Thankful in the Waiting Room

Waiting RoomPhoto Credit

Written by monthly contributor, Natalie Didlake.

Sometimes I’m in the spiritual dumps.

Sometimes I’m a lousy mom.

Sometimes I am tired of living in a place I don’t think I belong.

Sometimes someone I love dies.

Sometimes I have a habitual sin I don’t understand and can’t conquer.

Sometimes my relationships are in shambles, and I can’t see how to help them along.

Sometimes I am too depressed and discouraged to go to bed; the next day isn’t much improved by a sleepless night.

Sometimes my day-to-day life feels aimless and purposeless.

If I ever tell you I’m having one of those “sometimes,” don’t tell me to be thankful for what I have. Don’t remind me to remember all the good things God has already done for me. Don’t tell me to enjoy the little things, or cultivate gratitude.

Because it won’t help.

When I’m full of angst, deep questions, and frustrations, they can’t be swept aside and replaced. Problems and sin cannot be amended by attempts at thankfulness.

Problems and sin can only be amended by crying out to God. Sometimes He takes his time….a long time. Even the waiting can be painful and frustrating, a grief in itself. Trying to be thankful doesn’t even give me the bit of comfort I so crave, especially in that “waiting room.”

In the Waiting Room

As in, the doctor’s waiting room. I remember as a child being miserably sick, sitting there in a grimy, hard plastic chair, in a public place. Oh, for the quiet of your own room, instead of noisy children and the whine of a soap opera in the background. The temp was always 10 degrees below comfortable, so your teeth chatter while you imagine snuggling under a blanket on the couch. You just feel awful, and sit there.

But you have to, in order to see the doctor. Which, of course, you want to do, because that’s where you hope to find some relief.

And then, I remember the nurse coming through a heavy swinging door, calling my name. She’d meet your eyes, nod, and say, “The doctor will be with you in just a few minutes.” Oh, for joy! The long wait is almost over.

Sometimes we are in the waiting room, and we so desperately need someone to pop their head through the door to remind us the wait’s almost over. Sometimes we can’t push a trouble aside, but we can be eased and comforted in the midst of it by remembering the “doctor” will see us soon.

When my soul is in that waiting room of unfinished business, I love this precious promise God gives me in Philippians. He sweetly pops through the door to remind me he is still working in me and has not forgotten about me:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phil 1:6

A simple, small verse. But it always gives me the strength I need to sit and wait a little longer. My God is the Great Healing Doctor, and he made our appointment. He knows what is wrong with me, and as long as I follow his prescription, I will get well!

And for that, I am always…yes,  thankful. Truly, deeply, thankful. I can be sure God will finish the work he started in me. Thankful, dare I say happy? Even in the waiting room.

About NDidlake

Natalie Didlake is the mother of three lively little ones, Sabrina (age 5), Roarke (age 3), and Alexia (age 2). She has been married to the winsome and brilliant Aaron for 6 years. They live in Mississippi, where they still have no clue how to be "southern." Natalie's goals are to bring the gospel to bear on every ounce of womanhood, love and enjoy her family, and maybe capture some of it in writing. In between, Natalie likes to squeeze in cooking, blogging, taking pictures of her cute kids, couponing, and saving oodles of money by bargain-hunting. Natalie blogs at Guarded by the Gospel.

31 Responses to Thankful in the Waiting Room

  1. peaceluvr November 17, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    My nephew sent this to me on facebook…It speaks volumes to my soul!!! I sent this to several ladies I thought may need this but I also sent it to my son who’s wife just left him and he is going through some very trying times…alot of men can relate to this also. Thank you so much for saying what we all know and feel at times. God bless and keep you in His care!

  2. Lorilee @ Loving Simple November 15, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    Thanks for this post! Sometimes it is just so re-assuring to know that we all struggle, no one is perfect and this is just the world we are in. Someday everything will be perfect, but no matter what this day is like, or what I think of others around me, we all struggle and we all need each other.

  3. Dianne November 14, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Interesting reading and some great points of view. I totally understand about not wanting to hear about all there is to be thankful for when you are in the depths of dispare. When my youngest son died in a tragic accident I was told to be thankful I had an older son. Those two facts really had nothing to do with each other. Yes, I loved, adored and was thankful for my living son but that did nothing to ease the pain of losing the one that died. And while I know and knew he was in heaven that didn’t ease the pain either. Sometimes we just need to go through all that we are feeling and truly and deeply feel those emotions. To do otherwise prolongs the despair and hinders the healing process. This is true of every challenge we are faced with. Recently we lost our home of 19 years. That loss (althought material and can never compare to the loss of a child) too was very painful and the challenges associated with it almost insurmountable. I grieved for all that was gone, as God had a direct hand in everything I was able to accompolish with my ranch. It was a place of spiritual healing and provided solice for many, many people over the years. My depression and anger lived side by side with the knowledge that God has a greater plan for me and through it all I have his grace. He allows me to live on this earthly plan, working and moving towards his own, with the emotions that come with the circumstance. It is through those very trying times that I grow closer to him and come to a greater understanding of the whole. When I am quiet I hear things that need to be heard and surround myself with those that are kind in their suggestions. We all beat ourselves up for our own reasons. As woman we need to nurture and support each other in ways that lift us up and further our growth. I always remember two things my Father once told me. 1. Is it better to be right or happy. 2. Are you sayimg things to hurt someone or to help them? Sometimes the lines blur but in our hearts we can find the answer before we speak. I have found words once spoken cannot ever be taken back and in that is a lesson hard learned. Love in His bliss.

