Journey of Joy: Week Five — The Waiting and Anticipating

A quick glance at the calendar tells me the trip we booked months ago is only six weeks away. My insides do that little fillip while my thoughts scamper, adding to my mental to do lists. But more than anything — after a year of sitting in the house — I just can’t wait!

Yet, wait I must.

Despite my desire to depart today, I have to have patience, allowing my mind and emotions to grow into a healthier way of waiting — and it starts with anticipation. 

Natures Teaches Us

Jesus often spoke in metaphors to teach deeper lessons — like a seed falling from the stalk of wheat to its death as a comparison to His own life. His agrarian audience would’ve known that once the dead seed was buried beneath the soil, it would awaken — roots stretching to the depths. Eventually stems, leaves, and more seeds would grow.

The life cycle of a plant gives us a great visual of what waiting can look like. Above ground, as the seed sits snug in the soil below, our eyes see nothing happening. In life, it’s tempting to believe we’re wasting time when we have to wait, but we can learn from the seed. We can wait with anticipation of what’s to come!

We’ve been on this Journey of Joy for weeks, and you might be wondering where the heck the joy is already! Are you feeling yourself getting impatient for joy? Are you vexed because you didn’t sign up for this vagary?

Don’t give up! Nature reminds us that waiting is part of the process of finding the true joy Jesus offers us.

What Scripture Shows Us

Years ago when I was newer to my faith journey and hadn’t yet acquired Scripture-finding skills, I woke up one morning floundering with impatience and fear as a deadline loomed. I needed answers, soon! Of course, there were still days till I had to make my decision, but my anxiety demanded certainty. 

Wanting to walk by faith, however, I sat on the couch with my Bible, opened to a random spot, and started reading, anticipating an answer from God. I just knew He would speak through His Word to give me a yes or a no.

What I got was WAIT. Seriously, I’d opened to Psalms and read verse after verse of messages like these:

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

Psalm 27:14

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…

Psalm 37:7

Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.

Psalm 38:15

I got the message. I waited.

The day before the deadline, my answer came via a phone call. I had my yes. Because I had chosen to believe God instead of trying to force the issue myself, the path was made clear in His time. My feeble attempt to figure out which way to go by flipping to a verse led me to what I needed more than an answer — trust.

Trust. There’s that word again! Maybe this should’ve been called the Journey of Trust — haha. 

Fittingly, our word of joy this week wields this theme of trust. Hear Peter speak to believers about Jesus:

“You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”

1 Peter 1:8-9, NLT

We don’t typically observe what’s occurring in the spiritual realm, yet we choose to have faith in the unseen. So, even though we might not be aware of what good occurs in waiting, like the hidden seed, we can trust God is at work.

I notice Peter says we’ll have joy in all that faith-waiting because of our trust in Jesus. Friends, we are trusting Jesus more and more on this journey, so let’s rejoice in that!

Waiting and Anticipating

Like an actual vacation, this Journey of Joy will bring out the antsiness of anticipation. We’re going to feel the woe of waiting. But, as we’re discovering today, the waiting and anticipating don’t have to be negative. In fact, they can be fruitful.

Last spring, as we planted tiny green plants, my taste buds tingled at the thought of the tasty red tomatoes to come. What a great picture of anticipation — the excitement for something that’s to come. 

Photo by Davor Denkovski on Unsplash

Just as I anticipated the tomatoes, we can get excited about the joy that’s to come. We want it now. But, instead, we can lean into the work that needs to be done while we wait.

Henri Nouwen believed that when we wait with anticipation, fully expecting that something is happening in the wait, our waiting becomes active: 

“Active waiting implies being fully present to the moment with the conviction that something is happening where we are and that we want to be present to it. If we wait in the conviction that a seed has been planted and that something has already begun, it changes the way we wait.”

I love that — if we’ll believe while we wait that something has already begun to happen, the way we wait will change. Anticipating God’s work changes how we wait.

Active Waiting

Emily P Freeman, in her book, A Million Little Things, devotes an entire chapter to the idea of “Wait.” She addresses the deeper spiritual work that waiting gives room for:

“…waiting can grow us, shape us from the inside out for sacred work. This is a kind of work that happens only in the secret place of abiding in the presence of Christ…”

page 146

The key word in Emily’s advice is abiding. The Gospel of John captures Jesus teaching on this idea:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5, ESV

Using another agricultural analogy, Jesus draws a picture for His audience to help them (and us) grasp the kind of relationship He desires for us — a relationship that is healthy and fruitful, like a grapevine. 

A branch abides in the vine — it’s connected to it, gets its nutrients from it, and is held securely by it. While the branch depends on the vine, the vine requires nothing from the branch — it is self-sustaining yet life-giving.

