A few years ago God spoke clearly to my husband and I about adopting. We already had two beautiful daughters, and yet felt that God’s command to “care for the orphans” meant for us, that we should welcome one of them into our family. So we filled out all the paperwork, we paid the fees, and we waited … We hit a few bumps along the way, but almost a year and a half into our journey, on September 6, 2013, our adoption agency told us about a little 18-month old boy who had been identified for our family. Our agency only needed a couple more signatures from government officials in his African country, after which we could begin the process of bringing him home – a process that shouldn’t take more than a few months.
Instead, due to bureaucracy, power struggles, and a web of poverty and injustice, we ended up waiting two years to bring our son home. 729 days passed from the time we learned about him to the day he was safely and forever home. We spent every one of these days waiting, praying, hoping … experiencing set-back after set-back, and feeling defeated many more days than we felt hopeful. We spent every one of these days wondering if our son had enough food, if he was healthy, safe, or if anybody ever came for him when he cried. For two years I wondered what it would feel like to hold my child in my arms, what his voice sounded like, what he smelled like. I longed to kiss his cheeks, burrow my face into his dark curls, or watch a smile form on his face.
Lessons on waiting
During those two years God taught me about waiting. I was a reluctant student, I admit. This was not a lesson I wanted to learn, not this way. And yet, with nothing left but to ask God for the grace to make it through just one more day, that is exactly what He gave me: Grace to make it through each day. And as those days turned into weeks, months, and finally years, this is what He taught me about waiting:
1) Wait Expectantly
We all wait for something. We may wait for good news from the doctor, or wait for reconciliation in a relationship. We wait for a difficult circumstance to be lifted, a strayed friend or family member to find their way home. The Bible speaks very clearly about casting all our cares onto God (1 Peter 5:7), about praying continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and about asking God so we may receive (Matthew 7:7). We may not get what we want at exactly the time or in the way that we want it. But God’s Word promises us that our prayers will never be in vain and that God hears our prayers. Prayer changes us. It reminds us of our dependence on our Heavenly Father. It humbles us, it changes our perspective, it lifts our hearts.
2) Wait Expectantly … for Jesus
At the very core, we are waiting for more than what is missing in the here and now. Deep inside, we are waiting for healing, reconciliation, restoration, hope, and peace in our hearts – things only Jesus can give us. Our hearts long for Jesus. So while we pray for whatever circumstance to change, may we ultimately pray to know Jesus more every day. May we pray to experience and share his love, and to worship and become more like him. Our hearts yearn for God’s presence in our lives (Isaiah 26:9) – and to acknowledge it is Him we are truly waiting for will help us find comfort and rest, even in our time of waiting.
3) Waiting Expectantly for Jesus … Who Has Already Come.
This was one of the most difficult and yet most comforting lessons to learn in our wait: Jesus is with us already. His presence, hope, comfort, forgiveness and love are available to me every day – even in the midst of the most agonizing wait. The season of Advent teaches us this: Yes, we are waiting for our Lord Jesus … to right our wrongs, to heal our diseases, to transform our relationships – and one day he will, completely. And yet: He has already come! Christmas reminds us that He came! Into our brokenness, our imperfect lives, and into our sin. As we lift our gaze from our own circumstances onto our Savior, we are reminded that His victory has already been won. His story with us will end well – whether our prayers are answered or not. He will reign over our life and this world with sovereignty, goodness, and power, and our hearts are secure in Him. His forgiveness and His love are available to us for all eternity. And because of this, He ultimately and always deserves our worship – regardless of our circumstances.
On September 5, 2015, we landed on American soil with our then 3½ year-old son. Our daughters met their brother for the first time at the airport, and our family of five was complete at last. The miracles that God performed so our son could finally come home are too many to share. As we learned details of the two years he spent in his orphanage, waiting for us, we were humbled to realize how God had answered so many of our prayers, even if we never saw it at the time. My heart is filled with gratitude and joy when I think about what God has done.
And yet in smaller ways, I sometimes find myself waiting – even now. Maybe I’m waiting for our son to fully adjust to living in a family, I’m waiting for trauma-related behaviors to subside, or for his health to fully recover from the malnutrition and neglect of his early life. But when I catch myself waiting impatiently instead of being content with God’s blessings in my life, I remind myself of this:
I am waiting expectantly … for Jesus … who has already come.