How To Wait For The Lord When Life Feels Like Garbage

Life has felt pretty crappy lately.

Now let me just say that, in the grand scheme of things, my life is pretty much cupcakes and bounce houses. In a world filled with Boko Haram, school shootings, cancer, and a thousand other heart-wrenching tragedies, my life is pretty cushy.

Nevertheless, it still feels…hard.

For the last three months, we’ve had a least one child sick and home from school almost every day. On top of that, my old nemesis depression has been dogging my footsteps, making me feel like I wake up under a dark cloud.

It’s been hard to wait for the Lord to bring relief. Rest. Peace. Joy.

And I know I’m not alone. All of us have something we’re waiting for the Lord to do.

To bring a spouse.

To give life a barren womb.

To save a wandering child.

To repair a once-treasured, now shattered relationship.

We know God is faithful. We know that he’s good and the loves us. But it’s so excruciatingly hard to wait for the Lord to act. To move. To deliver. To rescue.

Thankfully, Scripture itself is a story of waiting. Abraham waited for a son, Joseph waited for deliverance, David waited to be made king, Israel waited for a Messiah, and we all wait for the return of the serpent crusher.

God’s word has much to say about how we wait. Biblical waiting isn’t passive, like waiting for a train to arrive. It’s an active, aggressive sort of waiting.

So how do we wait for the Lord in a way that honors him, fills us with hope, and gives us strength to carry on even when we feel like we’re in the dark?

Here are four ways.

#1 – We Wait For The Lord In Faith

There are two types of waiting.

The first type is unsure, fearful waiting. We’re not sure if God is going come through, as if he’s some sort of unreliable parent who forgets to pick up his kids at soccer practice.

We hope God delivers us…

…but what if he doesn’t?

This kind of waiting is displeasing and dishonoring to God.

The second type is waiting in strong faith. We’ve run all the numbers, calculated the odds, and can’t figure out how God is going to come through for us.

Nevertheless, we trust him because we know his character. We know that he’s infinitely good and loving, and that he will deliver us, even if that deliverance isn’t the kind we expected. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 spells it out clearly:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

When life is in shambles, one of our greatest temptations is to lean on our own understanding. To try to figure everything out. To play out every scenario in our heads and determine which one is most likely.

We become like divine weathermen, trying to map out which way God’s providence will blow.

But when we wait for the Lord in faith, we make a conscience effort to reject our own understanding. Our understanding is extraordinarily limited.

I mean, seriously, think about it…

We’re aware of about 1/1,000,000,000th of what is happening in every circumstance.

God knows everything that’s happening in our lives and HE knows exactly what he will do.

Waiting that honors God is characterized by faith in his character.

#2 – We Wait For The Lord Loudly

Have you ever noticed that when David was waiting for the Lord to deliver, he was very loud about it?

For example, in Psalm 35:17 he says:

How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions!

David waited in faith, but he certainly wasn’t quiet, meek, and mild while he was waiting. He was constantly crying out to the Lord for deliverance. At times, you could even mistake the intensity of his requests for irreverence.

But David knew that God was good, faithful, and kind. He knew that God loved to give good gifts, including deliverance, to his children. And so, like any child, he asked for that deliverance repeatedly and loudly.

Jesus reinforced this truth with the parable of the persistent widow. She pestered and harassed the unrighteous judge until he couldn’t take it any longer. If even a corrupt judge will respond to persistent requests, how much more will our loving God?

Waiting that honors God is characterized by persistent pleas for deliverance.

#3 – We Wait For The Lord Patiently

When it comes to waiting, I am the world’s least patient person. They could make a reality show out my impatience. When traffic gets congested, I transform into Jeff Gordon, cutting left, zagging right, anything to make forward progress.

If a YouTube video buffers for more than 3.2 seconds, I’m gone. Heck, I even watch some YouTube videos on 2x speed (IT’S A SICKNESS, OKAY?!!).

When it comes to waiting for God to deliver me…

…again, not so patient.

To quote Queen, “I want it all and I want it now.”

And, of course, God always gives me what I want, when I want it, because I know what’s best for me.

Except that I don’t, and if God did give me everything I wanted right when I asked for it, I would probably be dead or living in a van down by the river (See: Matt Foley, motivational speaker).

