SEASONS OF WAITING: WALKING BY FAITH WHEN DREAMS ARE DELAYED, by Betsy Childs Howard

Published on August 15, 2016 by Joshua Centanni

Crossway, 2016 | 128 pages

Reviewed by Aimee Byrd

This is a great topic for a book.  Most of us go through seasons of waiting for something, but do we wait well? The answer to that question often depends on what we are waiting for, how long it’s going to take, and whether our expectations are fulfilled. Maybe if we had those answers upfront, we wouldn’t be so anxious in the waiting. But the fact that we often don’t get those answers is where the agony of waiting sets in.

We live in a world with a “What are you waiting for?” mentality, full of selfish ambitions and immediate gratification. And yet some of our best treasures have a waiting room of sorts. Sometimes, that waiting doesn’t see fulfillment on this side of the resurrection.

A godly spouse is worth the wait, but we don’t get a guarantee that will happen. Are you waiting for a husband? If you desire to marry, why hasn’t God provided that opportunity? Are you waiting for a child? What do you do when faced with infertility? Are you waiting for a place to call home? Isn’t that the American dream? Maybe it is more desperate than this. Maybe you are waiting for God to answer your prayers for physical healing. Is he listening? Maybe you are currently pleading with God to lead your prodigal child or spouse to repentance. Could you have done better? Will you ever know? Will you have to live like this forever?

These are all chapters in Betsy Childs Howard’s book. She opens with a chapter explaining The School of Waiting, explaining, “Waiting exposes our idols and throws a wrench into our coping mechanisms. It brings us to the end of what we can control and forces us to cry out to God” (16). Our waiting isn’t a waste of time. It is a providential way God works for our sanctification. And how we live while we are waiting is a testimony of our faith.

Each of these chapters share stories of people waiting, Scriptural teachings, and ways our waiting serves as a parable. The above desires are good ones, and yet not all of them will be met in this lifetime. That is a long season of waiting. But Howards compassionately addresses how to live with unmet desires. And in each chapter, she drives home the true hope we are all waiting for, the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people on that great Day of Christ’s return.

This is an easy and encouraging read. It would make a great gift for someone who’s struggling through a season of waiting, questioning God’s purposes in it, and yet is too weary for a thick, theological tome. One caveat is that I do wish Howard added some more qualifications in her chapter on “Waiting for a Prodigal.”

I was glad to see a chapter on that topic, and she does offer some good teaching, notably, “The very best thing you could do for the prodigal in your life is to grow in your own faith” (82). However, because of the sin component involved in a prodigal’s life, there are some spiritual and practical areas that should be addressed in this waiting. So for example, what does our calling to love a child that is given to drug addiction look like? Some people think it is by enabling. And in the example of a habitual adulterous spouse, there is an abandonment issue that needs to be addressed, as well as physical danger.

While the example does show the marriage regrettably ending in divorce, this was after many years of the wife enduring this lifestyle. Howard does say, “Lynne prayed for her husband to repent. They went through hundreds of hours of counseling sessions together. She could have divorced him early on, but her heart’s desire was for their relationship to be restored and their family made whole” (81). I’m sure that is the heart’s desire of many wives of a serial adulterer. But I’m afraid that without some more qualifications added here, other wives under this type of abuse may read this with the impression that they need to wait it out living together in an unfaithful marriage. Even though this is how Lynne decides to wait, I wished Howard had added some extra teaching there.

The author ends the book with some more important considerations in waiting. Her chapter, “Sustained While We Wait,” contains the best line in the book – one that I will be hijacking for advice. She uses it as a subheading, “You Can’t Buy Manna in Bulk,” to teach about daily dependence on our God who sustains us. She makes some other great points in that chapter about how Jesus is not our consolation prize, and that “God wants to give you a richer, deeper experience of himself that is more precious than the thing he has withheld from you” (92).

The last consideration is that waiting does end. She shares her own story of waiting for a husband here, and the waiting to know if they will be able to have children or afford a place to live in the city. But she focuses the chapter with a call to expectation for that day when our heavenly Bridegroom will return for us. She warns us not to be caught unawares. And Howard ends the book reminding us of this great reward we are waiting for. While the world may not understand our waiting, telling us very different messages on how to try and get what we want now, God has a purpose in our waiting. The author concludes, “I still struggle with wanting God’s gifts more than I want him. But I’m grateful that God continues to withhold some of his gifts in order to satisfy me with himself” (116). Amen to that!

 

Aimee Byrd is the resident Housewife Theologian here at Books At a Glance. She also blogs at Mortification of Spin.

Buy the books

Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams are Delayed

Crossway, 2016 | 128 pages