Have you ever had a time in life where you felt like you were made aware of very specific words to live by? These words can come any number of ways – advice, something you read or hear, looking back through an old journal. Such revelations aren’t necessarily THE big and ultimate truth on the meaning of life. Rather, they are certain parts that we need to focus on, cling to, or learn at a given time. I’m in one of those seasons right now…
wait : trust : obey : connect
God drew my attention to these words as I was reading through the book of 1 Samuel again recently. In chapter 13, Saul has become king and has begun to rally Israel to defeat the oppressive nations around them. After some initial victories, the Philistines gather a massive army and Saul’s army panics. And Saul panics. He knows they should ask God what to do but instead of waiting for Samuel the Priest to arrive and perform the religious rituals God had established, Saul does the ceremony himself. Samuel then arrives and pronounces God’s judgment on Saul for his disobedience.
Oh Saul, your intentions were good, but why didn’t you wait? Of course, you didn’t know if or when Samuel would arrive, did you? And you had an entire nation looking to you and an army getting weaker by the minute. And I am sure you were both confident in your abilities and absolutely terrified that you would get this wrong. And actually, you started off right by wanting to ask God what to do. But because you went about it the wrong way – the way that probably made sense to you but wasn’t the way God had said to do it – you lost everything. My heart breaks for you Saul, because I’m just like you.
How often do I panic when the pressure mounts past what I can tolerate?
How often do I lose sight of what God has promised because it is taking SO long to come?
How often do I do something the way that makes sense to me when it conflicts with the way God has said to do something?
As I reflected on this story, God kindly moved me from the familiar path of self-condemnation and powerlessness to the truth that Saul isn’t just a story character for us to to pity or scorn (or worse – equate all his failures with ourselves). Rather, in seeing in Saul’s story our own potential to act similarly, we can actually see our real choices and give God the opportunity to write a different story with our own lives. And so God gave me these words:
wait : trust : obey : connect
Wait – Saul should have waited. It’s obvious as we read the story now because we know what happened. But at the time, how long would you have told Saul to wait – a huge army getting ready to attack, your army shrinking by the minute? Actually, just put yourself in Saul’s place – how long would YOU wait? I feel like this is something very difficult and counter-cultural for us. Our world does not wait. Speed is of the essence. We make it happen. And the more capable you are (or think you are), the easier it is to strive to get it done. But so often this gets in the way of what God wants to do. He says wait (in the Bible, God says wait A LOT). As I was thinking about this, God reminded me of a picture that was given for me in prayer a while back. It was of an eagle sitting on a cliff waiting for an updraft. The eagle is meant to go very high and can only get there on a thermal. It must wait. No amount of flapping wings will take the bird to great heights. Eagles know this. They don’t stress. They don’t flap. They wait. And then they soar. Right now, I am in a time of waiting – doing different things than I am accustomed to. It is a unique season that I am in, and I honestly don’t like it. But God has said to me over and over, in many different ways – wait.
How does one go about waiting? Do you simply sit around do doing NOTHING AT ALL? Sometimes. But for most of us, we’d be sitting around doing nothing for a very long time. And that is not what God wants either.
- We can definitely put extra effort into prayer, worship, and connecting with God (see my post in a few days time) while we are waiting. Allow God to fill the “void” rather than seeking or allowing distractions that may get in the way of what God is wanting to do or show us.
- Although it is not always easy, we can be extra attentive as we wait. Allow waiting to be active in that sense. Open your eyes, ears, heart, and mind extra big in this time. There are lots of books and resources on how to do this sort of thing. However you do it, be purposeful in waiting.
- Act on what you DO know. If you are waiting for something, there are OTHER things you can act on in the meantime. There are things God has said to you, and to all people, that you can be working on as you wait on other things. This will help tremendously against discouragement, boredom, and the sense of hopelessness that comes when we are waiting.
I am currently waiting for things like:
Healing for people I am praying for
God to come through on some promises He has made and words He has given
God to reveal Himself to certain people in ways that radically alter their lives
God to make clear some next steps into the future for geography & ministry opportunities
What are you waiting for and what does waiting look like for you?
