In the book of Jeremiah, words are penned that boldly came from the mouth of God. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

These words were spoken to and over the people of Israel. The people had been conquered by Babylon, and were now living as captives, exiled from their homeland. They were lost, they were waiting, and they were struggling to see the goodness of God in the midst of their pain and yearning.

I’ve never been stolen from my homeland and exiled into a life of captivity, but I know what waiting for something that you can’t see feels like. Oh, how I know the heaviness that comes from being lost in a season of waiting with no hope in sight. It is a lonely place.

I am in the midst of waiting for something, and let me tell you, when the thing you’re yearning for is not in sight, and you don’t have a timeline telling you when or if it ever will be, it can be a constant struggle to be content, much less joyful. The challenge increases as you look around and watch those surrounding you ending their season of waiting.

Recently, I had a friend text me and tell me that she has achieved the very thing I’ve been praying about, struggling over, and yearning for the past months. My first impulse was to cry. Honestly, that is so extremely selfish, but being transparent, my first impulse was happiness for her while desperately wondering why it was just her and not the both of us.

Suddenly, I looked back at the book I’m rereading, and a passage clicked into my mind. The book is called Curious Faith by Logan Wolfram, and if you are struggling with joy in the midst of waiting, loneliness in the wilderness, or simply having a firey passion for God when you’re bearing the unbearable, this book will soothe your soul and teach you so much. Mere moments before receiving the text from my friend, I read,

“Multiply your thankfulness, and you’ll multiply your joy. And according to the Scriptures, joy produces strength, which is good because waiting requires strength…Thankfulness multiplies when I chronicle the goodness of the Father in my life. When I notice it. When I write it down. When I look for all the blessings around me…Hope began to rise around me when I focused on God’s goodness.”

I tend to look at the lengths of time spent in waiting as a waste of time, a burden to bear before I get somewhere. I view them as emotionally trying times that I simply need to get through with my head down. In this mentality, I’ve been robbed of so much joy and hope.

Wolfram wrote earlier on,

“Waiting is courageous. Waiting is brave. Waiting is active. Waiting is full of experience along the way. It’s not a void we’re stuck in until something new happens. It doesn’t make us victims of the circumstances we can’t change. Waiting is growing and pursuit. Waiting cultivates strength and rich experience.”

The views at the top of the mountain may be glorious, but that’s not where life happens. Life happens in the valleys in between; while we’re trekking from mountaintop to mountaintop. We could simply follow the trail with our heads down, lamenting the length of time it takes. Alternatively, we could look around with joy and thankfulness, realizing that even though what we are searching for, what we are seeking out is not yet in sight, there is still hope and abundance in the transitional period.

We get to decide.

Honestly, we never stop waiting. The thing that we may be waiting on may change, but there will always be something. Maybe you’re waiting for that man, waiting to graduate, to receive a job. Maybe you’re waiting on a pregnancy that yields a living child, not just heartbreak. Maybe you’re waiting on the burden you’re carrying to be taken off your shoulders. We’re always waiting.

If we’re always in the waiting, it is crucial that we wait well. If thankfulness turns to joy that turns into strength, it is not just a fuzzy, happy thing to be thankful for everything possible-it is a battle cry, a fighting tactic against an enemy that seeks to rob us of joy. If I am able to be thankful even in the waiting, that means that I can rejoice in my friend’s happiness, praising the Lord for it even though it is something that I haven’t obtained.

The words spoken over the Israelites in exile are still whispered over our hearts as well. He knows the plans he has for you. He is seeking hearts that come and pray when they’re wandering while he listens intently. If you seek him with all your heart, you will find him. We can have hope in the waiting, wonder in the wilderness. Reach out and claim it.

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