“How much longer?” the small voice asks from the car seat, barely fifteen minutes into an eight-hour drive with extended family. I smile at my toddler cousin, but after the fifth or sixth time, I realize: This is the very thing I’ve been asking God. Maybe you’ve wondered this, too?
Day after day after day. Prayer after prayer after prayer.
We collectively stand in grocery lines and sit in uncomfortable chairs at Urgent Care. We listen to elevator music while we’re placed on hold and submit resumes as the bank account dwindles. We wait and pray. We wait and hope. We wait and wonder, “How much longer, God, until You heal what’s broken? How much longer until there’s a diagnosis, a baby, a restored relationship, a job, a way through the seemingly impossible?”
It isn’t that we don’t trust God’s goodness and sovereignty. We’re strapped in, seat belts buckled, certain that God will bring us all the way Home. We know the storm won’t be the end of the story, but, well, we wonder exactly how long the storm will rage.
Or, at least I do.
I often think about how it’s a gift that many stories in Scripture are familiar to me. I’ve heard the names since childhood and can usually recall bullet points or at least a few details. But there’s a danger: I forget the timeline. I forget just how long these real people sat in metaphorical “waiting rooms.”
Noah didn’t build the ark overnight. It took many years before the project was complete and rain fell for the first time.
Sarah and Abraham longed for a child, and for decades they received disappointment month after month after month.
Joseph was seventeen when his brothers sold him into slavery; he spent years in prison and was nearly forty when his family arrived in Egypt during the famine.
Moses fled Egypt and lived in Midian for forty years before he saw the burning bush.
The Israelites wandered in circles, walking laps around in the wilderness for forty years.
David waited many years between being anointed as king and sitting on the throne.
The people of God waited 400 seemingly silent years between Malachi and Matthew, longing to hear a word from the Lord.
Jesus waited thirty years before beginning His public ministry.
There are plenty of times things changed in an instant, but waiting, it seems, is woven throughout Scripture.
I think of this as I walk through an outdoor labyrinth in my city. The summer sun beats down, warming the carefully arranged stone pavers. I begin, slow and steady, and quickly realize that I can’t look too far ahead. The entire path is clear from above but from where I stand the view is limited. I blink back tears as it weaves in and out, nearing the center only to curve out once again, and I say out loud in the empty garden, “This is what it feels like right now, God. Each step brings me closer, but I’m literally wandering in circles here. All I can do is take the next step, trusting the path will lead where it has promised but not knowing what it will bring along the way or how long it will take.”
Of course, I’m talking about more than a narrow path underneath my feet. There are waiting rooms I’ve been in for so long now that I know every piece of art on the wall, every chair that wobbles, every crinkle and crease of old magazines stacked on the side table. More than a decade has passed and I’m still here, still praying and believing, trusting and weeping, asking and hoping. Still waiting.
Step after step after step. Lap after lap after lap.
What I want is a miracle — and instead, I receive just enough strength to carry through the day. I keep praying for power that heals and restores — and He gives grace that sustains. It feels like manna, like exactly enough for today and no more. Nothing extra, nothing in the reserves, no stockpile set aside for a rainy day, a long night, or a winter that endures.
But always, manna.
“How much longer until XYZ?” I wonder, knowing the path is clear from above. “I won’t leave your side. I’ll be there every step of the way,” God seems to whisper in the wind, the leaves swaying with the afternoon breeze. It’s not the answer I’m asking for, but it’s the promise I need. And miraculously it turns out to be no less of a miracle, the grace that sustains when winter endures.
Manna after manna after manna. Mercy after mercy after mercy.
Looking back, fingerprints of His faithfulness mark every page. God was there then and He’s here now, with us in every waiting room, working for our good and His glory. Remembering God’s past faithfulness helps us hold tightly to joy in the present and hope for the future. That doesn’t eliminate our questions, but it reminds us of the story beneath the story: it won’t be long now until winter permanently gives way to resurrection.
One day “how much longer” will be no longer.
One day, everything will be colored the shade of restoration.
But for today, we hope. We pray “on earth as it is in heaven.” We remember that God will not be rushed, but neither will He be late. We wait and we trust and we find that it’s true: God really is going to carry us through.
If you’re asking “How much longer?” and you’d like more encouragement for the waiting room seasons, Kaitlyn’s book Even If Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the in Between will help you choose hope for tomorrow when today feels like a question mark.