This Advent, I’m centering myself in Isaiah 30:15: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
What God asks seems so counterintuitive. Not in productivity or control, not in strength or giftedness do we find success or even find God. We encounter God in returning and rest, quietness and trust.
These words signal to me surrender: to cease resisting God and to trust God with whatever is before me. What is before me is waiting; how fitting that it’s Advent, a season of preparation and waiting. Some of the things for which I wait seem cliché in the Christmas season — I’m waiting for God to make things right in the world, I’m waiting for justice and peace, for wholeness and a world shaped by love. These are real hopes for which I wait, and for which I actively wait, as I work for justice and peace.
But some things are nudging me to surrender to the wait, without working for that which I seek. For nearly two years, my husband and I have been wrestling with infertility, as we’ve tried to conceive our second child. We’ve done the things that couples do when they want to have a child and can’t: we’ve been to the doctor, we’ve done procedures, we’ve taken my temperature and timed things just right. And yet none of our efforts have borne the sought fruit. The harder we try, the deeper the disappointment each month.
What does quietness and trust look like in this season of infertility? For me, it means surrender. First, I’ve discovered that it’s far healthier to surrender to the grief I feel rather than hide it behind platitudes like “in God’s time” or guilt-ridden rationalizations like “I already have one child … what I have to complain about?” Surrendering to the grief means laying it down before God and before others and admitting, “This is a deep longing of my heart and the longer that desire goes unfulfilled, the more it hurts.”
To admit the pain is to release it, to surrender it to God. I also think there’s something to the notion of surrendering to the wait, and telling God, “I don’t like this much, but I’m choosing to trust you.” This Advent, I am practicing waiting without an agenda. We will still work and hope for a second child, but without the anxious fretting associated with doing things the “right way.” And if we don’t conceive a second child, I will choose to trust God with my disappointment.
To surrender to the wait is to remember that God waits with us. I believe God waited with Elizabeth and Zechariah, in their many, many years of infertility. Perhaps God even grieved with them, even as God planned to give them their “miracle baby” in their old age. God is not distant from the pain and disappointment associated with waiting; God is present in it. And that brings me comfort, especially in moments of impatience or sadness. God waits with us, so we can trust God in the waiting, we can surrender to quietness and trust.
RACHEL YOUNG is the associate pastor of spiritual formation at Clear Lake Presbyterian Church, in Houston, Texas. She is married to Josh, who also serves on staff at Clear Lake Presbyterian as the director of contemporary worship and media.