A Time to Wait

Dear girls,

Lately I’ve been thinking about those of you who aren’t married, or engaged, or courting, or even “just friends.” I stayed up ‘til past midnight the other night, scribbling down ideas for you.I had plenty of time yesterday (while I was removing wallpaper from our bathroom walls) to think and pray about what I might say to you. But as inspired as I felt then, I’m not so sure when I pull out my laptop and stare at the screen that I have anything important to share.

But I’m going to go on the assumption that you are like me. I’d love to have an older sister: close enough to remember how hard my season of life is, but experienced enough to give me a little advice on what comes next. The writers here have been like that for us, haven’t they? I love talking with older women: it makes me feel that if they have made it thus far, perhaps I can too! For many of us, mothers and grandmothers fill that role. But I still need to talk with those who are in my season of life.

It’s called waiting.

As a teenager, I had every expectation of following in my mother’s footsteps: she was married at nearly 22, and went on to have eight children. If you had told me at 19 that I was about to experience 10 years of singleness, words could not have expressed my misery. Now here I am: 29, longing more than ever for husband and children of my own… and one of the happiest people I know. Such are the surprises of life with Jesus: it is more painful and more joyful then your imagination can ever predict. It’s hardly worth the time, then, to break your heart over an imagined future (good or bad) because it won’t be that way.

Some of you are asking, “What do I do while I wait?” In the years between 13 and (almost) 30, I have found some things that work, and some things that don’t.

What doesn’t work

  • Only seeking God if He’ll talk to me about my love life.
  • Being stoic and pretending I’m fine when I’m not.
  • Using scorn (against myself or the guy) to dampen my emotions.
  • Stealing attention from a guy.
  • Growing my ego at another’s expense.
  • Indulging my imagination in order to satisfy my self.
  • Defining myself primarily as a single.
  • Clinging to my choice for my life.
  • Focusing on the fact that I can see no prospective husband on the horizon.
  • Allowing disappointment to grow into bitterness.

What does work

  • Seeking to know God as my best friend, no matter what my life looks like.
  • Recognizing emotion as having an effect on my life and discussing it frankly with God.
  • Growing to know and love another child of God as he truly is.
  • Unselfishly praying for a guy… who may never know you are doing it. (At least not before heaven).
  • Recognizing that I may not be the best for this guy, and quietly waiting for God to show me.
  • Habitually countering my imagination with the truth: to Whom this guy really belongs, what our true relationship is – today – and what true love will do for him as a result.
  • Defining primarily myself as God’s child, with all the blessings and responsibilities that entails.
  • Continuing to toss the ball back into God’s court, every time my desires come to mind.
  • Recognizing the fact that I am in miracle territory – with the Expert in miracles on my side, and folks like Isaac and Rebekah, Ruth and Boaz, or even Abraham and Sarah for company.
  • Becoming expert at seeing what God has already given me (and keeps giving me daily) and thanking Him for it, while asking with childlike faith for today’s grace…and tomorrow’s dream come true.

He is not waiting.

Why Waiting?

From our perspective, some waiting is purposeful, and some waiting is purposeless. Waiting at 13 isn’t easy, but at least it’s the way it’s supposed to be. Frankly, we feel that a family-hearted woman who is still not married at 30 is not the way it’s supposed to be. The fact that my 33-year-old friend has been married for 6 years without children is not the way it’s supposed to be. The fact that (barring a miracle) Joni Eareckson Tada will spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair is not the way it’s supposed to be.

Elisabeth Elliot defines suffering as “Having something you don’t want, or wanting something you don’t have.”  Everybody has suffering. Even courting, engaged, and married women. Suffering is not the way it’s supposed to be, but it’s part of living in a fallen world. It doesn’t make sense, but God doesn’t try to make it make sense to us. To the oxymoron of a boil-covered, bereaved righteous man in the book of Job, the only answer He gave was Himself.

If it’s hard to see God, try watching for Him in the lives of His suffering children. See the beauty? See the platform for His glory? Are you picking up that incredible fragrance that starts you thinking about heaven? That’s not the answer to suffering: God is. But at least it reminds you of Him. And He is always the way He is supposed to be.

It’s easy to feel a twinge of pain when you encounter the happiness of courting and married friends. Perhaps you want to turn to cynicism: oh, it isn’t as good as it looks. Perhaps you just want to check out of their lives. Or perhaps you may see a picture of God’s heart: this is what He wants to do for all His children. This is what He wants to do for you.

