Why Suspense is a Necessary Element in Our Waiting Stories


Have you noticed that your favorite novels have the necessary element of suspense? that you like the book a little less when you can guess how the story ends from the very first chapter?

God is writing an excellent story for your life, and suspense is a necessary element. Because it’s during our waiting periods that God develops our patience, molds our character, and teaches us our most crucial life lessons.

I love to read. And in my favorite stories, the hardships the heroine experiences make her stronger or smarter. The obstacles in her way guide her to deeper relationships. Overcoming problems leads to unexpected rewards.

At the end of the book, you discover each plot twist had a purpose. Every ordeal finally makes sense.

The novels I like the least are the ones where the ending feels . . .unfinished. The protagonist strives to rise above her problems. She works to surmount the barriers in her way. And she almost succeeds. But in the end, nothing is resolved. After chapters and chapters of searching for the love of her life, the heroine of the story never finds him. Or the lawyer works to overcome big bad corporations but loses his law practice, and the battle must continue without him. Nothing makes sense.

While some literature may favor the more “realistic” ending, those plot conclusions make me want to throw the book at the wall. Reading a dissatisfying story seems like one big waste of time.

And maybe that is one reason we hate it when God asks to wait for an answer to prayer. We’re afraid the prolonged time spent in a suspenseful chapter of our lives will culminate in one big disappointment.


That’s when we need to remember that God is the author of our stories. Even though we can’t see how all the twists and turns in our plotline are going to work out, He can. Because God is at work in our lives, all of our hardships can strengthen our faith in Him. The obstacles in our lives can drive us to a deeper relationship with our loving Father. As the Spirit helps us overcome problems, we see the rewards of peace and contentment.

Waiting well means trusting that God is at work even in long chapters of uncertainty or heartache. The Lord can give purpose to our lives even in the middle of delay. God-given purpose comes in all shapes and sizes, and it is not granted solely to those with prominent positions or hefty bank accounts. We wait well when we are waiting for Christ, because it is only through the Messiah that any of us can have a happy ending to our story.

You might wish to write a predictable story for your life, but be confident that in every plot twist, God has a purpose. Every agonizing difficulty can be transformed in God’s hand. And while you’re still in this confusing middle-of-the-story time, remember: God is leaning in. He sees you as you wait. He hears your cries. He reassures you that He has the ending of your tale all worked out.

Every suspenseful plot element has purpose in your magnificent story.

Next step: Write a prayer thanking your Heavenly Father that He has a purpose for every plot twist in your life story. Ask Him for strength and peace as you wait.

This post is an excerpt from my new book Waiting: A Bible Study on Patience, Hope, and Trust.

Waiting Cover002 - Copy (2)Check it out! The book studies the lives of:

  • Sarah
  • Hannah
  • The Widow of Zarapheth
  • Esther
  • Anna
  • The Woman with a 12-year Hemorrhage
  • Martha
  • Ten Virgins

Through their examples, we find hope for the delays in our lives. We learn how to wait well.

Find the book on Amazon or CPH.org

When You Are Waiting

soul waits - Copy

This December we are going to examine the characters of Christmas. We’ll look into the lives of the people who were part of the Christmas story.

Let’s start with Elizabeth and her tale of waiting. Elizabeth begins the story of Christmas with a miraculous birth of her own.

Luke describes Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah as “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6).  Both of them carefully obeyed God’s laws for worship and daily life. But they had a great sadness—Elizabeth was barren. Plus, Luke tells us that she and Zechariah were both advanced in years. Years ago when I was struggling to get pregnant, people tried to comfort me by saying, “Don’t worry. You’re young. You’ll get pregnant soon.” No one was saying those words to Elizabeth any more. Elizabeth waited and waited and waited and still was not blessed with a child. All hope of ever having a child had long faded. It had now become, humanly speaking, an impossibility.

Then one day, Zechariah is surprised by the visit of the angel Gabriel who tells him that God has heard his prayers and that they will soon have a son!

Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. (Luke 1:13-15)

And if that isn’t enough to knock over Zechariah with a feather, Gabriel goes on to tell the old priest that his son will be the one to prepare the people for the Savior!

This story is so encouraging to me! Elizabeth waited and waited for a baby.

We all wait. Wait for news about the new job. Wait for healing. Wait for the restoration of a relationship. And we hate it. Wait is a four-letter-word that we want to avoid.

