There aren’t many things more frustrating than finding yourself in a tough situation you can’t change — and just having to wait it out.
It could be you’re stuck in a bad workplace. It could be you’re caught in a marriage to a narcissistic addict. It could be you’re battling a chronic illness and the new treatment isn’t going well. It could be you’re dealing with a grating in-law who’s moved into your basement.
Let’s say, for instance, you’re in an awful job. The company is failing. Everybody just took a 30 percent pay cut. Your boss is toxic. All your favorite coworkers have already jumped ship.
You’re looking for a way out, too, but no escape presents itself. You can’t simply resign, because you’re not independently wealthy. You’ve sent out 100 resumes and haven’t received a single response. You’ve contacted everyone in your LinkedIn account and none of them knows of an available position.
Every day for months, you shower and put on your work clothes and trudge off to spend another eight hours roasting in the fires of Hades. You’re isolated, miserable and broke.
Maybe you’re religious, so you pray and pray for divine intervention, or at least for comfort. The heavens are silent.
How do you wait out these bad times until better times finally roll around? Put another way, what do you do in the meantime?
Here are five suggestions:
▪ Remind yourself that with God, there’s no such thing as wasted time. I’m not at all suggesting you become passive, fatalistic or self-destructive, or that you allow yourself to be attacked by a violent spouse.
But if you’ve tried and tried to change a generally unhappy situation and nothing will give, at least consider the possibility that this is where you’re supposed to be for now. Maybe you’re here for some purpose you haven’t recognized yet. Pay attention to what this challenging situation is teaching you about yourself, God or the universe.
▪ Recognize that this might be where you are — but it’s not who you are. The fact that you’re caught in a desultory problem in no way means you’re a desultory person. This is a circumstance, not a symptom.
Consider Ulysses S. Grant, one of the great figures in American history. Before the Civil War, he’d failed miserably. Accused of drunkenness, he was forced out of the army. Disgraced, at his lowest point he was reduced to delivering firewood to support his wife and kids. His friends pitied him.
But when war broke out, his fortunes suddenly reversed, and within a few years he was revered as the national hero who, along with Abraham Lincoln, had saved our nation.
He’d been a great man all along, as his devoted wife Julia bore witness. He’d simply been mired for a while in a series of unfortunate circumstances.
▪ Turn outward. You’re probably not the only person in this situation who’s suffering, so find someone nearby for whom you can do something good. Become a compassionate listener. Become an encourager. Become an innovator. Generally, the less we major on our own discomforts, the less we suffer from them.
▪ Turn inward, too. While you’re waiting on the Lord — wait on the Lord. By that I mean develop spiritual humility. Recognize your main job in life is as a servant to God and others. Spend more time in spiritual study. Attend a prayer group. Volunteer to clean the church bathrooms. Take on a shift ladling soup at a homeless shelter. Throw yourself at the Lord’s feet and stay there.
▪ Visualize the happy solution you’d most like to see take place. I don’t believe we create a specific reality by drawing imaginary mental images of it. Still, there’s something to be said for knowing what our goal is and keeping that goal in front of us. If nothing else, it helps us stay focused. At times, I find myself thanking the Lord he’s already fixed a mess I’m still in the middle of. I try to remind myself I’m not stuck in my problem — with God’s help I’m on my way out of that problem.
Finally, you may or may not be comfortable around the Bible. That’s OK either way.
But I’ll leave you with a comforting passage from Psalm 27, which, if nothing else, demonstrates that difficulties, and the patience needed to endure them, are as old as humanity:
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”
Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.