On Waiting and Sorrow

Tired of Waiting – Arthur Hopkins 1881

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him – Psalm 37:7

Psalm 37 has been a Psalm our family has returned to repeatedly in the midst of a season of extended waiting and uncertainty. When loss is experienced and the disorienting nature of the in-between swirls around you, the invitation to wait can be quite challenging.

Waiting is hard work. It can be wearying. It’s often uncomfortable and unsettling. Waiting requires us to surrender our time to another. And yet, scripture is full of passages exhorting God’s people to wait on him. Waiting requires a great deal of patience. It requires a settled trust. But waiting is the antithesis of what our world is cultivating. In fact, our entire world is actively trying to eliminate any and all forms of waiting. The faster I get what I want, the better, so the world says.

It seems that the discomfort in waiting can arise out of the natural way it opens us up to feel and experience what is happening within us while we wait. I often don’t know how to wait or how long to do so. In fact, for the most part, I’d rather not wait at all. But in the midst of this extended season of waiting, I’ve been forced to sit with and really feel the ever present sorrow that lies within my soul. To some extent, the waiting accentuates the sorrow, forcing me to feel it ever more.

When I wait (or am forced to), there is seemingly nowhere to run from the sorrow. When I try to run from it in the midst of waiting, I undoubtedly begin to run in circles, causing the sorrow to swirl even more. And in some ways, I often don’t even know what I’m waiting for. Often, no matter the season, the invitation is the same: be still before the Lord. In this season, the words of the Lord have been simply “relax and wait…” Wait and be still.

I think that’s because stillness is surrender.

Surrender is the silence that expects God to show up.

The only way we can integrate sorrow and grief is in the loving arms of the Father. Silent surrender surrenders the sorrow, the grief, the disappointment, the disillusionment or frustration that lies within. It allows us to make our home in the healing refuge that is our God. This is the way to life. This is the place where joy comes in the mourning.

If I don’t stop, if I don’t wait, and I simply forge ahead, I am often left unaware at what is really going on within me. Waiting gives us an opportunity to move towards a greater awareness of our inner world – if we take it. In many ways, waiting is a grace from God. It is a grace that allows us to see inside our souls and expect God to meet us there. We know that the avoidance of what really lies deep within our hearts will only lead us in circles that further dizzies our souls and disorients our lives. That’s not how we were meant to live.

As the Psalm goes: those who wait patiently on God are filled with hope. Those who hope in the Lord and keep his way will be exalted and inherit the land. They will be delivered from their enemies and made to live as they were intended: filled with peace and thriving.

This is how we’re meant to live.

When we wait patiently, we see God.

When we see God, we begin to understand his care for us.

When we know and understand his care, we live in peace and are filled with life.

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