instruction to Saul on what he and his troops should do (10:8). A couple of battles later, we see Saul leading trembling Israelite solders through Gilgal and he begins to wait for Samuel’s arrival and instruction. At the same time, the Philistines (one of Israel’s enemies) had positioned themselves in a near by town with thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen/troops (13:5) causing the Israelites to scramble for their lives.

After waiting seven days, Saul begins to freak out. He observes his troops, which are becoming more and more frightened, surveys the might of the Philistine army, and ultimately decides to take matters into his own hands. He “forces” himself and offers the sacrifices that Samuel was supposed to offer (13:12) thinking that, by doing so, he would speed up God’s process.

Basically, Saul got tired of waiting.

He saw what was going on around him and panicked. And unfortunately, his need to have control, cost him greatly. Eventually, the kingdom was taken from Saul’s hands and given to someone else.

I like this story because I see myself in it.

I hate feeling uncomfortable. I hate hard emotion, and I hate feeling stressed. And in moments when I am feeling these things, I seek to alleviate all of the tension in whatever way I possibly can. I force myself, and I seek to control my circumstances. The problem is, by doing this, I miss out on what the Lord has for me in the moments of tension. I miss the learning, I miss the growth, and I potentially miss the opportunity to know Him more. Sometimes, just like Saul, I even make things worse.

When I choose not to wait, I take whatever God had intended for me and stick it in a corner so that I can move on to whatever I think is best. The problem is, I don’t know what’s best. I’m not God, and I’m not all-knowing.

There is an awesome poem/story in a Bible study that I’m doing right now called, The Thorn. It goes like this:

“I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne and begged Him for one priceless gift that I could call my own. I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart, I cried, ‘But Lord, this is a thorn! And it has pierced my heart.’ He said, ‘My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.’ I took it home, and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore, as long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more. I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace. He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil that hides His face.” – Martha Snell Nichols as cited by Cynthia Heald

As I reflect on my life, I find so much truth here.

That time when I ended the relationship because I knew I was supposed to even though I didn’t want to and had to wait years to actually be able to move on. That time when I desperately wanted to move jobs, but I knew the timing was bad for multiple people, and I had to stick it out. The time when I needed to take a break from dating for the sake of my own heart, even though I didn’t really want to. In all of these moments, I have learned something. In all of these times I grew tremendously. And in all of these times I saw God’s faithfulness – I saw how His plan is so much better than my own.

I’ve also seen the opposite.

I’ve seen the times when I’ve entered into a relationship because I was sick of being single. I’ve seen the times when I’ve wanted an expensive article of clothing and purchased it even though I couldn’t afford it. I’ve seen the times when I opened my mouth to make sure that people heard me because I thought that I needed to control my reputation. And all of these things ended badly. People got hurt, problems were caused, and I regretted it later.

I’m not saying that everything is a simple equation.  I do think God’s grace does meet us in the midst of our need to be in control and the bad decisions that come from it. At the same time, I do believe that we can miss out on things because we choose to rush to the better feeling – to the thing that will make us feel more content, happier, or more loved in the moment. I do think there is more to the waiting than just the pain and hardship it causes. God wants to give good gifts to His children, and sometimes what is gained through waiting is in fact just that – a good and perfect gift. It’s a gift that is actually for our good and not just a temporary bandage that makes life on earth more comfortable. It’s a gift that grows us, matures us, and allows us to know Him more.

We all have random thorns, for waiting is a given in this life. Some of us are waiting to finally be able to purchase a house in a responsible way, some of us are waiting to be able to conceive or adopt, some of us are waiting to get married, and some of us are waiting for our children to make better decisions. I’m waiting on the things mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. All of these things are wonderful, and are all worth waiting for. The question is: How are we waiting? Are we seeking to control things so that we feel better right now or are we relying upon the Lord to give us what we need in the moment so that we can persevere to the end of whatever it is He’s doing?

This journey can be hard. There’s no doubt about that. At times I feel totally out of control and a little bit clueless, but I’m praying that I am able to resist the urge to take short cuts. I’m praying that I remember that waiting is used by the Lord in powerful ways, and that that Lord provides me with true life.

“The greatest danger is that we would become impatient and miss the blessing.”         – Charles Spurgeon

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” – Isaiah 30:18

**Thanks to Cynthia Heald for the awesome resources and insights she provides in thinking through interesting topics like this one. (Her study “Becoming a Woman of Strength” really helped me here.)

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