Psalm 84:11 is a sharp reminder of how God operates:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

If something is good for me, God will give it to me at the appropriate time. He’s not going to hold back a single blessing from me, and he’s going to give them to me when I’ll get the most goodness from them and he’ll get the most glory.

It was good for David to be king of Israel, but first he had to hide in the desert caves.

It was good for Abraham to have a son, but first there needed to be no doubt that both him and Sarah were completely barren.

It will be glorious when Christ returns, but first the full number of people must be saved.

God doesn’t serve up undercooked blessings. When the time is right, he delivers the full course meal.

Until then, we’re called to wait for the Lord patiently.

#4 – We Wait For The Lord Dependently

The Apostle Paul knew a thing or twenty about waiting. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, he wrote about his thorn in the flesh:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

This thorn in the flesh was no joke. Paul was no pansy. He had been tossed in prison, almost stoned to death, beaten with rods, pursued by people who wanted to kill him, and shipwrecked, all for the sake of the gospel.

And yet, this thorn was so bad that Paul pleaded with God three times to take it away. Whatever the thorn was – blindness, persecution, demonic attack – it was made Paul feel desperate for deliverance.

There’s no indication in scripture that God ever removed the thorn, but what we do know is that while Paul was waiting for deliverance he depended mightily on the sustaining grace of God.

Paul’s thorn forced him to throw his entire weight on God’s sustaining grace and power. That was the only way he could survive.

The same is true for us. The only way we can survive in our waiting is to throw ourselves fully on God. We are completely and totally dependent on him.

If we don’t wait dependently on the Lord, we end up bitter, dried up, and hopeless. The only way to survive the long dark is to cling to Christ, the true light.

We wait for the Lord dependently, relying on his power and not our own.

Don’t Just Stand There, Get Waiting!

There are few things harder than waiting for God to deliver us. But it’s crucial to remember that even when it feels like absolutely nothing is happening, God is working.

I’m reminded of the scene in the C.S. Lewis book Voyage of the Dawn Treader when the ship sails into an inky black cloud. They encounter a man who tells them that they’re in a place where their nightmares come true.

Just when things seem to be at their worst, Lucy calls out to Aslan, asking him to deliver them. Suddenly, a brilliant, shining albatross flies over the ship and around Lucy, who is standing in the crows nest. It leads them out of the darkness and back into the light.

Lewis then writes:

But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.

You may be in the dark, and it may seem as though it’s never going to end.

But take courage, dear heart.

Stephen Altrogge

I'm a husband, dad, writer. I drink too much coffee and know too much about Star Wars. I created The Blazing Center. I've also written some books which people seem to like. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook

29 comments

  • Back on April 10th of this year I was arrested, when the day came for a bond reduction
    hearing, my lawyer waived the bond reduction, as she knew that I was unable to afford
    the bond for $75,000, so it was sit in jail, but I asked her to go back to court and ask for
    a bond reduction hearing, in June we got a new hearing and I received a bond that I could
    afford and was released, I went back to court in February and the charge was dismissed.
    The point of the whole matter is this, during the whole 108 days that I was incarcerated I
    prayed Acts 16:25-26, guess what I got my earthquake and not only was I released, in the
    end my charge was dismissed. Is it worth waiting on God? YES!!!!!! In all things wait on
    God to give you the answer that He want, not the answer that you want. Thank you Steven
    for your blogs, they are very informative and to the point and most always just what I’m
    needing to hear at the time. GOD BLESS RON

  • Very instructive and practical way to follow as waiting for the Lord will ultimately reward all who wait on the Lord boldly and loudly, faithfully, patiently, dependently.

  • Thank you, Stephen. My husband and I have gone through a particularly tough year with medical issues in our family and ministry issues. He has used you very powerfully in my life this to grow me and encourage me when I’ve felt like giving up. Thank you for being faithful in continually pointing us back to scripture and to Christ.

  • LOL you sound like my 24 he old son, about star wars at least. I’ve been following a teacher who may suspect causes of insidious depression. I’ve enjoyed your blog, wish you blessings. It looks like what I imagined I wanted to start but am not disciplined enough.

