When God says wait
A mid morning chat with Elizabeth Thompson…
So I don’t know about how you like to spend your morning… Me? I like me a good, get out the coffee cup, roll up your sleeves and delve right into it kind of deep conversation about timeless topics and universal themes, the kind you just happen to record for posterity, and share with the interwebs... And fortunately that’s exactly what I have to offer you, my LogosPost reader friends, in the form of a deep and delightfully engaging chat with blogger (Lizzylife.com – you should check it out!) speaker and author of the newly released book (available March 1st – hey, that’s today!) When God Says Wait: Navigating life’s detours and delays without losing your faith, your friends or your mind.
Logos Post (LP): Welcome, Elizabeth, and thanks for taking the time to hang out a little today!
Elizabeth Thompson (ET): Thank you so much. I’ve been looking forward to it!
LP: So ok, let’s get straight to it. Lots of underlining. Lots of head nodding. A few tears shed, even an epiphany here and there. All the elements of a pretty darned good read. So, thank you!
ET: That’s good to hear! When you write these words you just think, ok please let this help someone…
LP: Indeed! Now, this is a very important book; it’s a message that resonates with many people. A universal topic, this waiting thing.
ET: Yeah, it’s funny because as I started you know sharing with friends and readers online that this is what I’m writing now, it’s amazing the stories that have come out: “Oh I’m waiting for this…” such a broad range of things, from the huge- “I’m waiting to get my life started in the right direction” to the things that maybe sound smaller, but feel big – “I’m waiting to find a good friend, to feel at home where I live, to just have a break”… It’s just amazing the number of stories that have gotten to me from people as we’ve started talking about this book.
LP: When you think about it, we spend so much of our lives waiting for something, whether it’s coffee at Starbucks, or the big job, or a spouse, or a baby, or waiting for the world to change (shout out to you, John Mayer)… Here’s the thing: if it’s so ingrained into the fabric of our lives, why do you think we bristle against it? You think we’d be better at it than we are, with so many opportunities to practice. Why do we have such a hard time with this whole waiting thing?
ET: Oh my goodness. For me I feel like it’s against my nature. I just expect life to go the way I want it to go when I need it to go. I recognize this real sense of entitlement I have. I’m just so shocked when it’s like “What? I have to wait?” I feel like a 3 year old. It’s snack time now. I’m hungry now. I need this now! And I’ve been thinking a lot about our modern lifestyle and how we’ve worked waiting out of our daily life. I have this app now so I don’t have to wait for my coffee. My coffee waits for me. Overnight shipping. Instant messages. Waiting has sort of become this lost skill. So when the hard things come up, the things we really need for basic daily happiness and a fulfilling life, it’s really challenging for us.
LP: The very thing we revile is the thing we need the most. Kind of like exercise, or saying no to chocolate.
ET: It’s true. One of the thing I’ve learned in different seasons of waiting, is that waiting can be so good for us, but we have to ALLOW it to be good for us. There have been times I’ve been waiting for something, but I’ve fought it and resented it so hard, I’ve sort of been stuck. There’s that saying “It can make you better or bitter.” There are times when I’d really become bitter, and I felt frustrated with God, confused in my faith, resentful of the world who seem to have everything together and everyone has the things I don’t have. But when I’ve let that go and say “OK I’m here, I don’t want to be here. I’m stuck waiting. How can I redeem this time? How can it be meaningful? How can I grow, become better, find purpose in this in-between time?” I think that’s the trick, figuring out how to redeem that time so it’s not just a space between, but a meaningful time when you’re growing and actively becoming a better and stronger you.
LP: And maybe the thing we think has been the detour… maybe that’s the point? There are benefits to waiting, delaying that pre-order of caramel macchiato, or maybe even something with higher stakes. Developing skills, building character traits. Yes. But even if we acknowledge, OK yeah, it’s good for me, like vegetables, there’s still the big question: HOW DO I DO THIS? Your book talks a lot about the HOW’S. The art of waiting. Talk about that a little. How did you even come to the conclusion that you should even write this book?
ET: The thing they always tell writers is “write from what you know." I was brainstorming, sitting at my computer, and was laughing, thinking “well, I know about waiting!”
LP: And how did you come to the “hows”?
ET: Out of necessity and pain. When you’re hurting, mystified and thinking “How did I get here? What’s going wrong in my life?” You’re forced to find ways, I call them Survival Skills for Spiritual Waiting. To me it boils down to two big things. The first is walking really closely with God. Waiting has driven me to my knees. I think prayer is difficult when we’re waiting. You can feel like you’re in tension with God. You want something. God could give it. He’s not giving it. Why not? But if we can work through those doubts, questions, fears, insecurities, even the resentment, and stay close to God… even use Scripture to fill in His half of the conversation, that’s a huge part of thriving spiritually and emotionally.
The other thing I’ve learned is that that you need a bit more of an extensive support system, friendship wise. A lot of times we tend to turn to the people who’ve always been there… but say you’re going through something like infertility. Your friends may not relate to that. You may need to build a whole new tribe of people who say, “I’ve been down that road. I’m walking it now. Let me walk it with you. Learning to share the burden openly and honestly is a huge part of waiting and not letting waiting destroy you.
LP: Yes. So important to know we’re not alone. So I want to go back to your first point about walking closely with God. We see waiting as a means to an end. We are waiting for something. We want God to give us something. To do something.
Andrew Murray had this to say in his book “Waiting on God,”
"The very place and nature of man is nothing but this to wait upon God and to receive from Him what He alone can give, and what He delights to give."
In light of this quote, I’m curious, do you think there’s a difference between waiting for God, and waiting on God? And if so (or if not) why?
