The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9
OK, so we know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, without error — but is it just me, or does anyone else ever get the feeling that something was lost in the translation of this scripture. I kid, of course, but God’s idea of “not slow” and mine usually operate on entirely different time scales. Kind of like Worf shifting to the parallel universes where time ran at different speeds in the Parallels episode of the last season of TNG. In my universe, I want time to run quickly when I am waiting on the fulfillment of a promise or wish or hope; and slowly when I want to savor a happy moment. In God’s universe, however, time seems to crawl, especially when there is something to wait for. It can be maddening and crazy making when I am sure God promised me something and then we enter a stage where the Jeopardy theme seems to be stuck on endless repeat. Really, God? What is all this “hurry up and wait?”
There are a ton of pat Christian answers about trusting God, waiting on His timing, not worrying, letting God and giving it to God on one hand; and on the other, in the words of Journey, “Don’t stop believing.” 48 years in the church and I’ve heard it all, from “name it and claim it” to “if your prayers are not being answered, you lack faith.” Some preach a gospel of false humility that says I don’t deserve anything and just have to be happy with whatever God sends (without checking to see if He is actually the sender). While others want me to paste on a smile and pretend to be happy and carefree about not getting what I want because “It’s all in God’s hands, dear. Just let go and let God.”
The problem is that although there may be kernels of truth in each of these that make them seem plausible and Christian, is that if I do any of the above expecting that will be the golden ticket that will make God grant my wishes, I am bound to be disappointed. God does not act at my beck and call. His idea of what is good for me is usually different than what I think is good for me.
Sometimes other people are involved in the fulfillment of a promise and their universe may run on an entirely different time scale altogether. In other words, even if I am ready, they may not quite be there yet. God may still be smoothing rough edges and doing healing and restoration in their life that once done will make the future joint venture so much better than if I try to rush ahead and jam the puzzle pieces together before the joins are fully formed, smooth and functional.
I will cheat myself of God’s best if I try to force fit two people who without God’s healing and shaping will only end up triggering one another’s weak spots and learned defense mechanisms from previous hurts. I also have to remember that the waiting game is not just about waiting on someone else to get their act together and self-righteously pretend that I’ve got it all together, if only they would stop dawdling around and shape up. My job in the waiting isn’t to criticize and advise others but to look at what kind of shaping and cleanup work God still wants to do in me.
My feelings about the matter I am waiting for though can be messy, disorderly and not easily subjected to logic or containment. If God has promised me something, I know believing is the right thing to do. But I have to resist the temptation to “help” things along to make the fulfillment come more quickly; as well as the distortion that slow fulfillment means I misheard God so I just need to give it up — but what if I didn’t so I need to hold on, leaving me in a perpetual state of self-doubt about what I really heard and if I am inventing a promise that conforms to my own wishes; or that sacrificing what I want will somehow impress God and make Him act more quickly to assure me that that is not what He expects of me. It can get to the point, that anything I do is just an elaborate ritual or ruse to see if that’s going to be the magic ticket that makes everything finally come together. Even when I think I have let go, part of me is still looking at God going, “OK, I gave up my dream. Where’s my prize?” In case there was any doubt, newsflash: This Will Not Work!
The truth is that balancing holding on in faith and giving it up to God is a tricky balance. Neither belief without wavering nor letting go guarantees that I will get the result I want. Insisting on either is a dangerous form of magical thinking that tries to bind God to my will because of the “nobility” of my faithfulness or sacrifice. In giving a situation into God’s hands I have to be willing to accept that the answer might be no, no matter how the idea tears my heart apart; and the final good result might not be what I am expecting and hoping for…and trust that whatever it is really is as good as God says it is no matter what my feelings are screaming.
Because if yours are like mine, they will give a toddler a run for their money in competing for an Oscar in temper tantrums when God’s plan is “hurry up and wait.” Most people wouldn’t know it to look at me. But while all is quiet on my Western front, there is usually an emotional storm brewing on the inside. So that’s my interim job — while I am waiting for the one God has promised — not to fix anyone or anything else but to look for the deep roots of my emotional messiness. I need to acknowledge where brokenness and hurts of my past have misinformed my emotional knee jerk responses and let Him retrain them into Godly responses and bring True Peace that is shined, polished and truly ready to fit into the complementary puzzle piece He is preparing for me.
Good evening LORD,
I confess my patience is seriously flawed and imperfect. Thank You that You do not let anything happen out of Your time, even when I rage against the seeming delays. Please show me where I need to root out and replace wrong emotional responses with the Truth of Your perspective. Help me to unlearn the misinformed emotional habits of the past and not carry them into future relationships. Teach me to be the perfect match for the puzzle piece You are preparing for me and help me not to rush the process but trust that Your timing is good. Help me to hear Your voice and not the fleshly screams of my emotions. In Jesus’ Name. Amen
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your God will go with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12