Seasons of Waiting: What to Do When God’s Call and Reality Don’t Seem to Line Up

You’re preparing to move your life and family overseas in obedience to the Great Commission. Your house is sold, tickets are booked, and bags are packed.

Then, out of nowhere, you get the unsettling news that you’re not going. This would be a hard pill to swallow for anyone, and this is the pill that my family had to swallow just this past year. We were making all the arrangements to serve in Africa, but God had other plans.

We went on a vision trip in August. We were already planning to go long-term, so this was just a trip to get our feet on the ground and see the ministry we would be joining, look for housing, and get semi-acquainted to what would be our new home.

“I began to see that God can do just as much in me and through me in the ‘waiting’ seasons.”

We never expected to get the begrudging news that we would not be going long-term after all. On that trip, everything changed. The plans we had set forth (the plans we felt were from God) were now totally derailed. We had to return home to a rental house that we were temporarily leasing because we had sold our house a month previously. We had to return to our church and tell our friends and family that things didn’t work out. For a few months, I found myself in an emotional stupor filled with frustration, anger, confusion, and doubt.

I had so many questions. Is our call to be overseas and plant churches not real? Was this only motivated by my fleshly desires? Is God disciplining me? Am I letting my family down? Does my church see me as a failure? These thoughts filled my mind for months.

Is God Telling You to Wait?

Maybe you are in a similar situation. You feel like God has called you to something, but it’s not working out or it’s taking longer than you expected. By God’s grace, I began to see that God can do just as much in me and through me in the “waiting” seasons. And he can do the same for you.

In Acts, shortly after Paul was converted, he spent time with the disciples in Damascus. Acts 9:19 says, “For some days [Paul] was with the disciples at Damascus” (ESV). The initial reading of that passage would lead one to believe that for a day or two Paul enjoyed some new Christian community, and then after a little sabbatical, he jumped right into ministry (Acts 9:20).

However, further study of “some days” in verse 19 shows us that it was a rather lengthy amount of time. In Galatians 1, we see that it might have been upwards of three years before Paul really began his ministry. If I can use my sanctified imagination, I would like to believe Paul was eager to get to preaching. But, God must have had other plans for him in that waiting season, and I know God was just as faithful to Paul in the waiting season as he was in the sending season.

“If God is calling you to go, he will be faithful to that call. But we need to be patient in the meantime.”

We see a similar situation in Scripture when God was leading Israel to the promised land. If you looked at a map of where they were starting and where they were going, it should not have taken forty years. God chose to take them on a long journey to sanctify them and remind them that he was their God and they were his people.

Actively Waiting

These simple reminders have been so good for my soul. This season God is doing something in my life that is still unseen. I am not one to sit and be still, but I am having to learn to slow down and listen to God while I wait. These are some things I’ve learned to do in the waiting season.

  1. Be where your feet are.
    I struggle with this more than anything else. We need to enjoy the season that we are in instead of always pursuing the next thing. If God is calling you to go, he will be faithful to that call. But we need to be patient in the meantime. In Philippians 4:11, Paul wrote, “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (ESV). Maybe you’re not facing great suffering, but the wisdom is the same. May we learn to be content in whatever season we find ourselves.
  2. Practice here what you feel called to do there.
    If you’ve been around missionaries and you express any interest in working overseas, you may hear something along the lines of, “If you’re not living missionally here, you will never live missionally there.” There is no such thing as transformation by aviation, so be faithful with your calling where you are now.
  3. Stop asking why. Start asking what.
    As a pastor, it’s very easy for me to give this advice, but when things in my personal life are not going in the direction that I saw them going, I quickly forget my own counsel. Waiting seasons are hard. We instinctively ask, “Why God?” In those seasons, I need to reflect back on that path of Israel to the promised land and ask, “What are you doing in my life?” First Thessalonians 4:3 says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification . . . .” God’s desire is that we look like Jesus. Sometimes he has to slow us down to accomplish his plan for us.
  4. Worship God in the waiting.
    God desires to be worshiped and glorified. When we set our gaze on Christ Jesus, we are less concerned about what we are doing and are reminded of who we are in Christ. We are sons and daughters of the Most High God! Keeping your eyes fixed on things above (Col. 3:1–4) will allow you to rejoice, even if you don’t find yourself where you had originally planned.

Nick Calhoon is the student pastor at Hardin Baptist Church in Hardin, Kentucky. He is married to Bethany and they have three kids (Brooks, Ellis, Atticus). Nick is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.