  • I’m reminded to build upon the times God has delivered me. We do not offend God when we cry out to Him and say , ” COME TODAY, rescue us, deliver us, heal us, protect our children, bring them back to You, restore our finances”

  • Really good read Stephan. God has certainly used your struggles to cause you to pen truth for others. Thank you for serving Him.

  • I have been learning to wait on the Lord. My transmission went out at the end of June. I had a small pickup to use locally, but was waiting on God to see if I should fix it or buy something else. Yes, it’s been 9 months, but He began to tell me to fix it. A man from church offered me the money and the fix is on the way. I know God was teaching me to wait. Seems it was harder for my friends than for me. Your message is a great reminder to me that I need and will save. Thank you.

  • I’m in the middle of a waiting period right now. One issue is being dealt with right now and the others are in the future……how much in the future is unknown. The ones in the future are potentially much more difficult and could go in any direction. Ultimately, God will determine the direction and provision.

    This scripture came to mind,
    “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”. Isaiah 30:15 NIV

    Thank you for your post.
    Blessings, Virginia

  • That was so powerful and i need to practices this. May God bless so and continue to encourage us with this type of the word.

  • Great stuff Stephen and particularly for me now cos i’ve been waiting for a long time for God to sort certain things in my life.
    Thing is I think that the key word in all these periods of waiting and trials is surrender. I spent too long saying ” Lord i’m in trouble could you do this and that” , kinda telling him how to fix the problem! Now I just say “Lord help me but in your way. Your will be done” And we therefore have to wait for his perfect timing. Reading your post makes me feel less alone when i’m waiting.
    Oh and by the way. I’m from England and hadn’t heard of Matt Foley. Just watched it on youtube. Thanks for making me laugh as well.

  • I shared your post on my Facebook, I recently ran across some things you have written and they have been divinely timed, love affirmation like this! Loved the encouragement.

  • Stephen, I am so thankful for your words here, and for the comments above (Ronald Wendt, yours in particular). I’ve been married 21 years and came to faith after having the first of our five children, twin boys who are now 19. My atheist husband and I have struggled in our marriage for many years now. Everything exploded last month when he was arrested and jailed for assaulting our 17-year-old daughter and making terroristic threats. A homeschooling family, we now have no income and the future is uncertain. The Lord has gently and patiently told me over and over to wait, and to “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43: 18-19) I am hearing crazy and amazing things from friends who have reached out to my husband, words like “conviction” and “God has orchestrated this” coming from him, and learning that he is attending prayer groups at the prison. Time will tell if these are empty words from a desperate man, or an honest acknowledgement of a sovereign God that will lead to repentance and surrender.
    I have prayed for the Lord to help me to wait well. Your words written here are part of the answer to that prayer, a great help, practical and tangible advice I can choose every day. Thank you so much for writing them.
    By the way, I too suffer from depression. I am praying that the Lord will lift you up, just as He has lifted me, and fill you with peace, joy, and hope as you wait in the circumstances He has allowed for you. God bless you richly, beloved brother.

  • Stephen,
    How do you do what you are doing? You break through walls of depression (yours, other’s, mine) with the power of your written words of truth. You are actually doing what you know you should be doing. How do you do that? I’m still refusing to do the housework, praying, having people for dinner, being a friend, etc. that I should be doing. I wallow in despair of not doing more for the Lord’s sake. How do you do what you are doing? You have encouraged me to wait, to renew my mind by the washing of the word, and to ACCEPT that truly I am set free from depression by the cup of the new covenant; there is new life in the blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I belong to God, it is early in the morning, this is the day I shake off the bands of unworthiness. He calls me by name. Yes, take courage, dear heart. Stephen, you do what you are doing because you are an overcomer, you are God’s, you do it because you are walking in God’s Spirit — accept it, mighty man of God.

  • This is helpful; thank you! My recent experience has affirmed these truths. I wrestle with bipolar disorder and anxiety, and I’ve been at the brink of suicide several times since Christmas. I was praying a lot and pleading for deliverance, but I wasn’t in the Word as much as I should have been. God led me to three scriptures that have helped me tremendously:

    “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) (KJV)

    “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” (Psalm 94:17-19) (ESV)

    “…our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:7-9) (ESV)

    I hope others will find hope in these promises as well.

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