About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. — Acts 16:25
There was a time I felt utterly stuck. The sun rose with new and limitless opportunities, but as it set, everything felt the same. The day was new, but the issues were old. No matter how much positive thinking, Bible reading, verse quoting, and attitude changing I did, I felt imprisoned.
My desk was the same. My coworkers were the same. The feelings of hopelessness and frustration were the same. No matter how much money I saved, I still felt the pang of insurmountable debt. No matter how many lunches I prepared and packed — counting macros and calories — my weight stayed the same. No matter how many times I tried creating systems and structures for success, my workload felt heavier instead of lighter.
Have you ever felt stuck like that? No matter what you try, nothing seems to make much difference? This is the waiting period — the place where we linger until divine timing permits us to move forward. It might sound dramatic, but these seasons can feel like prison.
You are doing everything right. You are setting up a system for success. But you feel trapped in the system of same, a prison where nothing changes no matter your effort. But know this:
grit and perseverance help us to develop more than the ability to wait. They help shape the way we behave while we’re waiting.
And who might you guess would’ve understood that feeling? Paul, of course, our model of grit and resilience. He knew the feeling of being stuck in prison because he was in prison.
In Acts 16, we read that Paul and Silas were on their way to pray with their friends when a demon-possessed slave girl began to follow them. She was being used by her owners to tell fortunes in exchange for money, and she shrieked and yelled until Paul turned to her and cast the demon out. But once free from the spirit oppressing her (and telling fortunes through her), the girl was no longer a source of income to her owners. Needless to say, it didn’t go over well with them.
Paul and Silas were taken to the local officials, stripped and beaten, then thrown into prison.
Just so we don’t miss anything here, let’s review some key points. Paul was on his way to pray.
He was in community with other believers. He delivered a girl from the shackles of demonic oppression. And now he was being punished in prison.
With no release date set, Paul and Silas were chained and imprisoned like common criminals. But what did Paul do in the waiting? And how can that help us understand what we should we do in the waiting? We’ll take a look at the story and see what tips we can discover through examining Paul’s experience, but first, we have to get real about our current patterns of behavior.
Take a look at the list below and circle which choices are common during times you feel stuck:
- Listening to worship music
- Calling a friend to pray with you
- Serving others and investing relationally
- Joining a community or church group
- Starting a new hobby
- Finding a series on Netflix to lose yourself in
- Eating your emotions and bingeing on snacks
- Hopping on dating apps to distract yourself
- Shopping excessively online
- Spending hours on social media apps
- Sleeping in, staying up late, or frequently napping
Do you notice a pattern? Are you proud of your choices? If you’re anything like me, some of the behaviors you circled aren’t exactly worth bragging about. I’ve squandered so much time with distractions and diversions that I’ve had to set up a new system to ensure I stay on track.
What to Do in the Waiting
Over the past ten years, I have discovered that if I don’t intentionally set up rhythms for myself, I will easily end up returning to my old, unhealthy patterns. I’ll sit and scroll endlessly, binge-watch Real Housewives, and eat my feelings to avoid having to actually feel them. To ensure I resist these temptations and stay motivated in my waiting seasons, there are five things I’ve learned from brain researchers to do consistently:
- Work out (my body)
- Get out (in nature)
- Clean out (my space)
- Go out (in solitude)
- Sing out (like you can)
Don’t get overwhelmed. I’m not adding more to your to-do list. I’m simply sharing the system I’ve created that works for me. You can copy it or create your own version to help you evaluate the most useful ways to invest your time during waiting seasons.
Excerpted from Grit Don’t Quit by Bianca Olthoff, copyright Bianca Olthoff.
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Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you stuck in a waiting period? What you do during that time matters! Grit and perseverance help shape the way we behave while we’re waiting. What rhythms help you? ~ Devotionals Daily