“And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us…” [Romans 5:4-5, TLB].
Smiling from ear to ear, Lisa’s excited because she just got off the phone with Daniel, her beloved. He is so different from the men she’s talked to before. He’s kept his word each time, he’s respectful, he’s patient and kind, and he doesn’t spring up plans randomly. The fact that he has actual plans is an added bonus! In fact, he just informed Lisa of a planned adventure Friday night, a good 5 days in advance!, and it bodes to be a great time out. Come Friday, Lisa rushed home to get ready. Showered and hair tightly curled, Lisa put on her freshly dry cleaned and pressed dress, and she proceeded to apply her makeup. She finished all preparations with 5 minutes to spare and sat watching TV as she waited for Daniel to come pick her up. The 5 minutes turned into 10, then 20, and soon it’s over an hour of waiting. During this time, Lisa starts to question her memory of the plans made, what was actually communicated, what happened to Daniel, why has she not heard from him, what to do – be mad or play it cool? But she’s hungry and was truly looking forward to all the fun things he spoke about…
In our walk with God, we (men and women alike) tend to find ourselves in a similar situation as Lisa. There are promises of God, whispered to us in prayer or broadcast in front of an audience, that gets us expectant of a hopeful and glorious future. Though we might not disclose the details, we don’t mind sharing the excitement of what’s to come. But then comes the time of wait and suspense – a time where we’re unsure if we heard anything; a time where we’re unsure what was said, who said it, and what it meant; a time of regret that we got others involved and now they see and share in the disappointment of an unfulfilled word. What should one do (or not) in a time like this?
First, let’s consider the obvious – move to action. In our example, Lisa could have decided to stop waiting 30 minutes in and eaten something at home while she waited. But if Daniel had shown up soon after, this leaves Lisa in a position where she’s unable to receive and enjoy whatever meal he had planned. This was the case with the Israelite King, Saul. Pending a fight against the Philistines, Saul called for and performed a burnt offering to God in the absence of the prophet Samuel. Saul disregarded the sacred customs in efforts to keep in man’s good graces and to save face with his army. Immediately after his sacrifice, Samuel arrived and said to Saul “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” [1 Samuel 13:13-14, ESV] Succumbing to our emotions, the pressures of waiting – whether from ourselves or others, or sheer impatience results in rash decisions to take action which, even in the right direction, bodes lethal consequences. It is better to wait on God than to move ahead of His word.
Next, let us consider another approach – providing an alternative course of action. If instead of waiting or eating Lisa reached Daniel and offered to meet him at the park, she would have now exerted energy that wasn’t initially in the plans. She would miss out on the detour trips he would have taken her to get blankets for the picnic and ice-cream for dessert; simple yet fun short trips to maximize their time together. Recall Abraham, the father of faith. In a time when there were no surrogate mothers or IVF, he had one way of having a child with Sarah in order to fulfill God’s promises and covenant. However, in a society where all your possessions are property, Sarah believed that a child through her servant would equate the promise of God and thus she volunteered Hagar [Genesis 16:1-4]. Years later when God approached Abraham about the same promise, “Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, that Ishmael [my firstborn] might live before You!’ But God said, ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son indeed, and you shall name him Isaac (laughter); and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his descendants after him.’” [Genesis 17:18-19, AMP] Isaac and his wife, Rebecca, also tried to manipulate the word of God concerning their children – “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.” [Genesis 25:23, NLT] As a result of deception by Rebecca and Jacob (the younger son), Isaac did not give his parting blessings to Esau (the older twin) like he had intended. Instead, Jacob received the father’s blessings and departed from the land to avoid death by Esau [Genesis 27]. He lived many years away from his beloved mother, whom he never saw again; he labored and endured hardships in the house of Laban before acquiring his wives, children and possessions and returning back home [Genesis 28-31]. What we try to do “on behalf of God” brings unnecessary troubles. The truth is, God does not need a plan B for His purposes.
Finally, consider this option – patiently waiting, a paradox that seems impossible but reaps much fruit. If Lisa chooses to remember, believe and insist on what was previously discussed, yes she’d be rather starved when Daniel arrives but how much more would she appreciate and enjoy the meal? How much more precious will their time together be, considering it had seemed like she got stood up? After receiving two dreams that spoke of a great and majestic future, one can only imagine the thoughts Joseph battled when his brothers left him in the pit then sold him as a slave [Genesis 37:5-10, 23-28]. Surely hope arose when he started working for Potiphar and gained much influence, but imagine the disappointment and hurt to find himself in jail because he was lied about [Genesis 39:12-20]. Or how about the fact that he was pulling ranks in jail then got even better hopes of exit when he helped Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker interpret their dreams? [Genesis 40:8-23] What manner of anger, sorrow, disappointment, rejection, etc did he feel when his interpretations manifested and yet they forgot to speak for his release? For all this, we are told that “until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.” [Psalms 105:19 NLT]
There is a work in you that God wants to achieve before bringing you to the next level. In the time of waiting, review the words given to you, assess yourself to find out what you need to do in order to prepare/get ready, and check for notification of any updates – change of plans, tips for preparation – or lack thereof. When all these are taken care of, you can now simply and patiently wait on the Lord. As the virgins did, you can choose to either wait with a set amount of grace and patience (based on your own conceived timeline) or you can decide to make provisions for seeming delay [Matthew 25:1-12].
For your wait, seek the voice of God and receive more grace to endure. Then at the call of The King, get up to cut your hair and put on clean clothes [Genesis 41:14], your time of promotion has arrived.