How Long Have You Been Waiting?
by Ed Arcton
The Gift of Unanswered Prayer
I have been praying the same prayer for healing for more than twenty years.
If you’ve been praying for one particular thing over months or years or decades, then you know how exhausting and difficult it can feel to keep returning to God with the same petition.
I was just a child when I developed trichotillomania — a hair-pulling condition — and while it’s not a life-threatening condition, it has been life-altering for me. Imagine not being able to stop pulling out your own hair, even though you hate how it makes you look — and feel. That’s been my daily experience for more than half of my life.
“I have been praying the same prayer for healing for more than twenty years now.”
I’ve been asking God to do what no doctor, therapy, or medication can: heal me. I have tried various therapies and supplements, and I continue to seek to walk in healing, but there’s no clear “cure” for trichotillomania. I know that if I’m going to be healed, I will need a gift of grace from God himself. And while I wholeheartedly believe in God’s ability to heal me, I also know that he hasn’t healed me over these last two decades. Not yet.
Therefore, I wait.
Why Waiting Hurts
If I’m honest, waiting is something I would prefer to avoid on any level, from waiting for a prayer to be answered all the way down to waiting in line at the grocery store. Why? Because waiting elicits the feeling of helplessness — of having to rely on someone else to act on my behalf.
Waiting forces me to come to terms with my own weakness. It’s what waiting does to all of us: when we can’t work harder to get what we want, or when we can’t manipulate life to turn out the way we want it to, or when we can’t pay enough money or get enough help to achieve what our heart desperately desires, we are left with the truth of our own insufficiency: we are weak.
“God is with you in your waiting: he has heard every prayer, listened to every cry, kept track of every sorrow.”
And we aren’t in control. Not even a little bit. We have to rely on someone else — on God — to act on our behalf.
It’s difficult and humbling to come to terms with our own inability to make anything happen. When we have prayed and longed and hoped and begged and done all that we can and still — still — there is no change in our circumstances, we are forced to stop our striving and simply wait, in large part because there is nothing else for us to do. We must stop and pause and look to God to act. And in that waiting, at the end of our proverbial rope, we will become aware of our inability to attain anything of lasting value on our own.
Gift of Insufficiency
Although I never would have chosen these decades of waiting for myself, I can honestly say that being forced to come to terms with my weakness and my inability to change my own circumstances has ultimately been a gift to me. This loss of the illusion of control has been one of the best and hardest things I have had to accept. And while trichotillomania is the thing that set this journey in motion, the truth is that it’s just a microcosm of my whole existence: no matter what aspect of my life we’re talking about, I am unable to fix myself, heal myself, or save myself.
In my waiting, I have come to terms with my complete insufficiency in all things, and I have flung myself at the feet of Christ and asked him to do what I cannot. I have asked him to accomplish all that I need — not only the healing of my body, but also of my soul.
And he has healed me. He has healed my soul through his life, death, and resurrection, and one day my body will be healed, as well. I don’t know if he will heal me physically anytime in the next decade or two, but I do know that a day is coming when he will make all things new (Revelation 21:5), when my body will be just as whole as my soul.
Communion with Christ in the Waiting
In the meantime, I am grateful for this long season of waiting, as difficult as it continues to be. Waiting has pushed me to the edge of myself, and it has been there that I have been given the opportunity to see that only Christ is capable and able and in control. This is a treasure — to be able to see clearly that Christ is the only strong one, and that he does not despise or turn away from my weakness (Hebrews 4:15). In fact, he views our weaknesses as opportunities for his glory to be displayed in our lives (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“In our waiting, we have the gift of knowing God is strong in our weakness and present in our sorrow.”
And so, in the waiting — in what may even feel like languishing — we are given the treasure of communion with God. He is with us in the waiting: he has heard every prayer, listened to every cry, kept track of every sorrow (Psalm 56:8). One day, all of our waiting will come to an end in his glorious return. Until then, we have the greater gift of Christ himself — and of knowing that our Savior is all-sufficient, no matter how insufficient we may be. We have the gift of knowing that he is strong in our weakness and present in our sorrow.
Even if we wait until his coming for the answer to our prayers, we will still be a rich people. For if Christ is all that we have, he is more than enough for every need, every prayer, and every season of waiting that we face.
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