ET: That’s a profound question there! I think sometimes we struggle with this question of “Am I allowed to act while I’m waiting for God?” Maybe that’s where the distinction comes. Sometimes we don’t know where is that line of when I’m taking matters into my own hands. Like Sara and Abraham when she said, “Hey, God’s not fulfilling his promise in a timeline that makes sense to me, so why don’t you have a child through my servant girl?”, and took matters into her own hands in an ungodly way, and reaped some painful consequence from that. I think the challenge is trying to figure out how can I be proactive and not just sit here twiddling my thumbs, but in a way that is respectful and surrendered.”
LP: Yeah. At one point (in your book) you talk about the whole idea of, “Well, it’ll happen at the right time.” That sounds holy. And of course, there’s truth in it. But there are different facets of that truth. Yes, God is sovereign over all things, and yet He has given us the ability to choose. As you said in other chapters, He actually cares about what we think, and maybe even our prayers can even sway Him.
ET: Absolutely. And I think that’s something we’re a little uncomfortable with. It sounds like are we usurping His authority. But time and again in the Bible God really reassures us “I want to hear from you. I want to know how you feel. I want to know what’s going on in your heart. The Psalms are such powerful examples of people taking intense feelings, extreme joy and extreme pain to God, and He welcomes that. He invites it. We see so many examples in scripture when people talk to God and He says “OK, I’m gonna let you do that. That might not have been my original plan but I’m willing to work with you here.” God is a Father. I do that with my own children. There are times they really want something that might not be convenient for me. It might not be my first choice. But if they really come and say “I care about this, this is important to me”, I’m going to hear them out. I’m willing to work with them. It’s so comforting to know God works that way. Now sometimes He’ll say “I hear you, and I get that you care about this. The answer is still no, or the answer is still wait.” But He invites us to have that conversation and sometimes He does say yes.
LP: What I’m hearing as the theme in all this is relationship. Your four lovely, spunky kids (as you refer to them in your bio) – they might ask you for something, and of course your heart as a mother is to give them their heart’s desire, but there’s something even bigger than their request. There’s the relationship.
So let’s dig a little deeper. God doesn’t fault us for the thing we ask for, to change something or take away something or whatever. So often, though, we make it not about seeking God, but about what we’re seeking God for… and it reminds me of the story you shared about Hannah and Elkanah, how she’s just longing for a child, and how he says to her at one point “…aren’t I worth more to you than 10 children?” Sometimes in my waiting seasons when I’ve been asking God “Can’t you do this thing for me?”, I hear God answering “How about just seeking ME? How about just waiting on me?”
ET: Absolutely. And that is a theme that we see running through Scripture: Wait for the Lord, that the Lord is enough. He always wants to be enough, to be what fills us. Let’s say you don’t have a husband, and you really would love to have one. There are so many beautiful passages where God says “Your Maker is your husband. The Lord Almighty is His Name” (eg. Isaiah 54). What a beautiful image of the kind of loving relationship that God invites us to have with Him! That doesn’t invalidate the pain or the loneliness or the desire for an earthly husband. But God says “I will meet that need if you allow me to. I can be for you what you need.” He is always ready to step in and fill those emotional holes in our heart. When there’s something lacking, He says, like Elkanah, “I want to be enough for you.”
LP: Just being brutally honest here. Sometimes we know what the “right answer” is, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to get there. What does it really look like to wait on God in our day to day life?
ET: I think that’s such a fair question, and I have wrestled so hard with that. I think of the long season in my life when we were trying to get pregnant, and Every. Body But. Me was pregnant, is how it felt, it felt, all of my friends, and I’m just dying inside every day. You turn all these questions on yourself, and think, “Have I done something wrong?” All these painful, hard questions you ask yourself. I really wrestled with that. OK, what if I never do get to become a mother. Is God going to be enough? God and I had a lot of long, tear stained conversations over this, because I think the answer is yes, God is enough, but… there still would have been a hole in my heart. And I think it’s OK to allow for that. I think the stories He gives us of people in the Bible who were waiting and hurting, He recognizes on the one hand, “I am enough, and I will make your life full and meaningful, and a life that counts. But I recognize, too, that there is still an empty place, and maybe that didn’t happen in the time you wanted it to, and I understand that loss, and I understand that feeling.”
So I think it’s a tension, I think daily it’s a wrestling match, and it’s a re-surrender every morning in prayer to God. A choice to find joy in God, to find peace in our daily life. In the life we have today and the faith we have today and the gifts God has given today … even when there is this empty place, and there’s this thing that we really hope for and we’ll never stop hoping for no matter what. Some of those things never go away. You always want them. It’s a tension.
LP: So you don’t have to pretend or suppress your desire and you can still have a relationship with God? Still know that God loves you? You can be honest and real and find joy in your life. Huh!
ET: Yes, and I think God respects our feelings. He understands. He built us to want certain things. To want friendship, a sense of security and peace and stability, a healthy life, body, a person to grow old with, to want children. Those are godly desires. So I don’t think God ever expects us to pretend we don’t want it. That being submissive and fulfilled by God means to pretend I don’t care about those things. No, I think he says I understand that you care about that but in the meantime I am here and I am giving you my all, I have given you My Son, and I am give you these gifts of the Spirit and I give you everything that you need for life and godliness to fill you up in the meantime, however long this season lasts.
LP: I love the honesty of that. John Eldredge talks about how we kill desire and call it “holiness”. But that’s really not holiness to kill and suppress that which is good. God did put within us good desires. It’s what we do with them and what we allow Him to do, THAT’s where it comes down to holiness or not holiness. But we get this weird, twisted idea that desire is somehow unholy.
ET: Yes, and that’s one of the big things that I wanted to speak to in this book because…
Listen to the rest of the interview here:
You can find Elizabeth’s book (and a lot of her cool blogness) here: Lizzylife.com