Every week in the month of November we will be featuring an article on cultivating gratitude and thankfulness. To see the full series, click HERE.
Many of us experience seasons of life when it feels like everything important is perpetually on hold. Maybe we’re waiting for a better job, or for a spouse, for financial breakthrough, or for physical healing. Or maybe what we’re waiting for is a little more nebulous—waiting for hope in a season of spiritual drought, waiting for relational breakthrough with a family member or friend, waiting for a change in what has felt like endless years of monotony.
Whatever it is, a large part of the human experience revolves around waiting—and I’m not talking about those post office lines or the highway backups. Many of us are waiting for God to change our circumstances and our hearts, and sometimes the waiting stretches into months, or years.
It’s easy to start to feel as though our prayers are going unanswered, especially if we’ve been waiting a long time. My own journey of waiting spans more than twenty years, and I have struggled through times of bitterness and frustration with God. Why doesn’t he just change my circumstance? Answer my prayer the way I desire?
I don’t have all the answers to these questions; but what I’ve discovered in my waiting is that I can choose to be thankful for how he is already caring for me, even when I may not understand God’s response to my prayers. Gratitude points me back to his love for me, which is unfailing and constant, even if my life feels confusing and difficult.
Following are three ways I have found to stay grateful while waiting for the Lord to change something in my life. I hope they will be helpful for you, too.
1. Steep your mind in Scripture.
The Bible is full of men and women who had to wait on the Lord—often for years or decades. God gave Abraham the promise of a son when he was in his seventies—and that promise wasn’t fulfilled until he was just shy of one hundred years old (see Genesis 12, 15, and 21)! Joseph waited most of his life for God to fulfill the dreams he had as a young man (see Genesis 50), and Hannah endured scorn and mistreatment as she waited for a child (see 1 Samuel 1). Although waiting can feel isolating, we are not alone in our waiting. By reading the stories of the saints in the Bible, we can point our hearts to the truth that, if those people could trust God through years of difficult trials and waiting, we can trust him too.
2. Speak your thanks for what God has already provided.
Even while we wait for the answer to our prayers, it is important to take note of what God has already done—and is currently doing—for us. Has he provided a roof over your head, food in your pantry, and clothes on your back? What a gift! More than that, has God provided eternal salvation and joy to your soul through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ? How incredible! Take some time each day to speak aloud your gratefulness to God for the eternal and temporal provision he has already given to you. It may feel hard and awkward at first, but choosing to speak our thanks will help us begin to heal and replace any bitterness and anger we are clinging to.
3. Take time to write a few notes of gratitude to family or friends who have helped you in your life.
Long seasons of waiting can make us want to turn inward and focus on ourselves, but by choosing to be thankful for the people around us, we can remind our souls of the good that we have already known. Do you have a friend who has stuck by you in difficult times? Write a letter of thankfulness to her and drop it in the mail. What about a teacher, coach, or boss who encouraged you when you wanted to quit? Jot a quick note to tell them how much that meant to you. By encouraging and thanking others, we will find our own hearts encouraged, too.
No matter what it is you’re waiting for, rest assured that God sees you and understands you completely. He is not withholding from you; in fact, the Bible declares that he is near to you: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). His plans for you are good, and he is present with you even now. May we choose to be a people of gratefulness as we trust the Lord to care for us in our seasons of waiting.
By Ann Swindell, author of Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want
In Still Waiting, Ann Swindell explores the depths of why God wants us to wait by chronicling her own compelling story of waiting for healing from an incurable condition. She offers a vibrant retelling of the biblical account of the Bleeding Woman that parallels her story—and yours, too.
Let Ann help you see the promise that is hidden in the ache of waiting and the hope of what God can—and will—do as you wait on him.
You can connect with her at annswindell.com and receive her free devotional, Waiting with Hope, by signing up here. And, if like Ann, you’re a writing mom, check out her new writing course at www.theWritingMomCourse.com.