Right now I feel stuck. I mean good and rooted in some kind of nowhere, a limbo of sorts, a holding pattern. Call it what you want, feeling like nothing is moving forward is a frustrating place to be. Of course, there are all sorts of beautiful and poetic spiritual treatises available to explain the gift of spiritual dryness, but let’s face it—when we have to experience it for any inordinate amount of time, no explanation and no platitude from someone will suffice.
There’s a particular tension that tugs at the heart of one who longs for God and to do great things for Him, especially when that longing remains unfulfilled for a time: “I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him but found him not” (Song of Songs 3:1). The agony of a soul bereft of its desires for heaven cannot be fully described in words.
But sometimes, despite the interior struggle in which I know God is asking me to let go of all that remains unfinished and unknown, I just want to move. I don’t want to stay in the dark too long, because it creates all sorts of cobwebs of doubt and despondency. It’s much like pregnancy: the growth of a little one inside the womb is deliberate, careful, yet takes months before birth can occur.
I want my spiritual birth to happen now—or at least soon. But I know that my timeline is not God’s, so I sigh and attempt to carry the onus of “what if” and “what’s next.” Could it be possible that the agony of waiting, the unfulfilled longings of the human soul can truly be fruitful? What if I don’t feel fruitful right now, because I am in between then and when?
All around us, the world turns at a frenetic pace. We see people achieving wild success and even surpassing the expectations of others in terms of visibility, making money, or making a difference. When we feel stuck, we don’t see the spiritual fruits of our waiting. In fact, life seems to be quite the opposite: the halt of what we can see and understand often becomes the source of our inability to believe that God is doing good in and through us.
I know that waiting refines the necessary virtues of patience, humility, and perseverance in me. St. Paul calls it “endurance” (Romans 8:25). How am I supposed to wait for what I cannot see or obtain? Why is it that God has slowed my life to a screeching halt?
Maybe you feel stuck as I do, but for altogether different reasons. Part of my struggle is that I have been waiting for the birth of our third baby girl, and the time is fast approaching for her debut into the world. As I reflect on the metaphor of being in an “in between place,” I realize that hope is really the only solution to the predicament of feeling stuck. The root of my frustration at not moving forward is fear. I am afraid that all God has begun in my life will remain as it is—unfinished; yet I am also afraid that the birth of what is to come will be a frightening adventure into where I’ve never been before.
The best I can do is pray through the interior wrestling, offer my fears to God as they creep into my consciousness, and do as St. Paul suggests: wait with endurance. If it’s true that endurance will prove my character and strengthen my interior disposition for whatever is to come in my life, then the alternative is bleak. But waiting with endurance, however difficult and arduous it may be, is the option that is truly life-giving. It is the only way I can find out for certain how God will fulfill the good work He has begun in me.
Text (c) Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.