    • Natalie November 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm #


      Thank you for sharing. Sounds like you really know all about grief, loss, and letting it take its time. Glad you still hold on to your faith.

      • Dianne November 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

        Thank you Natalie,

        I do know a lot about those things as God has blessed me with many challenging times in my life. I always say, “He didn’t bring me this far to drop me off the end of the earth” and he never has. Sometimes it is hard to hold on to faith but letting go means I’m gone and He is not finished with me yet! I loved your post and the fact that you are so real in your raw emotion. Honesty in your sharing has an amazing effect, and most often we never know how.

  4. Shannon November 14, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    A former co-worker of mine said that her daughter used to say that she had too many “thinks”! Her head was just full of ideas and thoughts that swirled around. I also disagree with people saying “just remember that other people are worse off than you”. Your problems and crises are still your own and you’re the one swimming in your own deep sea.

  5. Sarah November 13, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    I totally get this! My close friends and I have a saying… “Two more seconds!” As in, this life we are experiencing on Earth with all of it’s dissapointments and hardships will only be a glimmer when we finally reach eternity. When we finally finish the race. We can hold on in the waiting room for two more seconds for sure. Very encouraging post.

  6. Samantha November 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    I am right there in the waiting room of my life right now. And it’s been 2 years…and I’m not sure when it’s going to get better.

    As I scrolled through the posts I haven’t read from blogs I follow, I briefly read yours and started to keep going. I didn’t want to have to think about what I’m going through…but the Lord whispered to my heart, “read it. Go back and read it.” So I did, and I’m glad I did. You understand, and that makes today a little easier to get through. Thanks for the post.

  7. Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds November 13, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    So beautifully honest. What I got from this is that even when we can’t pull ourselves out of depression, and others’ words of comfort don’t help either, GOD’s words and promises can be our saving grace.

  8. Kelli November 12, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    I like how this post comes full circle. Rather than seeing that you say not to implore someone to be thankful, I think you give a roundabout way of saying that even when we feel Iike we are in a situation where we have nothing to be thankful for, we should look again. I like that this post felt like we were a part of your thought process… Initially our natural response to a hard situation is something similar to: don’t tell me to be thankful! But as we work through these difficult things I think we eventually come to a place of seeing SOMEthing we can be thankful for. I loved thus and genuinely needed to read this tonight.

  9. Janel November 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    I have been struggling with this fine line between weeping with those that weep and giving Godly, scriptural ecouragement. My Mom would always tell me that sometimes people just need a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. I believe the fine line is important. There are times to weep and run to God in your weeping. But wallowing in our sorrows is another thing. When it is coming from a place of despair and lack of faith and trust in God then that is when we need to rise up as a woman of God and speak the truth to our friend admonishing and edifying our friend with the word of God in love. It may not be what they want to hear but just what they NEED to hear. It’s not about thanking God for all of your other blessings, but for the circumstances at hand and His promises to us to work all things out for our good knowing that He is a just and sovereign God who is holding us in the palm of His hand. We are instructed to be thankful in ALL circumstances. That word “all” is the tricky part. But none the less we are to be thankful in the hardest of circumstances. This my be only a confession of faith in the beginning not feeling very thankful, but will eventually lead to a true heart of thankfulness. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the by the word of God. Sometimes we need to be bold enough to speak the word of God to our hurting friends to strengthen their faith. All this to say that if you are born again you have the Spirit of God within you that will be faithful to lead you in what to say in each God given opportunity. So let your spiritual ears be open to hear what the Spirit is saying and have the boldness to do it!

    • Natalie November 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm #


      I totally agree! Seems the key is to be thankful at ALL times because of GOD, not because of circumstances. He allows both happiness and grief, and we never have reason to question or pull back from him. I think you are right in pointing out that the correct response is sometimes to gently tell a friend they focusing too much on circumstances, and not enough on the Lord. Wonderful comment, thanks again.

  10. Margaret November 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    THANK YOU! for this precious, really true for me, sweetly encouraging post! Your thoughts (that you kindly shared with us) make my heart feel better….Thank you for being transparent.

