For many of us, our 20s and 30s are full of choices we didn’t know we’d need to make, detours we didn’t plan and challenges that knock us down. There can be seasons of life in these decades—long seasons, sometimes—that fall flat. We’re tired of the way our life has turned out, but no matter what, we just can’t seem to do enough for things to get better.
A lot of us are in this proverbial boat. Because no matter how hard we work, no matter how hard we try, there are some things we just can’t change on our own. There are some things only God can fix.
So what do we do when we’re waiting for life to get better? Instead of falling into despair and giving up on our hopes and dreams, here are four meaningful things we can do in the waiting seasons of life:
Don’t Count a Detour as a Failure.
When we have an idea of what our life “should” look like, any deviation from that plan can feel like failure. When we don’t get the job we want or when the relationship doesn’t pan out, it’s easy to feel like we’re not living according to the schedule that all of our friends seem to be on. But here’s a newsflash: there’s no one-size-fits-all timeline for a life. Each of us have a unique journey that we’re walking, and our days have already been numbered by God (Psalm 139:16).
Our job isn’t to fit the mold; it’s to follow Christ. When things are taking longer for you than they do for your friends, maybe you’re not behind. Maybe you’re just in step with where God has you right now.
Get Up Again.
Let’s be honest: If we’re going to make it, we have to be pretty resilient—bouncing back is necessary unless we’re going to fold our cards and give up on life. This is especially true in our 20s and 30s, when stability can be hard to come by. So, get up again. Try again. Trust again. Reach out again. The only way that long seasons of waiting defeat us is if we let them.
When the relationship doesn’t work out, don’t choose to give up on love entirely. Instead, invest in other kinds of love—friendships, family, hobbies, passions—until you’re ready to try again romantically. When the job offer doesn’t come through, send out your resumes one more time and trust that there is a great place for you. And when your prayer still isn’t answered, pray again and believe that God is at work, because He is.
Try Something New.
In long seasons of waiting, it can feel hard to stay excited about getting up every day and living with intention. That’s why it’s important to cultivate gratitude in these seasons—to remember all that we already have to be thankful for even if we’re not getting what we want. In some ways, trying something new is the best way to flex our gratefulness muscle. When we travel to new places, we often remember what we love and already have at home. When we try learning a new skill, it can help increase our gratefulness for the many skills we already possess (reading being just one of them!).
And when we invest in new friendships, it can strengthen our love for the relationships we do have—as well as joyfully helping us appreciate new ones. So if you’re feeling stuck in life, try something brand new—a cooking class, a climbing lesson, a trip to a new part of the world. Big or small, newness has a way of helping us reflect on our lives with gratefulness.
The best news as you’re waiting for life to get better is that God is in control—and that He really, deeply, loves you. He’s never the source of evil; He has your best in mind. It might not feel like it right now, and it might feel like He’s moving kind of slowly, but God is working out all things for your good (Romans 8:28). If you’re having a hard time trusting Him as you wait, make sure to get in community with other Christians and go to a healthy church so others can help you walk through this season.
And take heart; seasons never last forever. Your life might not get better right away or even for a while, but one day, it will. Because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, there’s a day coming when He will make everything new (Revelation 21:1-5), and being with Him will be the best kind of life we could ask for.
Ann Swindell is the author of the new book Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want. You can find her online at annswindell.com.