“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” —Psalm 27:14
There’s a lot of waiting that goes on in our house.
One teenager waits to see if he’ll be accepted into a technical program that will greatly alter his remaining high school years and give him practical skills and knowledge that he feels are relevant to his life now and in the future.
Another teenager waits to see if she’ll get a resident tutoring position at college that will greatly affect her financial situation, her commitment to living on campus, and future professional and academic possibilities.
My advice to both of them is about the same: Do what you can to achieve this goal, don’t miss any deadlines, and then wait patiently. And remember that no matter what the result, God knows what’s best for you. Even if the outcome isn’t what you would have wanted right now, it’s amazing how God works behind the scenes in our lives and we sometimes realize only years later that he did, in fact, work everything for our good.
They nod and say “I know.” I believe they really do know. I think they understand (as much as any of us can understand) that sometimes getting our heart’s desire at any given moment isn’t always what’s best for us in the long term, and often it’s only God who can see that distinction.
But the teenagers aren’t the only ones who are waiting. I’ve been waiting, too. I’ve had some healthcare decisions to make that were unexpected and emotionally difficult. My doctor subtly encouraged a certain decision but ultimately left it up to me. I struggled and prayed and yes, Googled. Through all of this, I was leaning a certain way (not my doctor’s way), but what I was really doing was waiting. Not for the “right” decision to be revealed to me, not for an expert to come along and tell me what to do, not even for a friend to step in and give me decision-making advice or wisdom.
What I was waiting for—what I was praying for—was peace.
Sure, I asked God to help me make the right choice, but that was very secondary to what I was really praying for. Because what I’ve found is that God can work with any decision you happen to make—any outcome—not just the “right” one. And isn’t that comforting, because we’ve all made wrong decisions in our lives and will probably continue to do so, in both big and small ways, until we are no more on this earth. For some, it can even be paralyzing to worry about making the right decision versus making any decision at all.
So what I prayed for most of all was something that God has unfailingly provided to me through the years, even when I haven’t asked for it. In times of waiting and difficult decision making, as I’ve struggled and agonized over choices and talked endlessly to my husband (sorry, husband), ultimately what God has given me is peace of mind and peace in my heart. The kind of peace that makes the actual decision seem much less important than the need for emotional and spiritual stillness. It’s the feeling that God is looking out for my heart, above all, no matter what the outcome or “rightness” of the decision. I know this peace is a precious gift, and when faced with tough decisions, it’s now the first and most important thing I ask for.
Eventually, we all receive answers (wanted or unwanted) to our prayers. In the case of my children, the first teen received the answer of “yes,” and is nearly finished with his technical program. He has enlisted in the Army and will serve somewhere in the world as a wheeled vehicle mechanic for the next four years. The second teen received an answer of “no,” and moved back home to finish her college years. She also changed her major to a field she loves, expanded her horizons with a part-time job, and reconnected with old friends—all unexpected and positive results from her time of waiting and the answer of “no.”
Like my children, I’ve spent a lot of time waiting in life. Waiting and agonizing over decisions regarding college, career, parenting, and more. These days, though, when I’m waiting on the Lord, I’m waiting for his peace in my heart. I know he’ll give it if I only have the patience to wait.
(This post originally appeared on EnCourage.)