  11. Angela Palmer November 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    A very interesting post. I would like to hear about it in more depth, please.

    • Natalie November 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

      Hopefully taking a creative, personal approach hasn’t been confusing for too many ladies. Sorry I didn’t include a more concise summary somewhere. I decided to approach this topic from the inside because it can be callous and cold to discuss thankfulness in a theoretical way to grieving, hurting people. Job was a case in point to me.

      I’d summarize by saying this: Thankfulness seems sometimes a sticky and confusing topic to American Christians. We have so much, yet experience such voids. Sometimes we tell someone who is down, suffering or grieving…”be thankful for what you have.” They are told to remember their good health, to appreciate their comfortable home, to notice the beautiful falling leaves, or to delight in their intact family. Basically to note what good there still is.

      Except that response does not address the person’s problem. It can actually be a way to avoid or dismiss the problem. But God is so much greater than that. He says he can make “beauty from ashes”. We can look directly at areas of sadness, grief, confusion, etc. and know that buried deep beneath is some unseen triumph of God’s hand, on our behalf. It may not be till eternity, but he has good and joy planned, soon to spring up out of that trial. (Job’s awe at God’s unseen, unknown plans and enormous ability to do anything)

      If we tell this to ourselves and to others, we’ve effectively pointed to God and His love and power….and without realizing it, we’ve pointed away from (or through) the painful circumstance. Hence the waiting room metaphor. Waiting is bearable when you realize it will be over soon and good will come at the end.

      Hope that helps!

  12. Dara November 12, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts. Encouraging and a good reminder not to sing a song to a heavy heart. Sometimes what we need to dispense is that nudge to help another find their song.

  13. Lisa November 11, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    I could not have read this at a better time. I have been in “survival mode” for the past couple of months dealing with various struggles and losses. The other day I received a word of encouragement like you described. It was filled with hope, and turned my focus from my circumstances- to the God in charge of them. I’m SO GLAD that He does not and will not abandon the work that He has begun in me!

  14. Trina Holden November 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    A memorable metaphor. Almost reconciles me to my seat in the waiting room, having you paint the picture so beautifully. I’ll be coming back to this post.

  15. Emily November 11, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Good thoughts Natalie.

    It is too easy to tell someone to be thankful while they are in pain, rather than to sit in silence and mourn with them.

    “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 ESV

    When I have thanked the Lord in the midst of a painful experience it has always been to express faith that I trust He has a purpose in it. It doesn’t mean that I am smiling and all of a sudden feel good about everything. How we are called to endure trials is different from how we are called to walk along side those who are enduring trials.

    In response to Melinda, shouldn’t the root of our thankfulness be in the promise that God is at work like Natalie inferred? How can I thank Him for something “un-thankable” unless I have the promise that He is at work and that He is faithful? Anyone can be thankful for good things. It is the mark of a disciple to thank Him for the “bad” while trusting He is at work. However this doesn’t mean that we should be quick to tell others to express thankfulness in the midst of their pain.

    Let us always be quick to extend grace to one another.

  16. Rachel November 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Hey guys, it is possible to be faithful AND momentarily bitter. Job, anyone? I think this is a great reminder to not be like Job’s friends and try to gloss over people’s pain or try to explain the “reason” for it when it just frustrates them more. It took an encounter with God Himself to heal Job, and I think that’s what this post ultimately points to. Just my two cents!

    • Lauren November 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

      True – thank you for this clarifying view. :) For me, there is a HUGE difference between the way I love my suffering friends, and the way that I metabolize my own sins and struggles. My friends get all the hugs and sympathy tears, frequent phone calls and compassionate prayers. For my own part, I usually have a good cry when I hit that breaking point and then haul it up by my bootstraps and have a fierce heart-to-heart with the Lord and then soldier on. ;) But oh, our hearts are all shaped so differently aren’t they?

      I would also like to gently point us toward one of our family’s current memory passages from Ephesians 4…Paul tells us to get rid of all bitterness. Yes, it tries to stalk in on us (ha, currently listening to LeCrae’s rebel album, the song “Indwelling sin” and he addresses this pretty well), but when we feel it creeping in, we are supposed to get rid of it. Does it feel good to me to hang on to bitterness sometimes? Absolutely! But I know that it’s not only not good for me, it’s directly disobedient to His Word. References for that one abound. It’s only the power, presence, comfort, and joy of Christ Jesus that will expunge that bitterness, certainly. But there’s no condoned precedent for harboring my hurt and nursing it a la Gollum and the precious, rather than *running* to the waiting room, and persistently and insistently pounding on the door to make sure the doc knows I’m still waiting. ;)

      All that to say, again, yes – I see your point about how we’re loving others. There are a very small handful of friends who I would gently confront with hard truth the way that I address my own heart. So I see your point about how we’re loving and building up (or how we ought to) other believers in valleys. :)

      • Rachel November 11, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

        Yes, all good thoughts. Habitual bitterness is not a good thing, and yet we all have those moments in the valley that only God can truly lift us from.

