The following is an excerpt from Jesus, the Ultimate Ladies’ Man by Sarah Holley.
Have you ever waited for something? Waited for an answer? Waited for a miracle? A job? For healing? For resolution? For relationship restoration?
It’s so easy in these situations to assign motive to God. He doesn’t love me. He’s abandoned me. If He really cared, He would….
Waiting as Spiritual Discipline
Waiting … it’s one of the hardest spiritual disciplines. And it is a discipline. Waiting and not knowing can make you sick—heartsick. It’s a challenge mentally to avoid going down the rabbit trail of anxiety. (Well, if he does have cancer, how will he work? Will he lose his job? How will we survive? Will we lose our house?) Waiting is a challenge physically because we are a people who want to do something. And it’s a challenge spiritually to avoid assigning motive to God.
Waiting, however, is essential for God’s purposes. In this story, we get a glimpse of what’s to come—a sneak peek, a preview. We know something that Mary and Martha don’t know: this sickness will not end in death. Even Lazarus’ death will not end in death! There’s glory coming, and the love of Jesus is great … even if the sisters don’t feel it yet.
Purpose in Waiting on God
Yes, waiting is essential. God has purpose behind every time He asks us to wait. He’s not sadistic; He’s sanctifying us and seeking glory.
In her book When the Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd uses two analogies to illustrate the beauty and necessity of waiting. In the first, she compares us to a caterpillar who has retreated into a chrysalis. Even though the chrysalis stage is considered a resting (waiting) stage, major transformations are taking place beneath the covering. And once that transformation is complete, the butterfly begins to emerge. It’s exciting to see the chrysalis fall away and true beauty revealed.[i]
There’s one small catch, however. In the process of emerging, a butterfly must not be helped. For its wings to develop, it needs the struggle of breaking out of the chrysalis, and then it must—on its own—pump its wings so that blood will enter them and enable them to work. If a butterfly is “helped” in any way, it will actually die because its wings will not be strong.
God knows that to be the strong people He’s created us to be, we need to struggle. An easy-peasy life does not produce the character He most desires in us. Struggling has the potential to cause us to seek God and be transformed by Him. Compassion, perseverance, hope, faith, mercy—these are best developed during times of difficulty, times of waiting. There is strength in the struggle (Rom. 5:3–5).[ii] Yes! Beautiful strength of character is best grown in the midst of great struggle.
The other analogy Sue Monk Kidd uses is that of God being a midwife during our waiting and “laboring.”[iii]Understandably, not everyone might relate to this analogy, so let me give you a little taste of what she meant. When I was pregnant with both of my boys, I was assisted by an obstetrician, but when I gave birth to my daughter, I was attended by a midwife. Notice the verbs I used to describe each—assisted by the OB, attended by the midwife. I was quite intentional in choosing those words because the experience was markedly different. The doctor came in and checked on me once during my labor, but his main focus was the actual birth. In fact, he had to be called away from a Ping-Pong match at his home when my labor progressed so quickly!
On the other hand, my midwife was with me during my entire labor. Her presence was calming, and she was attentive to my every need. I was her focus—my physical needs and my emotional needs—and she made sure I was ready to deliver my daughter. It was the most peaceful delivery! My experience between the two types of labor and delivery was markedly different.[iv]
God is our Midwife
Much like my experience with the midwife, God is our midwife. He is present with us, right by our side, attending to our needs. Don’t forget that “Immanuel,” one of the names chosen for Jesus, means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). He’s not absent, spending His time on other activities until we “get it.” No, He’s right here, with us, beside us … even if we can’t feel Him or sense His presence. We’ve been reassured He “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:8, NIV).
Yet, interestingly, as our midwife, God still allows us to go through the painful process of “birth.” The aching, moaning, agonizing act of transformation (the butterfly) is accomplished with a present God (the midwife).
May we be people who trust Him and lean in to Him during the times of waiting, knowing He is present and cheering us on as we are transformed.
[i] Kidd, When the Heart Waits, 12–20.
[ii] Romans 5:3–5 says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
[iii] Kidd, When the Heart Waits, 28.
[iv] This commentary is not intended to degrade obstetricians! I am so thankful for my OB. This is simply used as a comparison between the approach of an OB versus a midwife. I realize not everyone shares my experience.