But when I look at the stories in the Bible I see that God often made His people wait. It seems to me that often He didn’t work out the answer to the problem right away because the delay made the answer that much more miraculous. The birth of Isaac was that much more remarkable because he was born to ninety-year-old Sarah. Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt was even more amazing after spending years in prison. The Israelites possession of the Promised Land was more astounding after being enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, than if Jacob’s descendants had slowly taken over the region.

And now God drew attention to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s baby through a long delay.Because Elizabeth gave birth when she was “well advanced in years,” it seemed obvious that this child was going to be special.

Not only would the baby John be a significant addition to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s family, he would be important to the whole nation of Israel—because He would prepare the people for the coming of the Savior.

God was doing something bigger than answering a prayer for a baby. He was answering the prayer for a Savior. If John was going to prepare hearts for the arrival of the Savior it meant Messiah was coming soon!

So whatever you are waiting for look for God’s hand in it. He may be working out something even bigger than you can imagine!

Next step: What are you waiting for? Write it down on a piece of paper and then write out a prayer asking God to help you be patient as He works out His will. Ask Him to help you see the bigger thing He is working on through the delay.


When You’re In the Waiting Room of Life



Are you in a season of waiting?

One of my friends feels like she is in a state of limbo right now. She and her husband are considering moving away from cold Illinois winters to a warmer climate. But because they have not yet made the decision to move to a new location, my friend also feels like she can’t move forward in life. Should she avoid getting involved in activities here because they will be moving soon? Or should she dive into new experiences because they are staying?

The waiting room of life is an uncomfortable spot. As we sit, waiting for a door to open to our next phase of life, we wonder, “What now?” and “What next?”

And just like in a doctor’s waiting room, when we are forced to wait we are at a loss of what to do. How many times can you read the same 6-month-old Golf Digest magazine? How many times can you pray the same prayer for direction?

One of the verses I hang onto when I’m in the waiting room of life is Psalm 5:3:

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice, in the morning I lay my request before you and wait in expectation.

waitingroomoflifePinI love the last phrase, “Wait in expectation.” When we’re waiting on God we can expect Him to do something wonderful. He promises you that He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). He assures you and me that He can rearrange all our rotten circumstances because He “works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The problem comes when I place my expectations in something other than God. I get in trouble when I expect life to be free of disappointment. Jesus told us to expect life problems, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). I will often be disillusioned when I expect people to fill all my needs.

So when I’m in the waiting room of life I need to go back to God. Like the psalmist, I need to bring my request every morning, trusting that He will hear my voice. I need to hang onto His promises. I need to believe in His goodness.When I'm in the waiting room of life, I need to hang onto God's promises and trust in His goodness. Click To Tweet

And then I need to wait in expectation. Hang onto His promised plan. Trust in His amazing love. Relax in His enveloping peace.

Wait in expectation.



When Wait is a Four-Letter Word

Psalm 40-1

To me, wait is a four-letter word that should never be used.

Because I hate waiting.

When I’ve decided I want something, I want it now. I find it hard to be patient. I hate the delay.

But it seems to me that God likes that word–wait. He often uses periods of waiting in our lives. He rarely gives us a desire and then grants that desire right away.

Even King David who starts out Psalm 40 so confidently:

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.

Psalm 40:1

shows that he doesn’t always wait patiently for the Lord.

That same psalm is a desperate prayer for help. For help NOW.

David says:

  • “Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord” (v. 11)
  • “O Lord, come quickly to help me” (v. 13)
  • “O my God, do not delay” (v. 17)

It seems David is in a desperate situation. His enemies are coming for him. His foes want to ruin him. Trouble surrounds him like mosquitoes on a sticky summer evening. And he wants God to come to his rescue–yesterday.

We often feel like that. Everything is going wrong. It seems like no one is there to help. Problems multiply daily. We pray and plead with God, but we are still waiting.

What can we do when we are in that place of waiting?

We can be like David who began his prayer for help remembering a time when God did come through. A time when all that waiting paid off and God heard his cry. When God got him out of the pit.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along. (v. 2)

He praised God:

He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God. (v.3a)

He looked forward to the time when He could tell others about how God came to the rescue:

Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord. (v. 3b)

And realized that periods of waiting are seasons to grow in trust:

Blessed is the man who makes
    the Lord his trust, (v. 4a)

To me wait is a four-letter word. But waiting is something God often calls us to do.

