The grace and blessings of the waiting game

Courtney here. I’ve been writing this post in my head for nearly two weeks. I’ve been trying to put into words what I’ve been thinking and feeling, and I realized I couldn’t sensor anything. I’m gonna be really honest with you this morning.

In my early morning waking moments, in those alone times in the car, or as my body gives way to sleep, I pepper myself with a list of “what ifs” and “if onlys.”

Have you ever done this before? Let me tell you that it is a stupid idea, and bad habit that never produces greater courage or rest. It only tempts me to wonder if I have what it takes, and pushes me to try to control things that I can not control.

The tough questions

I cannot control how much longer it will take to raise our financial support. We’re still waiting. And that’s hard. That’s the truth. It’s hard.

I’ve had to ask myself this question — what does it look like to wait in a way that makes me a participant in what God is doing, rather than someone who struggles against the wait?

We’re waiting on the Lord to send us into the ministry we “really” want to do, what He called us to do — serve on college campuses to help turn lost students into Christ-centered laborers. We were propelled by a biblical vision to do this. This wasn’t our idea. It was His.

For so long, I felt that I was “missing out” on ministry because I wasn’t the one on campus sharing the Gospel and leading Bible studies. But the Lord didn’t just call me to share the Gospel with college students. He doesn’t need me to do that. God invited me to join in His mission.

I confess that until recently, I was missing this point.

Again, the Lord didn’t just call me to share the Gospel with college students. The Lord called me to love Him, follow Him, and trust Him. He never said it’d work out the way I wanted. He never said that it’d be easy. In fact, He said following Him would be more difficult.

All that to say — never did it cross my mind that in September 2011, we’d still be in Minneapolis, raising our last leg of support, and having no clue when the end would come.

In my moments of weakness, I throw a tantrum because I’m still waiting. No joke. A tantrum. I sit in a corner, cry, and yell at no one and nothing in particular. Maybe I’m yelling at God.

I yell very selfish questions like, “you say the harvest is plentiful and laborers are few — well here I am, why won’t you let me go?” or “why did you let all of my friends go and not me? Why don’t you make anyone else wait?” or “can I please move back to Wisconsin? I don’t want to be in Minnesota anymore. All the sports teams here suck.”

You know, stuff like that. Really selfish, “all about me” questions. It’s beyond ridiculous, sinful, and in no way glorifying to the Lord. Waiting has brought me to the edge of craziness. It has brought me to the peak of my capacity. It has revealed my deep, dark sins that I hid away from everyone, including myself. Only by God’s grace am I here.

The waiting game

I’ve learned — and continue to learn — the hard way. I’m exactly where the Lord wants me, and I was not singled out.

In fact, I have a lot of company in this waiting game. Abraham waited years for his promised son. Israel waited 420 years for deliverance from Egypt, then another 40 before they could enter the land God had promised them. God’s people waited generation after generation for the Messiah, and the church now waits for his return.

Waiting is not an interruption of God’s plan. It is His plan. We just don’t always like it.

We don’t like it because all the control is in God’s hands. I know many of you can identify with me on this, but I’m someone who likes to have control. For example, I have control over my efforts. I believe that the harder I work, the more funding we’ll see come in. More effort = more success.

But the problem with this way of thinking is that it isn’t reality. The reality is that I don’t have any control. I can work my tail off making 200 dials a week, sending emails, mailing letters, etc., but it wouldn’t make a bit of difference if the Lord didn’t want it to.

Our God holds the world in His hands and does whatever He pleases.

What I should really do is celebrate this. The constant striving in ministry to be a little god over some corner of creation is draining and futile. Waiting should actually be a relief. It’s a reminder that I don’t have as much power and control as I thought I had.

Did He forget me?

I’ve come to the realization that my ministry is either propelled by hope-motivating rest in God’s sovereignty, or fear-inducing belief that success would be the result of me controlling everything.

These two thoughts do not go together.

The Lord has called me to wait, and He is with me in my wait. He hasn’t gone off to do something else. No, God is near, and He provides for me all that I need to be able to be right here.

I have come to live in complete fear of the Lord. I stand in awe of His amazing power.

He is meeting me in one of the most difficult hallways of my life. He kneels down before me in love, and asks me to trust His loving and wise rule, even though I don’t have a clue what He is doing.

God is committed to the countless ways, large and small, in which His grace is at work to accomplish His purposes in me.

The power of His grace

When it comes to the ongoing work of grace, He is a dissatisfied Redeemer. He will exercise His power in whatever way necessary so I can be fully redeemed from this broken world, and delivered from the sin that has held me down.

I celebrate the fact that God does not forsake the process of grace in my life in order to deliver me to momentary comfort, pleasure, and ease that I’d rather have when I’m exhausted, discouraged and weak.

He simply loves me too much to exchange temporary gratification for eternal glory!

What have I learned?

Waiting has provided an opportunity to know God better through spending time in his Word, thus developing a deeper sense of His character, wisdom, power, and plan. I’ve also recognized that waiting is an opportunity to know myself better. I’ve become a student of my own heart. The sins, weaknesses, and struggles God’s revealed to me. He’s exposed the lies and false gods that made waiting difficult.

He knows there are times when I wish I could write my own story.

He knows that at times I will be overwhelmed by what is on my plate.

He knows that His plan will confuse and confound me. And He knows that real rest cannot be found in understanding.

Real rest is found in trust.

He is willing to have the conversation with me again and again, and He has made sure that His Word assures me of his rule again and again.

God is not so much after the success of my ministry, but He’s after me. So as I wait, I tell myself again and again: Waiting is not just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.

Note: Paul Tripp, a contributing writer to The Gospel Coalition, has written a few essays over the course of the last month that worked together with God’s Word to shepherd my understanding of what the Lord was teaching me. Some of my words written here were his thoughts. Thanks Paul. 

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