I love the powerful imagery of Psalm 78, where notable among the afflictions of God’s people was the fact that “their virgins had no marriage-song.” What did God care? Well, “then the Lord awoke as one out of sleep, like a mighty man that shouts… and he smote his adversaries backward.” He cared, all right.

I love the powerful wording of the book of Ruth. She appeals to Boaz for help, and he immediately strides off to the city to take up her cause. No wonder Naomi says to Ruth, “Sit still my daughter, for the man will not rest until he has completed the thing today.” That’s God’s heart for you.

This is the secret that has revolutionized my waiting: He is not waiting. He is working on my behalf right now! Why am I still waiting? Because His plan is deeper, broader and more powerful than this one aspect and this one life, and He won’t stop until all things are the way they’re supposed to be. Even if that means I need to wait.

Reality Check

I went to visit a good friend the other night: she’s my age… and has five adorable children. She is everything I should be most jealous of, but it isn’t just jealousy that Mary provokes me to. Of course, bumping against her life (They wake up six times a night??!) reminds me of all that is good about mine, and that provokes me to thankfulness. Bumping against her life matures and re-stokes my childhood vision for motherhood: it’s costly and it’s precious in God’s sight. Remember how the Bible tells us to “provoke one another to love and good works”? Well, Mary provokes me to serious preparation for the answer to my prayers!

Photography: JenniMarie Photography

42 Comments

  1. I’ve been waiting as well, and I’ll be 40 years old soon

    Be glad you are still young and waiting, and not old and waiting.

    😀

  2. HI Elisabeth,

    Your articles on Seasons of Waiting way back in 2008 has been inspiring and encouraging even 4 years later.
    Each time I get discouraged with the long waiting (I am 30 and God’s chosen prince seems no where in the horizon), I read the articles and they remind me of the immense value in my wait.
    Thanks,
    Roseline

  3. I burst into tears the first time I read this. I’m 25, with not a prospect in sight, and skim chance of one appearing any time soon. My life is oh so different then what I thought it’d be when I was 18. I confess I’m really struggling with it all. Oftentimes I try to stay stoic bevauce I’ve been scolded many times for “worrying over silly things and feeling sad for something I don’t have so I need to buck up blah blah”. I don’t have any godly girl friends to share things with so lately it’s just been me & Jesus. But sometimes it’s very, very very hard.

  4. Another Anonymous says:

    Very interesting article. Trust me even in other “seasons” it doesn’t get easier. I’m nearly 50 and I’ve been divorced for over 20 years. I never dreamed I’d still be single at this time, and yeah I tried all the stuff the world advises us to do…only to wind up feeling worse. It’s true, there is no other thing to do but wait on the Lord. I’m glad to have read this article to remind myself of this. If God wills for me to find a husband at my “later” season of life, then it will happen, if not then not.

  5. Millie Jo says:

    MMmm. I love these reminders of God’s faithfulness. I spent a good amount of time in the past longing for a husband, but the more I get to know God the more I can see His love for me in my life now, and it is so sweet I begin to forget that I ever wanted something else. Let’s always remind each other of His satifying love! Thank you for doing that here. I love YLCF!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for that post, Elisabeth! I’m only 18, but your post spoke to me very profoundly. Recently, I’ve been going through a very trying time with regard to singleness. It’s a VERY long story, but let’s just say that I tend to try to cover up my emotions. Note to self: That doesn’t work!
    Thank you again for your wonderful post!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so very much for this post! I recently learned about another friend that has started a courtship, and I have been struggling with why I’m still waiting. These words were so timely (God has a way of doing that)that I have renewed hope and encouragement that God is working while I wait. So thank you so much!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Elisabeth,

    How true! I know all too well what you mean about encountering the happiness of courting and married friends. Just last week I was reminded by the Lord of His great goodness in other’s lives, AS WELL as mine. I had just read an e-mail from a friend, in which she shared with me the exciting progress in growth, of her second child within her. At the end of the letter she truthfully proclaimed, ‘God is good!’
    At first I thought, ‘of course she can say that, she has everything I ‘think’ is good’, but thankfully after a wonderful reminder from the Faithful One, I saw even more clearly the goodness of the Lord in MY life. Though I may not have have what I want right now, I have what I need, and God is working on our behalf and He is always good!
    Thank you for sharing your heart!
    ~Joanna

  9. Cindy,

    Your comments are very much appreciated! I am currently 27 and the hard-learned lessons of contentment and patience are finally sinking in. In fact, the beauty and blessings of being a maiden outside of the marriage relationship – in service to her father’s house and in the Lord’s vineyard, are sweeter than ever!