        Thanks for the Scripture you shared as well.

  17. N. November 11, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    I was really hoping for something along the lines of natural living today. But this was just what I needed. Thanks.

  18. Ashley Willcox November 11, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    I would also love to hear your clarification and deeper thought on Melinda’s question, too, though!

  19. Ashley Willcox November 11, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    Thank you for this beautiful post. Thank you for encouraging us not to give people “bandaid Scripture” answers to their hearts anguish. Now to learn how to really, truly encourage people (and ourselves) in the waiting room. Giving pat answers is so much simpler than pointing to the Cross and Christ. But it does not solve the problem. It does not ease our sin. Only Christ can do that. Thank you again!

  20. Lauren November 11, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Agree with Melinda. Saying “Don’t tell me to be thankful…Problems and sins cannot be amended by attempts at thankfulness” savors more strongly of bitterness than the rest of your post would indicate is a true barometer of your heart. Half-hearted attempts at thankfulness may not fix a problem, but focusing on the thousands of small (and sometimes big) graces that pack each day full of the fingerprints of God help us to feel the true joy that comes with gratitude. Not fleeting, fickle happiness, but a deep and peaceful abiding joy.

    Not only that, but the Apostle Paul exhorted us not to be thankful *despite* our circumstances, or thankful when our burdens are finally eased, but to be thankful IN and FOR all circumstances. Those thorns drive us to His side. I can thank Him, even yes, for the bitter cup, because it is a necessary part of our sanctification at times.

    Again, not saying this is not behind your post, which is certainly a common feeling that we all have (“when oh when will this trial end?”). But perhaps there is difference between saying, “Well this thing is going awful, but I guess I should be thankful that it is not worse,” and counting – literally! – our blessings. True, some may be trivial and/or common graces, but it’s all still more than we deserve. :) A thankful heart is the seat of joy, whether all goes ill or well. Not in spite of it all, but because of it all.

  21. Rachel November 11, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    “Sometimes I have a habitual sin I don’t understand and can’t conquer.”

    That’s where I’m at today, sister. I get so frustrated sometimes and today I SO needed to hear that sweet little promise verse, so I can keep waiting faithfully. Thank you for this.

  22. Melinda November 11, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    I’m not sure I understand the distinction you’re making by insisting that others shouldn’t prompt you to cultivate gratitude when you’re going through difficult times, when your conclusion is that being reminded that help is on its way makes you thankful. I’m not trying to be nit-picky. :) Just trying to understand what you’re saying about helping someone in need. I do believe that thankfulness is a necessary quality, even a God-given command. So I’m wrestling with your bold introduction: “Don’t tell me to be thankful…Problems and sins cannot be amended by attempts at thankfulness.” Perhaps not. But they can, as you go on to conclude, be amended by genuine thankfulness, rooted in the character and promises of God.

    How would you reconcile your telling others not to remind you to be thankful with needing to be reminded that God is at work, so that you can be thankful? What is the difference?

    • Allison November 11, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

      A personal example of how I take that would be those who eagerly wanted thankfulness for my remaining children to dispell the darkness of my 9 yr old daughter dying last year. Thankfulness can stop short, with a focus on the gifts rather than tracing back to the Giver. The real comfort is found in who God is. In contrast, you nailed in in describing “genuine thankfulness, rooted in the character and promises of God”.

    • Samantha November 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

      I think what’s being said in this post is that it can be insensitive and harsh to tell someone when they’re going through a dark time to “just be thankful.” That might not be what they need at that moment. Yes, they might need to have a more grateful heart, but sometimes we have to move through the grief in order to get to that point. If they haven’t grieved what they’re going through, and haven’t been allowed to grieve by those around them, then they may not get to that point. What you can do is be there for them and remind them of God’s promises with out telling them how to feel or what they should be doing.

    • Natalie November 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm #


      Thank you for being observant and bringing out an important point to clarify. The difference to me is that often statements like, “just be thankful!” tend to be backward looking. “Be thankful for what you DO have!” Well yes, but what I already have is done and over, and there are new problems looming over my head. What about those? Reminding me of the past doesn’t really help much unless I apply what I learned about God then, to what I hope will happen in future.

      Thankfulness in this messy, unresolved day-to-day life, rides on being forward-looking. John Piper calls this “future grace.” We look to God trustingly, believing for sure he WILL help us, even if today’s not the day. That’s what we should encourage each other to be thankful for…the sure hope we have in God himself.

      In Phil. 4, Paul writes about the secret to contentment. His secret is summed up in vs. 19: “My God WILL supply every need!”

      Hope that helps, sorry if i wasn’t clear!