When you are in a season of waiting, recall the lessons of Psalm 40:

  1. Remember when God has come through in the past.
  2. Find something to praise God about.
  3. Look forward to an amazing story of answered prayer.
  4. And realize that you have been given an opportunity to grow your trust in God.

Question: Which of those four lessons from Psalm 40 will help you most when you are waiting?

Finding Purpose in the Wait

Psalm 2714

Elizabeth had a long wait.

The Bible tells us that the mother of John the Baptist was “advanced in years” when she gave birth to him.

Elizabeth waited a long time to be a mother. She probably questioned her purpose in life from time to time. But when she received the mission of bringing the forerunner of the Savior into the world, she was also given the task to mentor and encourage the mother of the Messiah.

The angel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth was six months pregnant. Don’t you love it? God knew that Mary would need someone to encourage her and help her on this new journey. So He provided Elizabeth.

And if you think about it–Elizabeth was the perfect person to encourage Mary.

  • Elizabeth lived away from Nazareth. Commentators speculate that Elizabeth lived in Hebron—which was about 80 miles from Nazareth—a four-day journey for Mary. It was a bit of a trek, but far enough away from the prying eyes of neighbors.
  • Elizabeth was pregnant. Elizabeth and Mary could commiserate over morning sickness and swollen ankles. Mary didn’t have “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” It was helpful to have someone share what was ahead in this exciting new experience.
  • Elizabeth was experiencing her own miracle. She wouldn’t laugh in disbelief at Mary’s preposterous story about an angel and a miracle birth because her husband had also had a visit with an angel. Elizabeth was pregnant even though humanly speaking it was impossible.
  • Elizabeth knew the sting of reproach even though she had done nothing wrong. She was upright in the sight of God, but the first thing she does when she finds out she is with child is thank God for taking away her disgrace among the people. She would be able to give Mary advice on how to deal with the gossip and criticism that were sure to come.

Think about it. If God had answered Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer for a baby sooner, she would not have fulfilled the role of Mary’s mentor so perfectly. Sure, she could have given birth to John the Baptist when she was twenty—but that would not have been as miraculous as having a baby at fifty or sixty. Perhaps she would have doubted Mary’s tale of an angel and a virgin pregnancy. She would not have had experience with the neighborhood gossip mill.

Our own experiences of waiting can connect us to other people going through similar situations. Just like Elizabeth and Mary, we can become connected in the waiting. We can use what we learned in our waiting times to encourage those who are traveling a similar path.

Wherever you are in life, remember that everything you are going through right now matters. All the waiting that Elizabeth went through prepared her for her most important role. All the years of waiting for an answered prayer drew her closer to God.

While we may never grow to like it—waiting serves a purpose. We can grow closer to Him when we expect God to accomplish something bigger than we can imagine. And we can connect to others by using the wait as a course in encouragement.

Question: How can you use what you have learned in waiting times to encourage others?



How to Wait Well


Hold up your hand if you like waiting.

Although I can’t see your hands through the computer screen, I would venture that no one raised her hand.

We don’t jump at the chance to be put on hold when we call the doctor’s office.  We don’t purposely choose the longest line at the grocery store (although it always seems that I end up in the slowest one no matter what).

We don’t do cartwheels when we have been fervently praying for something for weeks, months, or even years, and the only answer we hear from heaven is…..wait.

I hate the word wait. It’s a four-letter word that should be banned. I get impatient. I despise delays.

Recently I’ve been studying the life of Elizabeth. This woman had a very long wait for her most important role in life. Luke 1:5-7 tells us:

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Elizabeth and Zechariah were waiting and waiting for a baby. But now they were both “advanced in years” and all hope of having a child had faded.

While I was thinking about Elizabeth’s long wait, I observed a pattern in Scripture. When I look in the Bible, I see that God often made His children wait for an answer to prayer.

And when I zoom in a little closer, I see that often God didn’t work out the answer to a problem right away because the delay made the answer that much more miraculous. The birth of Isaac was that much more remarkable because he was born to a ninety-year-old mother. Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt was even more amazing after spending years in prison. The Israelites’ possession of the Promised Land was more astounding after being enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, than if Jacob’s descendants had slowly taken over the region.