    If this is the year that God allows me to meet my “prince”, I no longer regret all the years I have spent waiting for him. Come to think of it, has it really been that long – 10 years! – since I was 17?! I trust that it is well worth the wait and my “prince” and I will be better prepared to love one another and serve God together in greater harmony.

    As time passes and the longer we have given our heart solely to our Lord, the more precious this time becomes to us. We are truly free to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul… and pour out our love in service to family, friends and family in the Lord.

    As Elisabeth indicated, when we see what reality has to offer on the “other side”, life still places trial, hardship and imperfection on the path through marriage. Seek to enjoy, no, cherish blessed maidenhood today – it may not be long before this time is behind us!

    Thank you to Elisabeth and others for sharing your thoughts on this topic – especially during a season in which the focus is on romance. There is nothing wrong with being single. Rather than seeing this season as a time of suffering, we can focus on enjoying the abundant blessings of our maiden years.

    ~Jenna

  10. Laura Anne says:

    Thanks so much, Elisabeth.

    And thanks also to Cindy for her comments.

  11. Elisabeth,
    Thank you very much for what you said about suffering, singleness, and the choice/struggle to be content! So many precious aspects in one post… 😀 Thanks, dear! There’s one verse in the Bible saying that the waiting of the righteous shall turn into joy – and I hope you’ll experience this, although I hope even more that your (and my) time of waiting will be over very soon!

  12. Thank you for the timing of these posts. As the world prepares for Valentine’s Day (and I do not), your timely posts are a place where my heart can find solace and rest while being encouraged and gaining faith.

    – B

  13. Christina says:

    Elisabeth, thank you so much for sharing your heart.

    This website has been such an encouragement to me. What a blessing it is to hear from young women in many different stages of life, and to know that through all our differences we all share the same purpose – to love and glorify our Lord.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I appreciated your article, Elisabeth–both this part and the last one. I didn’t meet my “prince” until I was 27, so I had what seemed to me like “too long” to experience the “suffering” that singleness seemed. Yet the Lord was faithful, and before I met him, I was able to yield my dreams to the only One who knows us completely and knows what’s good for us. When I met my husband, I found that indeed–God had been using that time of my waiting to do a deep work in my husband’s life to prepare him for me.

    It’s a conscious choice to be content where we are right now, and sometimes we have to make that choice several times a day. Now I have a beautiful baby girl and a lovely little home and a wonderful husband, yet I find that at times I still have to make the choice to be content. If we learn to be content where we are RIGHT NOW, we will be able to be content all our lives and be a fragrance to others of the Lord’s goodness. I would encourage you (and my other single friends) to continue to use this time to draw close to your heavenly Lover and let Him prepare you for whatever comes next. He is a good Father!

    Cindy

  15. Sara N. Smith says:

    Thank you again! I need to be encouraged, reminded, and assured that God is working on my behalf! Blessed assurance!!!!

  16. God just has a great way of gentlely reminding me of these principles. Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing from your heart!
    Bless you dear!

  17. Mamselle Duroc says:

    Thanks for the beautiful post!

    I’m on the verge of eighteen years old. I haven’t been waiting as long as some girls, but several of my friends just my age have recently been married… and I don’t even have a fellow!

    I’m still very young, and haven’t been experiencing the feelings of waiting for long, but it can be painful no matter what your age. Your post was beautiful and most timely in bringing things back into perspective.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much, Elisabeth.

    Maybe one of the reasons for you having to wait that long is to encourage (YLCF)girls like me right now… I feel so overwhelmed sometimes by the inside and outside pressures, so tired of waiting, and I’m only 21! 🙂

    anyway, I’ve really enjoyed your posts lately; and these particular words just hit so close to home that I’ve (unintentionally:) almost learnt them by heart…

    ‘Such are the surprises of life with Jesus: it is more painful and more joyful then your imagination can ever predict. It’s hardly worth the time, then, to break your heart over an imagined future (good or bad) because it won’t be that way.’

    Once again, a hearty thank you!

    May our Lord bless you abundantly!

    🙂

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Elisabeth, I really needed that right now. 🙂

  20. Possibly this post wasn’t something I wanted to hear, but I definatly needed to hear it.

    Thank you for such an honest and helpful post.