Jesus is the vine — He’s fully independent yet He offers Himself to us, the branches, for life. And, just as the branch that separates from the vine, we begin to wither spiritually when we cease abiding in Jesus. 

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

So, how do we abide?

Emily encourages us to “move toward God” in our waiting because it’s when we slow down and put our eyes on Him that we open ourselves up to what He has for us (see page 147). It happens when we sit in the pause to grasp the purpose.

As we pause to listen, Jesus gives us a great place to find the purpose we seek:

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you….” 

John 15:7

We need to let His words abide in us. Namely, everything He has said and taught are relevant to our lives and growth as believers. Last week we focused on finding verses that speak truth to our life’s circumstances, writing them down, and memorizing them. 

All that time we spend in Scripture looking for the words we need, all the effort we give in writing them down and putting them to memory — that is allowing God’s Word to abide in us. So, keep up that practice. Everyday, make time to stay connected to Jesus through His Word.

Jesus continues:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

John 15:9-10

He says it simply — abide in my love. I try to imagine what it looks like to abide in someone’s love, and I think of my husband. In all our 30 years of marriage, I’ve had to train my brain to focus on the love he has for me, not doubting it or questioning it or hiding from it. I’ve learned to lean into his love, accept it, relish it, and share in it. And I’m better for it — our relationship is better for it. But, it takes intentionality to remain in love. It’s very easy to let life and thoughts and temptations move us out of love. 

The same goes for our relationship with Jesus. We are to soak in His love, not distrust it or dispute it or discard it. To accept His love on a daily basis, and to offer ours, is to abide in Jesus, and He offers a special way to abide in His love — keep God’s commandments. When we obey all God asks of us and calls us to, we are showing our love for Him, and that’s a deep abiding indeed.

In your journal, spend some time in God’s Word that speaks to what you need most — love, affirmation, forgiveness, hope, joy — and actively wait in it. Allow the words to seep into your soul. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak through them. Align your heart and mind with their truth.

Here’s a verse that spoke to me this week — maybe because it connects trust to joy, maybe because it paints a picture of abiding in Jesus:

“You are my God;
have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
    for I put my trust in you.”

Psalm 86:2b-4, NLT

This practice of active waiting will be strengthened by our abiding. Nature teaches us much about these practices of waiting and abiding. The branch abides in the vine so that it can have life and produce fruit. The seed waits in the soil for life to happen so that it can grow strong and tall in the sun.

Process these questions in your journal: What are you waiting for? What lesson can you take from the seed about waiting and trusting? How will abiding in Jesus help you grow stronger and wait better?

Like Easter

When this post publishes, it’s Easter Sunday! This year I focused much of my attention on each of the three days of Holy Week that led up to Easter and gave myself space to imagine and feel all the hard moments Jesus experienced.

Thanks to Pete Greig and his book, God on Mute, I have a much greater appreciation for Holy Saturday, specifically. If there was ever a day of waiting, this was it. Jesus lay in the tomb on the Sabbath, and nothing appeared to be happening. 

Reeling in shock and grief, the disciples doubled over in doubts about the man they’d believed to be Messiah. Peter was one of those disciples — the one who had denied Jesus three times on Thursday. The one who spoke the words we already looked at today. 

So, how did Peter get from the place of failing faith to one who spoke with such confidence? He waited. Luckily, they all waited.

Because on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead.

And everything changed.

Holy Week teaches us that waiting is active. Just because we can’t see what God is doing, doesn’t mean He’s not up to something. Emily encourages us, “Jesus waited till day three to resurrect. Don’t lose hope on day two” (155). God’s at work! Don’t give up! Instead, draw near to Him and anticipate all the ways He’ll make the most of your wait. 

And, as you wait, rejoice! Jesus lives! 

So ready to abide in His love as I wait for joy, Shelley

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Photo by Precondo CA on Unsplash
  • Don’t forget you can check out The Joyful Life* website. This ministry offers studies, solid devotional books, and most uniquely, a quarterly magazine — all with the focus of JOY!
  • Take time to process this week’s journaling prompts within the post.
  • Let us know what verses help you abide in Jesus in the comments below.
  • Just for fun — find the “Easter egg” in this week’s post!. It’s a travel word.
    • Last week’s travel word was sojourn, a Latin or Old French word for a period of time when you stay in a place as a traveler or guest.
  • I mentioned books in today’s post. They’ve both added to my own growth and understanding this year. You can learn more or purchase them here:
  • Our Journey of Joy playlist on Spotify follows this journey — it starts with us admitting and announcing where are. Then the songs shift to this idea of rejoicing in God even when we don’t have all our answers yet. I hope these songs speak over your souls with truth and hope.

*This is an affiliate link, so I’ll receive compensation for any purchases made.

Featured image by Amos Bar-Zeev on Unsplash

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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