Trust – This goes hand in hand with waiting. We will only wait when we trust that something good is going to happen. It is the thing that allows us to wait. In this Bible story, Saul didn’t trust. Do I? There are things that I am waiting on – that I believe God has said, that I NEED to come true, that seem to be in line with who God is and who I understand myself to be. In this process I am discovering the real limits of my trust. I have learned that with some things, I trust somewhat and not fully – I trust God to make some things a little better, but not completely right. I have also found that one can trust God with some things and not others. I, for example, trust God to provide for our family. God always has. So we live and make decisions according to this trust. On the other hand, I must confess that I have a bad history of trusting God with my heart. I have interpreted my experiences to show that God won’t fully love me unconditionally and be there when I really need. Therefore, I act or protect myself in ways I think will take care of my heart. I can’t tell you how wrong I get this! God and I are working through this one slowly together. Isn’t it interesting how we have different things we do and don’t trust God for? We don’t always see them either. But any part of life where you feel like it is yours to take care of instead of God shows a lack of trust. Thankfully, God understands, doesn’t hold it against us, and gives us endless opportunities to grow.
Obey – Saul, it’s simple – do what God says. If God says the priest must do the sacrifice in a certain way, then that’s what should happen. Sometimes you don’t understand, it doesn’t make sense, it hurts, or you think you may know better. But God is God and you are not. Arthur, do what God says. Sometimes you don’t understand, it doesn’t make sense, it hurts, or you think you know better. But God is God and you are not. What if God has a bigger and better perspective than you? What if God is good and loves you? Will you obey? Yes, it is often difficult. Will you obey? Oh, I struggle with this one sometimes. I’ve wrestled with God over some things He has told me in the past several months – things I don’t want to hear. And perhaps like you, this obedience is testing my waiting and trusting. I don’t obey God if I don’t trust God. And another thing about obedience – it is often repetitive. We don’t decide or act just once. We choose again and again and again. It can be difficult. It can be tiring. It exposes our fears. It tests us. It refines us. Obedience is not popular in our world, understandably so. Blind obedience in most situations can lead to such abuse. But obedience to the good, wise, and loving God of the universe – our heavenly Father – strengthens our soul.
Connect with God – To me, this is the win of it all. I may struggle to wait. I may struggle to trust. I may struggle to obey. But God says – while you are working all that out, connect with me. Spend time with me. Let me show you how much I love you. Let me speak with you and share my heart with you. Let me show you things from my perspective. This is the most kind and generous invitation in all the world. And when we accept, our priorities change. Our stress looks different. Focusing on God does things in our heart that begins to work out things inside and outside of us. I believe that the more we do this, the more God has the opportunity to tell us what to do, how to do it, who to speak to, where to go… In this season I find myself in, full of waiting, trusting, and obeying – I have dedicated myself to lots of connecting with God. Sometimes, it feels like all I have. But oh, I can’t get enough of God. It is what I do when I am stressed, confused, making decisions, preparing for my work. And it makes waiting not seem so bad. And I find myself trusting God more. And I think I am probably obeying more in the process. God doesn’t want to be distant. God wants us intimately connected with Him.
wait : trust : obey : connect
There are words for people living in exile. These are words for people with things still unresolved. These are words for people hanging on for dear life. These are words for those of us who follow God and live in the real world. These are words for anyone who doesn’t have it all figured out. These are words of hope, that God is interested in us as people and who we are. Because God knows and will come through and do what is best because God loves us. I need that. Don’t you? Are you waiting on God for something? Are you struggling to trust? Are you deciding if you will continue to obey? Do you need to connect?
As I set out to write this, I felt that maybe these were words for me and lots of people would have their own couple of helpful words. “These are my four words to live by, what are yours?” However, as I’ve written and spoken about this with others, so many people have resonated with them that I wonder if they might also be helpful words for you right now. They are not the fullness of the meaning of life, but they are true, and definitely part of God’s good news. And I hope they are as encouraging for you as they have been for me. I’ve scratched out the attached pic as my computer wallpaper to remind me (because I easily forget). May these four simple words bless your heart today.