  21. I came across your blog and thank you so much for sharing this one with us..it was a blessing..I too am waiting on my future mate and im 23 and reading your blog inspired me with how to feel in the mean time while waiting and praying..stop by my blog anytime..thank you dear sister..god bless
    jennifer

  22. Millie Jo says:

    MMMmmm. Isn’t it sweet to be with Jesus when we are lonely?!! He satisfies those deep places I doubt a man could. I’m still hoping for “someday,” but if someday never comes, Jesus is so sweet I don’t even think I care!

  23. Kristy Howard says:

    What a wonderful post, Elizabeth- yours is a message that definitely needs to be heard by today’s young women. Although I am a happily married wife and mother in my mid-twenties, I remember what it was like to wait and wait, trying to trust God for an unseen future. I have quite a few friends and family members who are lovely and talented young women longing for marriage but still waiting for their Prince to come… I look forward to sharing your encouraging article with them!

    Blessings, Kristy Howard

  24. Anonymous says:

    This is one of the best singleness articles I’ve read in a long time – so honest and practical that I immediately thanked God for the timely encouragement. As a late-twenties unclaimed treasure myself, I know the struggles you describe as well as the inexplicable contentment and sheer JOY that coming from knowing without a doubt that God is in control and this is right where He wants me today. He is so faithful to continue to refine us and shape us into His image, and though it is not an easy journey, it is beautiful beyond imagining.

    Thank you again for sharing, Elisabeth. May God bless you richly with many reminders of His love as you continue to seek Him first!

    ~A sister

  25. Chantel Harding says:

    It is the same for me, Elisabeth– the posting of something I wrote when I needed to read it myself the most. 🙂

    And thank you.. so much. This has so much truth in it, truth about waiting for God, and what it really means. I am encouraged!

  26. Wow, this was just what I needed to hear. Thank you so much for posting this!! God has been teaching me so much the past few weeks and months about the value of singleness and about self-sacrifice. Not always fun lessons, but so necessary. The older I get, the more I realize that marriage and singleness each come with their own unique struggles and blessings. I found myself nodding my head at each one of the things on your list!! Thanks so much!

  27. Blue Sarah says:

    Yes, thank you Elisabeth, This is just something I needed to hear today. I’m an occasional visitor to the YLCF and just about to put my computer to bed when I thought I’d just go see what word of wisdom or insight you girls might have.

    I’ve never had an older sister but often find that it’s my younger friends who get to be my older sisters in regards to their life stage (if that makes any sense?)

  28. It’s uncanny how often Natalie posts one of my articles just when I most need to hear my own “preaching.”

    (Or rather, to meditate again on what my Heavenly Abba is saying to me!)

    So thanks, Natalie – and thanks for your encouragement, girls!

  29. Hey Lisa I remember prayin’ for you and Katie at one of the gates… I think I said I’d pray for you guys that God would bring you guys something… this topic has been on my mind lately, having to work through some stuff, mostly in my heart talkin’ to good friends and learning about aligning my heart to God’s along this matter… more and more. I’m actually reading “Hinds Feet on High Places” right now and one thing that stood out to me was that “Much-Afraid” told the Shepherd that she did have that longing in her heart basically for one day one man to love her in that special… but I think she exchanged that longing for the thorn of love to be placed in her heart.

    God’s been teachin’ me about release and giving people up recently. It’s more a place of peace… but it is good to have the balance that marriage is a natural and a good desire… but it does have to be balanced and not an obessesion or demand in “my timing, my way, my choice” but a regular release a regular letting go….

    I was a bit surprised to see this posted today because of how it’s been highlighted in my life recently and than I saw that it was you a good friend of mine writing it.. (and cuzin’:)

    love ya!:) I’m pray for you:)

  30. Thank you so much, Elisabeth, for sharing this…it was a great encouragement to me right now…

  31. Wow this was such a great sweet article Elisabeth..thank you!
    I loved your checklist..of both what works and what doesn’t…too much in my life i’ve done what doesn’t work..But i’ll work on what does work 🙂
    Being God’s best friend is so important i loved that one and so many others..:)

    I feel so blessed by all of you on this site, from the writers and the posters like me i feel so blessed and so encouraged by your article, i’m almost 29 myself your age, and i’m in the same situation i’m single, been single for awhile, never married, and I’ve been waiting for MY One and Only for all my life..BUT God’s plan is always best i know that, sometimes we as humans get impatient while we should enjoy our singleness, because that’s when we have most time to cultivate ourselves as a lady and a woman…we have more time to read the Word of God..we have more time to grow..:)

    Think of all the positives and that will make you smile girls :))

    My life also turned out differently than i planned, i thought i’d have a perfect career by now, be married, have kids, have a college degree..almost none of that happened, BUT my life turned out better than i ever dreamed..:)

    And what helps me see my will more clearly in my life and what helps me wait joyfully…IS only 2 things in this world….the Word of God (bible) and Jesus himself.

    please remember Just HOW much God loves all of us….He does 🙂

    ok sorry for the long rambling post yet again..:)

    I just really liked your post Elizabeth and i can relate to so much of what you said 🙂
    thank you very much for this post, and for being BOLD, and still posting even though you thought you didn’t have much to share, you did share so much…thank you :))

    Take care!

