What happens when you encounter a problem with no solution? It happens all the time, right? Even more than we recognize, more than we know. It’s not that there’s nothing you can do, but you have no good choices. There may be options, various roads to go down, but none of them are good. They only make the problem worse. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do but wait.
Maybe you have a health crisis. It’s not terminal, you’re not going to die from it, but it’s not going to go away and you have to deal with it. Or maybe you’re stuck in your career. You’ve been trying to climb the ladder, but the ladder you’re climbing is cut off. You thought you could advance here, but you find yourself pushing against a glass ceiling. The only options are to go back to school and start a new career, or simply deal with it. And it feels like none of the options are good.
Maybe you’re in a financial mess and you don’t know how to fix it. You feel like every step you take is like an inch up Mount Everest. It’s like throwing pennies in a fountain, and it’s not going to get better for a long, long time. Or maybe you’re in a marriage that is an unhappy mess. You don’t want to get a divorce and neither does your spouse, and you’ve decided ‘this just is what it is.’ You thought it was going to turn out better than this, and now you just feel stuck. Regardless of where you are with your family, friends, career, finances, marriage, kids, health – you have found yourself at a crossroads.
Faith is won or lost at this crossroads. Faith is either improved, deepened and made incredibly profound, or it’s lost all together. When we find ourselves in the waiting room, we find ourselves thinking these things:
We believe God is absent or, at best, silent. He isn’t present. He’s not here with me. He’s not part of my life. When we’re waiting for something to change, we think he isn’t paying attention. Or at worst, we are way down the list of priorities and he’ll never get to us. We present our requests to God, and we think he’s saying, “Are you kidding me?? Have you seen what is happening in the Middle East? Have you noticed the situation happening with the current election? You see what I’m dealing with, and you bring me this?? I’ll get to you when I get to you.”
We believe God is angry and we’re being punished for something. We try to appease God. We own up to things we’ve never talked to God about. We start to bargain with him, and we say things like, “If you will, I will,” and “If you will only, then I will never…”
We believe God is unfair. We begin to compare our situation to somebody else’s life – a coworker, friend, family, or neighbor—and we begin to say, “God, I can’t believe they have the life they have. I know the kind of life he leads, and I can’t believe he got the raise. I know how she treats her husband, and I can’t believe you’re taking care of her. They don’t show up at church, they don’t give their time or money. I’ve been faithful to you, I’ve honored you with my entire life (which isn’t really true, but when we’re bargaining with God we say things that aren’t true). I can’t believe you aren’t taking better care of me.”
We believe God is arbitrary. When we are pleading with God to do something, invariably somebody will say something stupid, like how good God is because the HOA approved the color of their house. We begin to hear about people rejoicing over the piddly things they believe God has done, like finding car keys or granting parking spaces at the mall or approving HOA colors, and we begin to decide we want nothing to do with a God like that.
At this crossroads, faith is built or destroyed. Roots grow deeper, or faith is completely blown away.
When you believe this, your choices put you in a place where you begin to leave God behind. When you believe God is absent, then you will begin to operate as if he can’t see you. You begin to believe you don’t need to honor him or do what he’s asked you to do. If you believe he is angry with you, then you will retreat from him relationally. You will believe that he’s unfair, and then you will want nothing to do with him. You could easily believe these things. And why wouldn’t you?
In the waiting room, God is with you—though you may not feel like he’s there. He loves you, even though what’s happening doesn’t feel very loving. Even though you think God is doing something in your life that’s unfair, it is true that God brings justice. Eventually, ultimately, always justice.
God is with you and he loves you and he provides grace. It can feel like God is absent, angry and unfair, but what if your circumstances are not an indication of what God is up to? Even though you feel like God is absent, angry and unjust, what if you consciously decide to believe that he loves you, he is with you, and he provides grace? What if you make the conscious decision to believe this is true, even if you don’t feel like it’s true, even if it seems the opposite of what you see and feel? You can choose to believe he is for you, with you, on your side, and at work behind the scenes. This can mean all the difference in life’s greatest waiting rooms.
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Tricia Lott Williford lives and writes in Denver. She attends Southeast Christian Church in Parker, Colorado, and many of her articles on faith are born from the conversations and teachings of her pastor, Phil Vaughan. You can join the conversation with Southeast’s online services this weekend, and you can give God five minutes today with their simple daily reading plan.
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