Dear God: Will You Please Hurry Up?

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“Hate to wait” is life’s motto for much of humanity, not least myself. I fret over my finances when a client is slow with payment. I think unkindly of customers who hold up the coffee line asking what “macchiato” means. And I get as red as the traffic light when it changes just as finally reach the intersection.

Waiting for little things drives up our blood pressure. Waiting for big things can drive us to despair. Will my biopsy come back with reassuring results? Will I be the one chosen for that perfect job? Will I ever get married? Will we ever be able to have children?

And the grand-prize question: Does God even care if I’m stuck in my current, boring, stressful, miserable, hopeless-feeling situation for the rest of my life?

Trying to Force the Issue

Thoughts of, “If God really meant what He said, what’s taking Him so long?!?” were likely going through Sarah’s head at the time of Genesis 19. At age seventy-five, she was childless in a culture that valued large families as much as material wealth. Worse, her husband, Abraham, had God’s direct promise of a son–but she couldn’t see any solid evidence God intended to keep His word, at least not by the usual means of husband + wife = baby. Impatient, hurting, suspecting that God had probably turned His back on her at least, she remembered the custom of providing a husband with a second wife/surrogate mother so he, at least, wouldn’t have to go without offspring. And she gave Abraham her personal handmaid for that purpose–without anyone asking God what He thought of that idea.

Although Sarah’s approach “worked”–Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, was born–it didn’t relieve her own feelings of inadequacy and rejection. It just added a dose of jealousy and bitterness that made her more miserable than ever.

God’s Time Is Not Our Time

Sarah didn’t know how to “wait on the Lord.” Neither do most of us. We look at the ticking clock, the turning calendar pages, the weeks/months/years where nothing seems to change except that we get older and more worn out; and if we think of God’s “wait” command at all, it’s usually with the silent grumble, “Easy for Him to say; He’s got forever!” Perhaps nowhere is it more obvious that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts than in how we perceive “time available.” Aware of our mortality, we rush to grab a world of instant gratifications before time runs out–while often neglecting our greater dreams because it’ll take so long to achieve them we doubt we’ll have time left to enjoy the results.

Well, Sarah eventually had her own son, Isaac, and saw him grow into a young man. And God promises that if we use our time wisely, He will bring us great rewards in His timing (cf. Galatians 6:9).

How to Wait

Being currently in the position of wondering whether any literary agent/publisher/customer base will ever want my devotional book series (Sunday afternoon encouragement via original rhyming poetry), I like the way Jeanette Hanscome, author of Suddenly Single Mom, puts it in describing her twenty-year journey to a “published author” dream become reality: “This might sound shocking, but I am now grateful for the frustrating timing. … Now that I was in a more professionally and emotionally mature place, I saw what a disaster those other projects might have been if accepted.” No matter how dead ends she hit, she kept working, kept trying, kept learning and praying–kept “waiting” in the most active, effective sense of the word.

Why not take your focus off what you wish would happen right now, long enough to thank God for His trustworthiness and ask Him what He wants you to do right now?

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All Time Is God’s Time

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In regard to church contributions, John Wesley said the question is “not, how much of my money will I give to God, but, how much of God’s money will I keep for myself?” The same principle applies to making time for God: He gave us all our time in the first place, so it’s pretty arrogant to be stingy about sharing it with Him.

That’s not to say we should–or can–fill our minds with nothing but Scripture and prayers 24/7. To paraphrase St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7: There are people who are called to devote the great majority of their waking hours to giving God their conscious attention, and that’s an honor and a blessing. But if you’re called, or already committed, to the responsibilities of family and a secular job, it would be wrong to spend extensive time praying or doing church work at the expense of those responsibilities. This is the mistake that leads to many children of missionaries, pastors, and church workers abandoning the faith because “I’ll never forgive religion for robbing me of my parents’ attention.” Yes, there are limits to how much time we can give “Christian things” in the sense of putting the rest of the world on pause, and the best (most God-honoring) priorities vary from person to person and life stage to life stage.

What every Christian should do is pay enough attention to God to stay aware of how He really wants us to use our time. Like the parents who were so busy winning everyone else to Christ that they forgot to nurture their own children’s spiritual growth, we easily fall into the trap of assuming, “If it’s a good thing that obviously needs doing, and if I can do it, it must be God’s will for me.” But when we reflexively say “Yes” based on this quick reasoning, we’re actually depending on our own understanding, and not trusting or consulting with God at all.

We all need our own levels of healthy balance between daily work, specifically Christian work, public religious activities, private religious activities, “relationship time,” and “pure leisure” time. Here are a few principles for creating and evaluating your schedule according to God’s will for you:

  • Don’t be afraid to follow your passions, in work or in leisure. There’s a widespread but thoroughly unbiblical idea that if we enjoy it for its own sake, it can’t be God’s will for us. While God does say some hardship is inevitable in Christian living (e.g., John 16:33 and 2 Timothy 3:12), He never says a Christian’s life must be all hardship. If we’re passionate about something, the energy it generates in us should make us more effective for God.
  • Do give God some prayer time every day and one worship-and-rest day every week. The question of “when and how much” again varies with the individual, but it’s important to avoid at all costs the trap of neglecting God for long periods. Remember also that the purpose of prayer and worship isn’t simply knowing about God, but building a genuine relationship with Him.
  • Don’t let yourself be sidetracked by false guilt or “am I doing it just right?” questions. Or as David put it in Psalm 37:8: “Do not fret–it leads only to evil.” The devil loves to sabotage our effectiveness by getting us hung up on tiny details. Don’t fall into the trap.
  • Do trust that if you genuinely want to know God’s will, He’ll take care of the rest. Most of us don’t give God enough credit for having our best interests at heart and being able to work all things out for good. Trust Him: He can do more than we can imagine with ten bumbling but sincerely given minutes.
  • Sick of hearing complaints and negativity everywhere you turn? My free list of "100 Ways to Live as an Optimist in a Pessimistic World" provides 10 x 10 life hacks to counter such attitudes. Get your free copy by signing up here, and you'll also be registered to receive twice-weekly emails of Christian mental-health and encouragement topics.

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    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and “ordinary” people who want to better understand mental/emotional problems or just pick up some stress-management tips for themselves. Visit my main website at www.HoustonFreelanceWriter.com.

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    Bible quotes used in this blog are from the New Living Translation or the New International Version (1984). See http://www.biblegateway.com/ for copyright details.
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