When my wife and I set out on the journey of adoption, we thought we had a year-long process ahead of us.
But more than three years later, we were still eagerly anticipating being able to bring our first daughter, Ryah, home from Ethiopia. We had prayed for her, met her, held her, loved her and every day we longed for the phone call to be cleared to bring her home.
We had no idea the aching we would go through as we watched each holiday pass by without sharing it with our child. We waited every day when it hurt to look at her picture. As we prepared for God to bring this journey to an end and unite our daughter with our family once and for all, we waited. Waiting had become the everyday for us.
The older I get, the more I realize the fabric of life involves waiting. We wait for career moves. We wait for marriage. Wait for children. Wait for healing. Wait for answers to prayers you’ve prayed for years but see no resolution in sight.
And the longer we wait the more the wait itself can become a type of suffering that can hammer away at our sanity without the right perspective. Waiting, the anticipation of good gift from God, can seem arbitrary and unnecessary.
Yet God wisely—even poetically as He is writing our story within His—teaches His children that within our wait there is purpose, intentionality and an opportunity for our faith to grow in ways we could have never imagined.
God had a purpose in our wait. He has a purpose in yours. If you’re experience a painful wait, here are four things you can cling to:
Sovereignty in Suffering
It’s tempting in the midst of suffering to doubt one of two things: God’s goodness or God’s sovereignty. If God were good, why would He allow this? If God were sovereign, we could have avoided this!
This thinking is unbiblical and void of any weighty theology. A believer needs to feed his soul during these times. The very bigness of our God must consume the suffering we experience.
The psalmist in Psalm 66 calls his readers to “Come and see what God has done: He is awesome in His deeds toward the children of man … For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried … you laid a crushing burden on our backs … we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”
Notice what the psalmist points out, that God does awesome deeds toward His children, and those deeds involve being tried as silver, having crushing burdens laid on our backs and going through fire, that God’s good deeds toward His children involve trials. Yet, God not only brings His people to trials, He brings them through them. 2 Peter 2:9 says, “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials.” This should strengthen our confidence both in His power and His goodness.
Waiting is expected in the Christian life
The Bible is full of stories of waiting. Abraham and Sarah waited for a child. Joseph waited unjustly in jail. The Hebrews waited for freedom in Egypt. David waited for the throne. The Israelites waited in exile. Paul waited for a thorn to be removed.
Was God not in control here? Is He in control now? God’s plan is perfected in the wait, and we, His people are reminded throughout the course of redemptive history
A professor once said, “The whole of Christian life is becoming what God has already declared you to be.” The wait you and I experience is not abnormal to the Christian life, but is part of the very essence of the Christian experience.
Our wait is painful, but it will pale in comparison to the glory we will one day see in eternity. Remember this in suffering. When you think about it in light of 100,000 years, it’s like a blip on a radar.
God breaks us to bless us
Our dreams may be God-given, Scripture-driven and Gospel-centered but they are not all encompassing. We set out to adopt a child from Ethiopia, God set out to work out our own adoption by sanctifying us in this process.
To us, the best solution to a painful wait is to resolve it. Bring me my spouse. Give me children. Fix our family drama. Yet, God uses these periods in our life to break us. Like Moses in the desert, Paul with his thorn, Jacob as he wrestled with God.
He breaks us to bless us. He breaks us so we can see Him. Through times of suffering, God is crushing our self-dependence and awakening our soul to the persistent reality of our need and how only He has ability to give us true joy. Yes, children are good. Marriage is good. Sex is good. Promotions are good. Friendships are good. But God is better.
Christ is better
One question God has hammered into my soul this year is this: Is Christ enough? Specifically, if God doesn’t do _________, can I still be satisfied in Christ? Honestly, the answer doesn’t come easily, and it reaches to the very core of what we believe.
I’ve realized through waiting and suffering that God, like an all-wise, all-loving Father, will often withhold things, even good things, when they become God-things. When the focus of our worship shifts from the Giver to the gifts, from the Healer to the healing, God will realign our focus to save our souls and preserve His glory.
This question must be asked in the midst of suffering, not after the fact: Today, when you don’t have the very thing you’ve prayed, longed, yearned for isn’t here, can you find joy in Christ? Is the Gospel sufficient? The answer to this question reveals the object of your worship.
Paul challenges the Church with an eternal perspective that bleeds from the very core of the Gospel: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 2:16-18).