The waiting room.
We have all been there. Most of life is waiting for the next thing, the next season, the next phase.
The waiting room is sterile, awkward, and a place of palpable fear.
For those of us who are suffering, waiting is incredibly painful.
We are waiting for a cure. Waiting for rescue.
As we wait, we massage the heartache of disappointment from dashed dreams. We try to convince ourselves that it will be okay — that is, until another salt-tipped dagger stabs our resilience.
Some of us are okay with waiting. But MOST of us are asking why, when, and how?
Why didn’t God answer my prayers for my deliverance or my loved one’s healing from a diagnosis?
When will this agony of daily grief be over?
How long, O Lord?
I struggle with chronic suffering. I live in circumstances that cannot be fixed by intellect, hard work, or service to the church. I am the mother of a disabled daughter. I am the grieving daughter who lost her mother to a slow death from metastatic cancer.
I have wrestled with the God I chose to follow at age 7. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior with the vigor of child-like faith. But suffering has caused me to question this faith.
My childhood faith was black and white.
My adult faith is grey.
My childhood faith was the easy proclamation of “Jesus loves me.”
My adult faith is accepting “Though He slay me, I will trust in Him.”
My childhood faith was about receiving.
My adult faith is about letting go of the most tightly held parts of my heart.
As a child, I was focused on Jesus’ hands. He healed the blind with his touch and he stilled the storms with a wave of his hand. With such a miraculous God, trust and obey was the assumed cadence.
But as an adult, as trials have heaped more questions than answers, I am focused on Jesus’ heart. I want to understand his purpose when he suffered on the cross. Because now I feel nailed to my own cross. And I need someone else to carry it for me. Especially in the trial of unanswered prayer, I am fighting to trust and obey.
The call to trust and obey does not change from childhood to adulthood. But as adults, we just have more doubts about whether God is trustworthy. We become suspicious that He may not know all of our needs. Does He really know us personally? Does He really have our best interests at heart?
The world is certainly filled with enough evil that it may seem God is hands-off and uncaring. We may see his “NO” stamped on every gravestone and stack of medical bills. There are even passages in Scripture that can cause us to doubt God’s love. But when we view Scripture as a whole from Genesis to Revelation, we see our story in the context of a greater one.
When we read the Bible to understand the giver and not the gifts, our filter changes.
We see God’s heartbreak when his creation rebels against Him. We see God’s loving-kindness in providing for complainers in the wilderness. We see God’s tenderness to those who even killed him. We see God’s justice when evil will no longer win. We see God’s mercy in how he pursues us in our rebellion.
Through this lens, we are more aware of our need for rescue, and we stand in awe of a trustworthy God. As our minds are transformed, our emotions are also sanctified by these truths. But during this transformation, we still need to learn how to reconcile unanswered prayer.
We are tempted to believe that God’s final answer is No.
But in reality, His answer is just not yet.
It is not yet time for physical healing. It is not yet time for deliverance from the salty dagger. God is asking us to hold onto hope for the finale. And while we wait, He calls us to hold onto Him. For His grace is sufficient.
Finding comfort in the end of the story is what fuels us to go on to the next chapter.
When our timeline ends at death, suffering seems purposeless.
But when our timeline extends into eternity, suffering produces hope.
For the Christian, being told “not yet” is an act of love. “Not yet” is the gentle but firm hand on our shoulder as we try to cross a busy street. “Not yet” is the hand that wipes our tears when we get a disappointing rejection. “Not yet” is the hope of rescue we have in chronic suffering. Like a mother who dandles her child on her knee. Like a father who disciplines the child he loves. As a parent, God cares more about our character than our comfort. It is God’s loving-kindness in “not yet” that draws us to repentance. He is an intentional Creator that calls us to our customized crosses. But He does not leave us hopeless. God promises to restore decay and death for His children in eternity. But how does this truth change our daily hope?
Our daily cross-carrying is the secret to palpating Calvary for it solidifies our hope in our Savior.
Our good Savior rescues us from our inadequacy and carries us — with our crosses and all. We learn to hope in the Lord, instead of hoping in rescue from our circumstance. We are comforted by the sovereignty of God even in the darkest experiences of our lives. One day in heaven, we will thank Him for telling us “not yet” for we shall see how “yes” would have caused us to love ourselves too much. We will thank him for sparing us from a shallow gospel.
When we understand these truths, the waiting will be less suffocating. In fact, the waiting room can even be a place of rest.
We may not have all of the answers, but we know Who holds them. Let us gather in the waiting room, each with our own chronic ailments and circumstances that are impenetrable to medication and expert advice. Let us keep our eyes focused on Jesus. He is the author of our stories and the perfecter of our faith especially in trial. Let us wait with expectancy for this deliverance in eternity. Let us encourage one another when we receive the disappointing news of “not yet.” And when it is time for our names to be called, and our waiting is over, let us run to our trustworthy Savior. For our Heavenly Father will be standing at the door, welcoming his children home. And the reunion will be sweeter because of the wait.
It will happen. Just not yet.
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved.”Romans 8:18-24
Rachelle Keng is a physician practicing Obstetrics & Gynecology in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she lives with her husband Michael and their two daughters. She cares deeply for people and has a passion for writing about her reflections on life and faith. Rachelle’s oldest daughter has Angelman Syndrome. Her experiences as a special needs mom are often the inspiration for her writing.