Waiting is not something that comes easily to most of us. Over the years, I’ve spent more time than I’ve wanted to in waiting rooms—literally and figuratively. I’ve endured long anxious hours in hospital waiting rooms as well as complicated emotional waiting seasons, praying for resolutions to situations, answers, or change. Regardless of the type of waiting you’re currently experiencing, moving forward as you wait is a tricky endeavor because waiting is often paralytic in nature.
Here are some ways to maintain momentum while in a waiting period:
Focus attention elsewhere – No matter what you’ve waiting for—resolution to a situation, the answer to a question, an acceptance or rejection, a birth or death, a medical diagnosis and treatment plan, the next step in a career or relationship—it’s easy to become so focused on waiting for that outcome that you are paralyzed in all areas of life. Learn to shift your focus and attention to other areas. Finish a project you started, but never completed. Flex your creativity muscles and make something. Set an exercise goal. Resolution in other areas will provide a sense of accomplishment and lessen the feeling of being in limbo.
Acknowledge your lack of control – Some of my longest years came in the waiting room of infertility. My anxiety grew with each friend or family member who achieved a pregnancy and birthed a baby. I experienced despair, depression, and felt defective. My waking hours, and even my dreams, were consumed with thoughts of having a child. Despite all the tests and procedures, I ultimately had to acknowledge the timing was out of my control. When my children were born, those waiting years made my children even more precious to me, and provided empathy and compassion for those in the in waiting room of infertility.
Learn during the slow-down – Often, waiting feels like someone pushed the pause button on your life. But while waiting may force us to slow down, we are often the ones who put ourselves in suspended animation, a state in which we don’t feel or experience. However, if you allow it, waiting forces you to slow down enough to examine emotions, and that’s something most of us avoid. The emotions inherent in waiting include anxiety, frustration, fear, anger, and at times, defeat, indifference, and boredom. Take time to process these emotions as you wait. In doing so, you move from pause to slow-motion and eventually gain speed. Consider learning something new or refresh knowledge you already have. Take time to rest. Often our lives are so fast-paced we rarely allow our bodies and minds time to rejuvenate. Realize that waiting is preparation for what comes next.
Experience peace while you wait – Finding peace while you wait is challenging. When you’re waiting, and impatience knocks at the door, it’s tempting to forge ahead; to attempt to make something happen. Resist the urge. When you force change, your situation may become worse than your time of waiting. The only way to experience peace as you wait is to trust God for his timing and relinquish control to Him.
Give thanks – Giving thanks when it doesn’t feel there is anything to be thankful for stretches your faith muscles and enhances forward motion. Look for reasons to give thanks. Perhaps it is an unexpected monetary infusion, the supportive words of a friend, or a ray of hope found in the beauty of nature. Look for evidence of God’s provision in your waiting period. When your waiting is over, don’t forget to acknowledge God’s hand in the outcome. When resolution arrives, and relief is great, we often fail to give thanks and praise to our Creator and Sustainer. But when you maintain an attitude of thankfulness, not only at the end of a waiting period, but during it, you learn and grow in faith and trust and continue in the journey forward.
“But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.” (Isaiah 40:31 MSG)