And now God drew attention to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s baby through a long delay. Because Elizabeth gave birth when she was “well advanced in years,” it seemed obvious that this child was going to be special.

Not only would the baby John be a significant addition to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s family, he would be important to the whole nation of Israel—because He would prepare the people for the coming of the Savior.

When God makes us wait, it is often because He wants to do something bigger in our lives—something even bigger than what we prayed for. And if I remember this, my waiting is a little less difficult if I expect God to answer my prayers in a bigger way than I can imagine.

Now this doesn’t always mean that the answer to the prayer—when it finally comes—will look spectacular to the world around us. It might not always be recognized as a miracle by the people in our lives.

Sometimes the spectacular—the miraculous—is what happens in our hearts. The bigger thing that God wants to do is to transform us. Maybe the prayer is never answered the way you would like, but God gives you a peace and a joy that can only be explained by the power of His Spirit.

So when you are waiting for that new job, or a diagnosis for your child’s illness, or for a relationship to be healed, remember that even in the waiting we can be connected to God when we trust His goodness and expect Him to act in a way that is best for us.

We can become more connected to God by waiting if we stop fighting the pause in our plans and expect the delay to accomplish something wonderful in God’s purpose for our lives.

Question: What are you waiting for right now? How can I pray for you?


Why God is in the Waiting

psalm 27-14

I hate the word wait.

I don’t like being put on hold on the telephone. I hate slow service in a restaurant. I despise long lines in the grocery store.

I especially hate waiting for answers to my desperate prayers.

But it seems to me that God loves the word wait.

He made the world wait thousands of years for the Savior. And during this time of the year, as we anticipate Christmas, we remember that long wait. During Advent we think about the waiting.

Why did God wait so long to send a Savior? Why is He waiting to return and judge the world? And why, oh why, does He wait to answer my prayers?

I believe one of the reasons for delay is that waiting draws us to Him.

I have to admit it. When everything is going well I am tempted to rely on myself–think I have everything under control.

It’s when I’m desperately waiting for better health for a family member or for a change in our finances or for direction for my life that I am on my knees. When I don’t have everything under control, I turn to God.

Waiting makes me see all my efforts are useless. Waiting makes me see that I need to trust God’s goodness.

Waiting pushes me to the heart of God.

Psalm 27:14 says:

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Waiting isn’t for sissies. It takes strength and patience and unremitting devotion to God’s way.

But if we let the waiting draw us closer to God, if we allow the delay to pull us closer to His heart–we can realize there is a purpose in the wait.

We can see–God is there in the waiting.

Question: What have you learned during your waiting times?




Are You Still Waiting?

If you are in a season of waiting, learn how to experience waiting in stillness and repose.

Last month I got a little good news. A magazine that I had sent an article to, notified me that they were going to publish it. Woo-hoo!

I was excited and surprised.

Surprised because I had sent the article more than three years ago.

It took three years to get the article published! Truthfully, I had pretty much given up any hope that they would actually use the article.

Shortly after I sent it to the magazine, they sent me a message saying they liked it, but after one year I was still waiting to see it in print. After two years I was still waiting. After three I was still waiting.

Lately, God has been teaching me more about waiting. This time He is using the words of Psalm 62:

My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation. Psalm 62:1 NASB

I looked up that little word wait. In Hebrew the word is duwmiyah which means “silence, still, repose, still waiting.” That last phrase got my attention because I’m not very good at waiting. And if I do any waiting at all it’s drumming-my-fingers waiting. It’s tapping-my-toes waiting. It’s sighing-loudly waiting.

But duwmiyah is still waiting. Duwmiyah is waiting in quietness and stillness. This kind of waiting I am totally unacquainted with.

If I have to wait for an answer to prayer, I am restless until the answer comes. I don’t wait in stillness. If something I yearn for is a long time in coming, I tend to complain to God–constantly. I don’t wait in silence.

But God wants me to experience still waiting. He wants me to wait in quietness and repose because He assures me that He is going to come through: “From Him is my salvation.”

So what does still waiting look like? Believe me, I’m no expert, but I think:

Still waiting means trusting God to give me what I need when I need it.

Still waiting means picturing all of God’s goodness stored up for me for exactly the right time.

Still waiting means resting in God’s love.

Are you still waiting?

 Question: What do you tend to do when you are waiting for something?