    Blessings and HUGS!

    To God be all glory!
    PTL

    In Him, Jane.

  32. You speak to my heart. Thank you! I just celebrated my 24th birthday, and when I look back, I’m not sorry. I have joy unspeakable and a life filled with love. First and foremost from my heavenly Father, and then from my family and friends. I’m busy doing what God has for me, and if it should one day include my “one” and the children I long for, it will be grace and unmerited favor. Yet another expression of undying Love.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Elisabeth, for your heartfelt post. As a 28 year old gal in the same situation as you, I feel comforted by your honesty.

  34. Laura Anne says:

    Wow, Elisabeth. Your post brought emotions I didn’t think I’d have reading through another post on such a familiar topic. Thank you a million! Unfortunately, I think I’ve tried a lot of the “what doesn’t work” items…but I’m inspired to work on the “what does work.” Beautiful, Elisabeth. Thank you again.

  35. Thanks Elisabeth! I appreciated how you shared what didn’t work so that we “younger sisters” can learn from it.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful post, Elizabeth…thank you so much! I’m 23 now, and my young adult life has also been far, far different than I expected as a teenager…but God’s plans are much better than ours, aren’t they, though not often easy. Thank you for sharing your heart and insights with us as a sister. May the Lord continue to bless, use, and guide you.

    Blessings,
    Kiersti

  37. Sarah Ann says:

    Elisabeth, thank you for taking time to encourage those who are in the same stage as you. It was a great encouragement to hear from you. Continue to keep your focus in Him!

  38. Stephanie Marie says:

    I’m only 16, but I understand what it’s like to be afraid of a “single” future. Thank you, Elisabeth, for writing this post. It reminded me that God is our best, and that ur plans are not our own. Thank you!

  39. Anonymous says:

    I’d add to just keep holding on, holding to faith and sweet hope in God’s good plan! I married fairly late (almost 31)–there was NO one on my horizon for so achingly long. I never was able to get 100% victory over my emotions–I struggled through every single day of my life, I think! But GOD moved in my life in quite a miraculous way–so miraculous yet commonplace that it took me months to realize what was happening!

    When God started revealing His man for me, that man did not look, act, talk, or behave like my dream husband that I’d been carefully cultivating all my single years. So, I didn’t recognize him!! But God used a slowly grown friendship over months and a couple years to show me this man’s worth–deep abiding godliness, and a kindness that embodies grace.

    So hold on; trust Him; and prepare yourself for joy! Marriage has brought many joys; but many unforeseen sacrifices; many opportunities for unselfishness. It is as divinely excruciating as singlenes, at times. But, it fulfils God’s purpose for us in all seasons–to learn contentment and Christ-likeness.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I know that this post is over a year old, but I needed to reply to this post as it has been a blessing to me. I just turned 30 and have struggled with the “death” of my dream to be married. Many do suggest that you should be happy all by yourself, while coming home to yourself daily, enjoying your career all by yourself, spending precious moments all by yourself, but yet these well meaning people are married and are in no hurry to give up their spouses. However, Anonymous post helped me to realize that the struggle that I am having emotionally with singleness is nothing new and that opening my options and waiting on Gods timing is essential. I really appreciate her last part that gives insight into the real deal of marriage, the part that the fairytale stories fail to mention. Thank you as I wait on God’s timing.

  40. Elizabeth says:

    Wow! Elisabeth, thank you so much for writing this post and sharing these thoughts. Whenever I sit down to write an article (for anything other than my own little blog, that is!), I always doubt that I have anything important to share. I know it’s hard to write with that doubt in mind, so thank you for having the courage and perseverence to write and share ANYWAY! I appreciate it so much; an older sister is something I am to others – and something I’ve wanted for myself all my life! Thank you taking the time to be an older sister … and write a beautiful post. I feel so refreshed and encouraged by it!

  41. Anonymous says:

    Yes, you can fairly assume that some of us are like you! Thanks for sharing that Elisabeth!

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