Waiting for God knows what

I have joked a couple of times with friends that if I ever write a book that reflects on my journey with the Lord, somewhere would be a chapter or subheading entitled, ‘waiting for God knows what.’

On the one hand, I fear that perhaps it might be perceived as irreverent. However, that isn’t the way I mean it at all. I’m quite serious. I’ve approached this season of life where I’m waiting and walking with Him and the more I read His Word, the more I seek to know Him, the less I really grasp what I’m waiting for. Maybe that is because it’s His business right now and not mine or maybe I’ve just been so anxious about it and thought through so many scenarios that I’ve now found myself obscuring what could have been obvious. Overthinkers can do that. 😉

What can be gained from a season of ‘waiting for God knows what?’

Perspective. God has a grip on what’s going on even when I don’t have a clue. When we approach those wide open spaces or those long corridors with too many doors along each side, we have to trust that God is permitting a lack of clarity for His purposes. It challenges me time and again to recall that He is sovereign and that our lives are all for Him.

Humility. So, all that thinking and reflecting and reading multitudes of books does help me grow as a Christian, but I’ll be lopsided unless I’m forced to put those things into practice and when I do, I find that I need God for that because I fall way short of who I aspire to be in Him, and that some of the ideas I have about who I ‘should’ be for Him might not be His plans for me. Ouch.

Gentleness of spirit. I have this ‘thing’ about crying, especially in public, but just crying in general. I don’t like to. I feel ‘weak’ if I do. The drawback, of course, is the callous it seems to form on my heart when I set out to withhold my emotions because of pride. This year has brought forth a lot of tears, many in public. I still don’t like it, but the bright side is the sensitivity to other people’s pain and the willingness to really hear them out and care grows when you’ve been through your own ‘stuff.’

Determination. When we stick with God through the waiting, we find that the more we stick with Him, the more we want to, no matter what is up ahead, and even when things may get worse before they improve. I’m more compelled to persist in my relationship with Him, in part, because of the waiting room times. I think that when this wait is over, I will have been infused with the strength to take up the things God has prepared for me, but that came out of the willingness to persevere during the lean moments.

Trust. I want to be able to understand what God is doing, what He has done. While I wait, there have been big circumstances under which He has made it clear that He knows what He’s doing, but He’s not going to explain it to me, either now or maybe not at all. It presses me to trust Him to handle the intricate pieces of my life that I just can’t figure out.

Hope. I am a doubter. This one is the most difficult to bring forth in me, but in the smallest ways, I see tiny glimmerings of hope cropping up out of the waiting. Slowly, I believe more and more that God hasn’t said no or wait or kept silent on some matters that mean a great deal to me simply because He’s got His plans and I need to fall in line with them. When we have to wait, it hurts because God allows us to become acutely aware of emptiness within ourselves. Then, He permits us to wrestle with the reality that we can’t fill that emptiness with anything we can come up with. He gives us Himself; His presence. Until we acquire a taste for Him, it still doesn’t quite seem like ‘enough,’ even though it is. Sometimes those other things might accompany Him and other times, perhaps not, but if not, it is out of His love that He says no or wait or remains silent.

So, here I am, waiting for God knows what and praying that I will become the woman God intends through the waiting.

What fruit has waiting borne in your life?

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Where does my hope come from?

As I reflected on some of the issues that are going on in my life and around me, I was reminded that God does not delay His work any longer than necessary and that His delays are always with a greater purpose in mind.

When I search the faces of friends and family that are enduring long-term difficulties and I examine the groaning and disappointment in my own heart at some of the things that have transpired over the last year, I am pressed to either keep asking God to help me believe His Word or walk away. It is an active and ongoing choice to go to God, time and again, admitting that I need His help believing Him when the things I see might suggest that there is no hope.

In these times, we have the opportunity to remember where our hope as Christians comes from. It cannot be found anywhere but in Christ alone. Somewhere along the journey, we often gather up other hopes that do disappoint and fail us. If our hope is in our future, our family relationships, our successful career, our education, our talents and qualifications, our friends, our nice stuff…we’ll be let down. It is a process of letting go of those hopes so that we can cling rightly to the One hope we have. That is not to say that God might still provide in those areas and perhaps even abundantly, but these things are not to be our hope.

There are some women I care about dearly who hoped for happy families and healthy marriages and, well, that isn’t what they got. I want to tell them something that will fix their situations and restore their hope. I did point out that God is our hope and yet I felt that my presentation was a feeble attempt to give them what they long for. I get that they are in pain now and I get that eternity seems a long way off and I get that they don’t see a tangible resolution that meets their expectations, that satisfies their previous hopes. Ultimately, it I know it is the Lord that must fill them with Himself as they find themselves feeling empty and it is the Spirit that must make His Word come alive for them.

