The season of Advent often reminds us of the joy we had as kids. Whether that was waiting for presents on Christmas Day, or the anticipation of seeing friends or family, or the excitement of enjoying great food, music, and lights.
But many of us don’t experience this season the same way we used to as children, as young adults, or even like we did the last few years. For many, the season leading up to Christmas is often filled with anxiety over interactions with family or sadness because those that we once had around us are now gone. Many now anxiously dread the holidays, wondering when we will finally have a significant other to bring home, and wincing at Christmas proposal posts we see on social media. Or maybe we are waiting on children to share Christmas with, waiting for an illness to be cured, or a family member to be well enough mentally to not depend on substances. Or a sibling to finally see you as an equal, or a mother to stop berating you, or a father to encourage you instead of ignoring you. Some are waiting for a place to call home. We are waiting on these things, hoping and praying that they will come to pass, but we haven’t seen it yet. The holidays often remind us all of where we lack, where we are not enough, where God has not answered our prayers, and where pain is louder than normal.
The problem with waiting for prayers to be answered is not that we need to be patient. The act of waiting forces us to wrestle with our emotions. Waiting reveals where our hearts are desperate. It reveals how we view the world and pulls back the curtain on our level of trust in God. Hoping for something that we have not seen reveals our expectations of God and possibly our assumptions about His thoughts toward us.
Will We Get What We Hope For?
Maybe. Maybe not. That is the linchpin in faith, the thing we cannot control. Not knowing the outcome causes us to worry and often directs our attention to the negative…But this is sending our faith in the wrong direction. We must keep a short leash on our thoughts and beliefs in seasons of tension and waiting because anxiety creates a minefield. Processing our thoughts and emotions helps us to navigate the open seas with someone at the helm instead of allowing the storm to wreck us. Wrestling with the reality, that our hopes and desires may never come to fruition, is an essential part of waiting. But this is why waiting gets a bad rap, right?—That what we hoped for won’t happen.
Sometimes I think we wait for things we think God has promised us, when maybe he hasn’t and we are living in a false hope for something that is not meant for us. Then, how do we know what we are hoping for is God-inspired? How do we know if we are putting our hope falsely on something that won’t come to pass? How do we determine if what we are hoping for is something we should continue to hope for? Some are hoping and praying for a spouse or kids or a home or healing. Who said they were going to get that? We are not entitled to the lives we want. Many hope their whole lives for a spouse or kids and it never happens. Do we stop hoping for it? Or do we continue?
Not My Will, But Yours Be Done
I think the posture can be both. We hope and pray for something we want, but we declare, “Not my will, but yours be done, Lord.” This lands us right in the middle—believing for what we cannot see and leaving it to the Lord to work it out as HE sees fit, trusting that either of the outcomes is for our good and His glory. We can trust God in the hope that He loves us and has our best interest at heart, and sometimes we do not get what we are waiting for. We then move from a place of waiting to a place of trust. Trusting ensures that we are not expecting to have our way all of the time but that God is and does give good gifts to those who wait.
“Don’t give up, just let go.”
This phrase is written in an old journal of mine while I was in a season of dreams not realized and unsure if what I was waiting for was actually in God’s will for me. I chose not to give up hope that He could and would answer my prayers, but I also chose to trust Him if the answer was “no.” I found a place of contentment, with either of God’s choices. I did not give up, but I left it up to Him. I kept chasing the dream, but no longer idolized it or allowed myself to continue in anxiety over it. That was the best place to be—fully trusting God for either outcome.
Waiting Is An Opportunity For Faith
Trust and Faith are choices. Choices require action. To actively trust in God is to actively wait with God. This can look like holding on to His promises in scripture, singing songs of hope, and writing out prayers, poems, and songs that express our heart’s cry. It looks like telling our hearts how we are to focus, letting out our feelings and doubts, and processing with a friend or therapist. We all know what it feels like to not see what we hope for come to pass but waiting for answers to prayer is an act of faith, a posture, and a choice.
We were not made to manage all the options, all our thoughts, and all our feelings on our own. Talking to God is necessary for the Christian, but talking to our trusted friends, family, and even our therapist is how we wade through the deep waters, gain courage, and increase our faith. Being in community helps us make wise decisions and discern the voice and will of God. We can acknowledge seasons of waiting, as we ask, pray, and seek God - not giving up and exploring where we’ve placed our hope. Seasons of waiting can rupture our relationship with God or it can grow the muscle of faith and trust in Him. Processing with others who have wisdom and faith in us, even when we don’t, is another necessary component to surviving this tension.
How To Set Boundaries For Yourself In Seasons Of Waiting
Waiting well also means guarding our hearts in the places where it is most sensitive. Setting boundaries with yourself in seasons of waiting is essential to making it through. Establishing boundaries is discipline. Without boundaries, we can shortcut the waiting and get a cheap reward—i.e. the guy who isn’t right for us—or we can remind ourselves of the Hope we have and change our focus. Waiting takes faith. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1. Encouraging yourself to focus on the bigger picture and then, through faith, discarding immediate rewards for long-term, bigger rewards. In seasons of waiting we are learning how to deal with our thoughts and feelings while in the tension and caring for ourselves by protecting ourselves.
Somewhere in the tension of what is and what isn’t, we can be led closer to Jesus. We can come closer to Him by leaning on Him, asking Him for comfort, and making peace with the tension. Or we can remain upset, angry, sad, and lost. We can use this time to shift our focus from what we do not have to Who we have. We can shift our focus from what we crave to what is in front of us right now.
Whatever weighs your heart down this Holiday season, you’re not on your own to figure out where to place your hope. You’re not on your own to figure out where your anxious, doubting, angry, or despondent mind can find rest. Your Savior is here, and He isn’t a moment too late. He is good! You can find hope in Christ, no matter the outcome.
Begin Working With A Therapist in Marietta, GA
If you are experiencing grief in waiting this holiday season, you are not alone. Please consider reaching out to a qualified therapist. Our team of caring therapists would be honored to offer support with in-person and online services from our Marietta, GA-based practice. You can start your therapy journey by following these simple steps:
Other Services Offered at Remain Connected Counseling
Our team knows you may experience other issues in your life. This is why we are happy to offer a variety of services including teen therapy, anxiety treatment, and EMDR therapy. In addition, we also offer life transitions therapy and depression counseling, and more all under a Christian counseling lens. By using online therapy, these services are available to anyone in Georgia. Learn more about our team of dedicated therapists and contact us for more information.