I did not grow up in a family that took family vacations, so I cannot say that I have experienced an endless car ride with a child asking “Are we there yet?” every five minutes. I am absolutely positive that if I had grown up going on family vacations, I most surely would have been that kid asking “Are we there yet?” every five seconds. There is a reason that patience is one of the fruits of the spirit…because it does not come naturally. I certainly fall subject to impatience and the need to get things done and have instant gratification. I like to-do lists because I can continually check things off rather than put things off. I am most impatient when I know the plans ahead of time. I have experienced senioritis at least five times in life: as a senior in high school, as a senior in college, still as a senior in college when I decided late to double major, writing my master’s thesis, and now… only in my second year of PhD school… I cannot wait to be finished. Clearly, patience is not my strong suit.
This last semester has been a season of God at work on my patience. For years now, I have felt that I knew exactly what God was calling me to do and the direction He was calling me to go in. The development of this direction began many years ago when I was in Italy, and since then, God has very slowly added more confirmation to that direction as He has either peeled more layers away or provided more preparation for that direction. At times along this journey, I have been able to see in the moment how God was using the time, at others, not so much. Even still, I am learning new things each day about waiting. Waiting poorly and waiting well.
My timing is not God’s timing.
One of the lessons I am continually learning about waiting is that I do not call the shots in this game called life. It is one of those things that I know and understand fully yet somehow always seem to forget in the moment when it matters most. I can so easily be frustrated by watching the lives of the people around me and comparing them to mine. I tend to see other people moving through life as an indicator that I am not going anywhere. For the last month, I feel as if God has had to remind me every night of who is in control here.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are my ways higher than your ways
And my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9
These words in Isaiah are comforting and work quickly to distinguish the flames of my impatience and frustration over what I think is happening in life. In hindsight, I see the details that God has been orchestrating over the course of several years, and it reminds me of His greatness and goodness. In the moment, I tend to only see what is in my face. The details alone, though, should be enough to encourage me to wait well as I trust that His timing is in fact perfect, rather than stewing in frustration and constantly having to be put back in my place. Plus, all that stewing becomes a massive distraction from the ways God is presently at work right in front of my face.
Don’t miss the lessons and blessings in the waiting.
A timely lesson that I learned at the beginning of last year was the importance of how we handle ourselves in the times of waiting. My small group went through a semester of discussing the process or journey that God brings us through before we arrive at what God has in store for us. We often talked about Joseph and how faithful he remained to God in the waiting before God set him above everyone in Egypt. Joseph experiences years of difficulty and hardship, including the betrayal of his brothers, being sold into slavery, the wrongful accusation of adultery, and being locked away in prison. If I am being honest, I definitely would have a bad attitude and spend the majority of my time pouting in my prison cell, crying “Woe is me!” If that is how I would handle myself, take a look at what I might also miss:
“And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” – Genesis 39:20-21
Joseph may have been in prison, but the Lord was still with Joseph. God also showed Joseph his steadfast love during that time and even gave him favor in the eyes of Joseph’s enemies. Had Joseph spent all of his time in prison pouting, I highly doubt he would have seen God’s steadfast love with him or the fact that God was still working in his favor. My own pouting over my current situation only serves to cloud my vision of what God is currently doing. I miss the opportunities to minister to the people surrounding me and see the work of God in their lives. I miss the fact that every day I wake up is still an opportunity to know God deeper and in new ways as He is with me in my current trials and still working through me. I miss that I am protected in the place I am in. I miss that I am defended and comforted and sustained by a Heavenly Father who loves me and knows what’s best for me. Basically, I miss all of the things happening NOW that I only assume will happen THEN. God is in the waiting, and therefore the waiting is good.
The process always leads to the promise.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons of learning to wait well is the fact that God is also using this season as a time of preparation. I often watch my high school students gallivant through their high school season of preparation and think about how they are missing out on vital information and skills for their next season: college. They are more concerned with getting out of high school than they are with benefitting from high school. I was once that high school student, and the sad part is that I am often still that student. When I look back through the details of the last ten years, I see how in each brief season God was preparing me for the same ultimate goal. Each season was a different step in the ladder and a different piece of the puzzle. Each one has built upon the previous, and each one points to the same direction and calling.
I can get so frustrated about the fact that I am still “waiting.” My frustration never allows me to see the good that God is doing now nor the importance of what God is doing now.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
God’s word is a constant reminder of how and why He orchestrates life the way He does. He knows what He is doing more than I do. I am able to praise Him for the work after but not during because I do not see it. Frustration with the present trumps my hope in the future. Paul reminds the Romans of some key components of hope:
“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” – Romans 8:24-25
I know that God works all things out for good. I know that God is with me in the waiting. I know that God is using the waiting. To wait well is to be present in the waiting, to learn and to grow, to gain as much as I possibly can, as I continue to hope in the calling God has placed in my heart.