Somehow, in the midst of our deferred hopes or dashed hopes, God makes a way for us to acknowledge Him as the hope we have for today and every tomorrow until He returns and makes all things new. I suppose that one of the advantages of being in the trenches right alongside these dear ones with my own collection of hopes disappointed is that in this season, God provides me  a unique ability to speak into their lives as someone acquainted with their grief, perhaps not their specific circumstances, but the common denominator of hoping in something or someone in addition to God and finding out that hope was misplaced. I’m not on my high horse handing them spiritual platitudes. I got knocked off and I’m right there beside them grappling with what I’ve read for years in scripture and what I want to believe against all odds, but it’s not easy to actually live that when hardship hits and keeps on coming.

Psalm 27:13-14: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Job 19:25-26: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”

In the meantime…what we do while we wait

Yesterday, I mentioned that sometimes we experience a specific call to leadership, while other times, we might be in the preparation process without a distinct awareness that leadership is in the works.

Today, I would like revisit our examples of Joshua and David and consider how God used time to make them ready for the leadership roles that He had in store for them. In Joshua’s story, he served Moses as his assistant for decades. During this time, he learned what it meant to seek the Lord wholeheartedly and to look to the Lord for guidance on how to lead Israel. Joshua discovered that a personal relationship with the Lord was of immeasurable worth. He saw the heartbreak of Israel’s rebellion against the Lord and against Moses on several occasions. He witnessed their propensity to complain and turn from God. Joshua and Caleb were the only spies who scouted out Canaan and came back with a report that the Israelites could surely take on their enemies because the Lord would fulfill His promises and be with them in battle. Perhaps one of the things that most encourages me about Joshua’s character is that when Moses was growing old and it was time to appoint a new leader, Joshua didn’t do everything he could to try to be first in line, even after so many years of being Moses’ assistant. That suggests to me that he had learned to trust God to handle things in the very best way and that Joshua wasn’t looking out for his own interests.

David was anointed while Saul was still enthroned. Now Saul was not going to peaceably depart from his position as king. Instead, he pursued David and sought his death. Can you imagine the thoughts and feelings that flew through David’s mind as he considered the disparity between his call and his circumstances? He went from a shepherd to a man to the man who plays music and sings for the king, to a man on the run! The Psalms make it evident for us that this unexpected plot twist contributed to the character David would have by the time he sat on the throne. He would have faced great adversity that required his complete dependence on God for deliverance. He knew what it was like to suffer for doing good. He understood loneliness. He lived the tension of trusting God, but not at all understanding what in the world God was doing.

If you are in a season of waiting and preparation, there are times that this season can be adventuresome and exhilirating. You might be glad and content with it. However, it is just as likely that you will have some moments when you wonder if this time will ever pass and if change will come. The Lord often prepares us using situations, circumstances, people, and issues that would not be our first choice if we were writing the script, but when we hang in there and press on, there are glimpses of light and progress, even through the wilderness or in the midst of battles. God is forging a character in us that will enable us to stand in the trials of leadership when that time comes.

While I was waiting, I endured some discouraging and disheartening times in my life. I made difficult decisions that set me apart and left me lonely, even among Christian peers. The Lord allowed me to come to the end of myself in several places of my life so that I could not hang onto my self-sufficiency and pride. I was pressed to figure out whether I was willing to live what I said I believed when what I could see didn’t suggest that God was working on my behalf. There were a lot of desires and expectations I had to surrender and learn to devote myself to trying to honor Him with what I had, instead of constantly feeling frustrated with the opportunities and resources that were withheld. I discovered things about the Lord that I didn’t know before, but I needed to know if I was going to have a solid foundation.

When you examine your own life, how might the Lord be using blessings and trials to fashion a man or woman after His own heart?

Love beyond human understanding

Today, we come to the miracle found in John 11, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

As I read this story again, I found myself drawn to discuss a few points with you.

In verses 5 and 6, Jesus is noted for loving Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. In this text, there is use of both agapao and phileo, which suggests that His love for them related to their roles as friends and followers. Yet, there is something jarring as a reader to see that He loved them and then proceeded to stay where He was two days longer. Of course, once we know the end of the story, we can put everything in its good context. But let us not miss hanging in this moment to rush forward to the glory and the resurrection.

Aren’t there times in your life or in the lives of those around you that you are facing the tension of the truth that Jesus loves you and so when He heard…fill in the blank, He waited? Know anyone who has lost a job or a baby? What about a beloved single friend who’s still wondering if he or she will ever be married? Someone who has been stricken with painful illness or deep despair? Unexpected divorce or rebelling children?

