Advent /‘ad, vent/ noun. The arrival of something long awaited for. A time of expectant waiting and preparation.

Waiting to find out if you got the job.

Waiting on a spouse after another heartbreak.

Waiting for your kid to turn a corner.

Waiting to see if you’re pregnant.

Waiting to hear if you are approved for the apartment.

Waiting to see family after not being home in two years.

These are all real-life conversations I have had this week. There’s a lot of waiting going on in life. There is a lot of deferred hope. There is a lot of heartbreak.

And at times, there is a lot of wonderful joy to be found … though we often realize, once we get something, that it was never meant to or able to fully satisfy.

It’s appropriate to talk about waiting during the season of Advent. The birth of Jesus Christ marked the culmination of hundreds of years of waiting for the promised Messiah. We sing of this period of waiting in songs like “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” and “O Come, O Come Immanuel.”

Life requires a robust view of waiting—of God’s centrality … of God’s goodness … of our own limited view … and much more—to be able to experience and process the intensity of what surfaces amongst the anxiety and unknown. Second only to suffering, waiting is one of the greatest teachers and trainers in godliness, maturity, and genuine spirituality most of us ever encounter.

A season of waiting

This year, all the talk of waiting during the Advent season hits home because of what is going on in our personal lives. I am wading into the unknowns of a season of waiting, an in-between land where I have close to zero direct control of the outcomes. Our family is in transition from New York City to Little Rock, Arkansas, as we excitedly join the FamilyLife team. Almost every evening around the dinner table, and every walk home from school, conversations turn to the hopes and fears that lie ahead for our family.

When we moved to Manhattan, the kids were so young that the move just happened to them. This time, they are active participants in the journey. The unknowns that await them have filled this year’s family Advent devotionals with an extra dose of applicable anticipation. (Not to mention the areas that my wife, Meg, and I are processing and navigating!)

It takes me back to seven of the most important things I have learned in past seasons of excruciating waiting.  These are lessons that I otherwise would not have processed deep in my soul unless I had to walk through it. Things that I am processing anew.

1. God is never aimless. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see and will release at the precise time He is ready.

2. God-given destiny usually doesn’t follow a natural course of events.

3. In craving clarity in the unknown, we often attempt to eliminate the risk of trusting God.

4. The odd thing about waiting on and obeying God is that it often seems like a detour from what we want.  But it ends up being the only way to truly achieve what we really want.

5. Trying to press on and ignore what it is bubbling up deep within during a time of waiting is the most dangerous thing we could do.

6. No person enjoys the out-of-control feeling of not knowing where you’re going. But the testing of your faith usually requires it.

7. God puts His people in positions where they become desperate for His power and presence to show up, and then He shows His provision in ways that display His greatness.

Whatever you are waiting on in this season of life, one of the harshest realities to embrace is that there is no guarantee of the outcome. Which brings us back to where we started in this Advent season—Jesus has come, and He is coming again. In the meantime, our hope rests mainly in that God is with us in the waiting, and He longs for us to make room for Him to enter in to our present realities. It is one of the only things we can expectantly wait and prepare for with certainty.

What’s something profound in your life you are still waiting for?

Isaiah 64:4 tells us, “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.”

Where do you long for God’s presence or intervention?

How can you be intentional to create conditions that ease Christ’s coming into your life this Christmas?

What do you see as hindrances or obstacles to Christ’s presence in your life at this time?

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