Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams Are Delayed

“Most women are waiting for something, but some women are waiting acutely. The thing missing from their lives is in such sharp focus that they aren’t sure they’ll ever feel complete without it.”

This opening line from Betsy Child Howards in her book Seasons of Waiting immediately grabbed me. My experience of waiting acutely was something that drew me to the book in the first place and my time in its pages did not disappoint. In the opening chapter, Howard casts a far more holistic vision for the ways God uses waiting in the life of His people than most of us are used to hearing. She writes,

“Waiting exposes our idols and throws a wrench into our coping mechanisms. It brings us to the end of what we can control and forces us to cry out to God. God doesn’t waste our waiting. He uses it to conform us to the image of his Son. But sanctification is not the only purpose God has in mind when he takes us into the school of waiting. When we wait, God gives us the opportunity to live out a story that portrays the gospel and serves as a kingdom parable.”

The next five chapters outline five waiting parables or specific life situations that are also prominent biblical themes that involve waiting. They include.

  1. Waiting for a Bridegroom
  2. Waiting for a Child
  3. Waiting for Healing
  4. Waiting for a Home
  5. Waiting for a Prodigal

By sharing stories of different people (both modern day and Biblical) enduring each of the waits outlined, Howard shows how we can experience each as a parable—a story with a point that can portray to you and others God’s salvation history, both up to this point and still to come. Entering into each scenario proves to be quite helpful, because as Childs Howard points out, the meaning of parables is often easy to miss.

The book ends with three chapters that help us to see how our individual stories of waiting collectively fit into God’s Big Story. It helps us to see how God provides and sustains us while we wait and helps us to long and look forward to the day when Christ returns, all of our waiting ends, and all of our longings are satisfied by God Himself.

Seasons of Waiting was a source of timely encouragement to me. If you or someone you love is currently walking through a season where a dream or desire feels delayed, I hope it might do the same for you as well. I’m looking forward to hosting a Women’s Ministry Book Discussion on it this summer. You can sign up for this and other book studies here. Here are a couple additional quotes that I found encouraging.

“If your waiting is characterized by painful longing, you may feel guilty about that. We are supposed to be content with the life God has given us, right?…Yes and no. Yes, our waiting should be undergirded with a firm confidence in the goodness of God. We should believe steadfastly that God is our loving Father who only gives us what is good (Matt. 7:7-11)…Waiting well doesn’t mean waiting without pain. What is Hannah had resigned herself to childlessness instead of pouring out her prayers to God with her tears? What is the father of the Prodigal Son had dried his eyes and moved on, rather than watching and waiting for his wayward one to come home? What if Hosea, instead of grieving over his wife’s unfaithfulness, had proclaimed that this was God’s will and he was probably better off without her? If these biblical characters had suppressed their pain and put on a happy face, we would be missing the deep bass notes that give the gospel such sweet resonance. If there are no tears, then the promise that God ‘will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ (Rev. 21:4) would not be necessary.”

“Both the waiting and the end of waiting tell God’s story. If you hope in God though your dream is unfulfilled, you walk by faith and not by sight. If you praise God when your dream comes true and you look beyond that dream to an even better fulfillment, you show yourself to be a citizen of heaven. There’s a tension here, and it can be very tempting to resolve that tension in a way that is unbiblical. It’s wrong to make an idol of your dreams and refuse to be content unless they are fulfilled. But it is also wrong to stop praying for the fulfillment of your desires if they are God honoring. Sometimes it’s easier not to want and therefore stand no risk of disappointment, but God call us out of our safety and tells us to entrust our hearts to his keeping.”

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