I don’t know about you, but something in me as I read that He loved and so He waited is troubled by this. My heart and mind sputter, ‘What?‘ My first instinct is that love would lead to action…and quickly! But this is a story of expectation and delay. The Lord knows that this is an opportunity to grow His people in faith and to bring Jews to salvation.

When Jesus does show up, He mourns before He acts. It is in this that the Jews witness that He did love Lazarus. Even now that Jesus has arrived on the scene, He does not rush to the rescue. He pauses and grieves with those dear ones who are grieving. Some of the Jews said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (v. 37)

Don’t we ask this at times? Couldn’t God have intervened? The unsettling thing is that most of us do know that yes, He could have either prevented what happened or fixed it right away. Sometimes He does protect His people or fix things promptly, but then there are those…other times.

C. K. Barrett’s commentary describes the people as having an ‘inchoate’ faith. Their faith was imperfectly formed. Another passage I read interpreted that the people were sorrowing as those who had no hope. Jesus knew this and allowed the pause, the grieving, and the questions to come before He demonstrated the active aspects of love.  The resurrection of Lazarus is described as Jesus’ life-giving work put on display!

As a result, v. 45 tells us that many who were there believed.

Yesterday we talked about how God can use our circumstances to bring about His glory. Think about someone you know who might be wrestling with this theology that God loves them, but He also has permitted some hardship to come into their lives and He hasn’t hurried in to deliver them out of it. In what ways can these stories remind us of God’s bigger picture and His faithfulness and love that extends beyond our understanding?

Finding Him through waiting…

The Wait Poem

by Russell Kelfer

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .
And the Master so gently said,”Wait.”

“Wait? You say wait?” my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
“Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I’m claiming your Word.

My future and all to which I relate,
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to Wait?”
I’m needing a ‘yes,’ a go-ahead sign.
Or even a ‘no,’ to which I’ll resign.

You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
Lord, I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
I’m weary of asking! I need a reply.

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, “Wait.”
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, “So, I’m waiting . . . for what?”

He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .
And He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You’d have what you want, but you wouldn’t know Me.
You’d not know the depth of My love for each saint.
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint.

You’d not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there.
You’d not know the joy of resting in Me,
When darkness and silence are all you can see.

You’d never experience the fullness of love,
When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

The glow of My comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you ask,
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

You’d never know should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But oh, the loss if I lost what I’m doing in you.

So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see,
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still “WAIT”.

What do you mean, wait?

As I was gathering some more books to refill the display on doubt and fear, I came across a book I read a few years ago on waiting. I thought I’d review it to see if there was something that might speak into my current circumstances.

What I want to share with you are some of the highlights of that book that I’m mulling over and living out.

Waiting is not the same as complacency. A. W. Tozer said, “complacency is a ‘self-satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” Waiting is an active process. A lot is going on, but this work can take a long time and much of the work is happening in our innermost being and so it might be some time off in the future before others can see the fruit of waiting.

Waiting provokes wrestling, which is to ‘engage in deep thought, consideration, or debate; to strive earnestly as if in a violent or determined struggle’ (pg. 91). Waiting may lead to weeping, or breaking down. ‘The longer we wait, the more aware we become of our powerlessness’ (pg. 117).

‘Waiting often brings us to peaceful acceptance, to willingness. Willingness is not a passive resignation, but active trust. We are willing not only to wait, but to examine our motives, to confess our sin, to step out in obedience, and to surrender our rights, in confidence” (pg. 129).

Sometimes willingness to slow down, listen to God, and obey Him happens after a period of wondering where God is and what He’s doing. Otherwise, we might have just carried along, full steam ahead, towards some plan that looked good to us. There is something in me that groans deeply when I sense God’s wait sign going up. I’d rather just hear no and rush headlong into something else than to hang on ‘wait.’

“Waiting sharpens desire. In fact it helps us to recognize where our real desires lie. It separates our passing enthusiasms from our true longings. It reveals to us both our shallowness and our depths. Waiting is a test of our love and longing” (pg. 134).

Perhaps I appreciated that quote most in my own experience of waiting because I’ve pondered how the Lord is purifying the things I thought I wanted and reshaping them again. I can’t see what it looks like, but I can feel the refiner’s fire and the pain that comes from the straightening of crooked places and filing of jagged edges.

Waiting is a choice to obey that we have to keep making day after day. The alternative is to walk away and pursue something else. Even in Christian circles, I find that this is often encouraged…to simply get on with it, rather than to stay the course and endure whatever it is that God has in store for those who will heed the call to wait.

In my own season of waiting, I’m trying to trust that waiting allows me the opportunity to know God in a way that I’ve not known Him before and maybe didn’t even desire to know Him until the going got tough enough.

Here are a few of the passages that were referenced in the book:

Psalm 27:13-14

Psalm 73:28

Psalm 84:5-7

Psalm 126:5-6