Give God time to keep His promise

I try to control too many things. But I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember, so I’m not entirely sure when it started. I just have this driving urge to keep a handle on life so it won’t get away from me. Which is ridiculous, as any self-respecting Christ-follower knows (Luke 17:33). But, hey, I’m being honest here.

I try to control the silliest things too. When I go grocery shopping, I try to think of everything I need for about a month. Grocery stores aren’t exactly convenient to where I live, so it’s easier to make one big trip. But that means I have to plan ahead. That means I have to make meal plans. That means designing several different meals all at once and hoping that life doesn’t go crazy between shopping trips.

The trouble is, life always goes crazy. Life always screws up my plans, and usually I’m left with expired produce, questionable meat, or stale crackers. And none of that would have happened if I’d planned a week in advance rather than a month.

I’m not saying don’t plan. But what I am saying is don’t rush ahead too far, because you never know what curve balls are going to come at you.

Life will take crazy twists and turns. God will lead you down paths you never dreamed possible. He may take you down roads you never even thought you wanted to go down, and somewhere along the way you’ll realize you never belonged anywhere else. But that’s all part of His promise (Psalm 37:4). And God can be trusted to keep His promises (Hebrews 10:23).

But that means we have to wait.

I hate waiting. Maybe you didn’t know that about me. Unlikely if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time. Waiting is my least favorite thing.

At least, it used to be. God has been working on my old stubborn Scottish heart this past year, and I’ve begun to see the joy we can have when we release the things that scare us and trust God completely.

I had to go there several times in 2016. More than once, I had to pry my own hands off of my life and hand it over to God. And then I had to sit and wait and trust and pray, and that was literally all I could do.

No, I should clarify. It was all I did, but I could have done several other things.

I could have gone back to the corporate world and asked for my job back. I could have gone to my many loving and supportive friends and asked for a loan, just big enough so that I could afford groceries for the next month. I could have gone to a pawn shop and sold anything I had of value (I’m not joking, the thought did occur to me).

I could have done any of those things, but one question kept hovering at the back of my mind: “Do you trust God or not?”

I told Him at the beginning of this journey that I wanted to rely on faith rather than finances. I told Him I didn’t care what was coming, that I wanted to place my trust and my life and my future entirely in His hands. And if this was the life I was supposed to be living, I needed Him to provide for me, and if it wasn’t, I needed Him to stop.

Good gracious, friends, be careful what you ask for. Because God will hold you to declarations like that.

A few times throughout last year I thought God had stopped providing, but that was because I was planning too far ahead. So I started looking at life differently. I woke up every morning and thanked God for what I had that day, because every day I had what I needed for that day. And when tomorrow arrived, I would have what I needed then. God just wouldn’t always let me know ahead of time.

That is the recurring tale of my 2016. Until the end of December when God opened his storehouses and poured some major blessings on my silly head—blessings enough to provide over and above what I had expected for 2017.

While part of me is concerned He’s providing this much this quickly and telling me about it, the louder part of me is simply choosing to be thankful. I don’t want to forget what He’s taught me this year. Even if I have enough for months and months, it could still all be lost in an instant.

God has to be enough. Just God. Not money. Not possessions. Not power or influence or book sales or car maintenance or health insurance. All those things are wonderful blessings, but God is enough for me. He’s enough to provide what I need when I need it, and He doesn’t have to tell me what He’s doing or when He’s doing it. He’s God. He’s got a plan. He’s working everything out for my good. (Romans 8:28)

My part in this story is to be still. To trust. To wait. My responsibility is to give God time to keep the promises He’s made me, because He will. He always has, and He always blows me away with His goodness and generosity.

Are you trying to control your life? What about your finances or your health or people in your life? You can’t. You need to let go and give it to God and trust that He will work things out. And once you do that, you need to wait.

Even if it feels like you’re standing still. Even if it feels like you’re wasting time. Even when it feels like you should be doing something—anything. Just wait.

You’ll see the door when He opens it. There won’t be any doubt in your mind.

Tomorrow will be better if you wait

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap] like coffee. Any kind of coffee. Hot or cold, blended or iced, black or with cream, Americano or latte, plain or flavored. Whatever. I like it all. In the heat of summertime in Kansas, there’s almost nothing better than a big Frappucino from Starbucks (yes, I like Starbucks coffee).

I didn’t used to like them, though, because they didn’t last very long. And once I finished, I was left with a cup full of partially melted ice mixed with watered-down coffee and slightly chocolate-flavored foamy stuff. Bleck! It was so much better to get hot coffee and sip it slowly.

But during the summer in Kansas where we had more than 30 days over 100 degrees, I broke down and bought a Frappucino. But something happened, and I had to let it sit for a moment before I could come back to it. And guess what? When I was done, I didn’t have ice left.

At first, I thought it was a fluke. But the next time I got a Frappucino, I let it sit for a little while, and the same thing happened. I let the ice get started melting, and I sipped it slowly. It lasted much longer, and it tasted much better than it did when I drank it all quickly.

It was better to wait

But waiting is hard. It takes effort and discipline. It takes concentration because you have to constantly remind yourself why you’re choosing to wait. You have to force your brain to remember that the end result will be better if you just hold your horses.

I’m not good at waiting. I see a path that looks promising, and I want to run down it at full speed, barefoot, hair loose, no bags packed or itinerary planned. And I don’t care if I skin my knees or break my toes or have to turn around seven times. At least I’m moving forward, right?

But sometimes moving forward only causes more trouble.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]You don’t escape from quicksand; you’re rescued.[/su_pullquote]

Think about quicksand. Your instinct is to fight to escape, to kick and thrash and flail, but that only makes you sink faster. But you don’t escape from quicksand; you’re rescued. And your best hope to survive is to hold still and wait.

Life’s like that too. But if you think that waiting is the same as doing nothing, you’re wrong.

Waiting is hardest job you’ll ever work. It’s the most challenging class in the school of hard knocks. It’s the most impossible obstacle course you’ll ever run.

Our culture has forgotten how to wait. We live in a world of instant gratification. We’re ruled by our watches and our calendars, and we’ve learned to settle for what’s passable and immediate rather than what’s excellent and inconvenient.

I’m so guilty of this, but I learned the hard way that I can’t rush God.

lam3-26He’s got plans for me, just like He has plans for you. But no matter how badly I want to achieve His goal for my life, I don’t get to decide when it happens. I can strive and fight and push and run as hard as I can, but I can’t move Him. God does what He wants. I can’t change that. And if I really understood His plans, I wouldn’t want to change it.

The Bible says it’s good to wait on God (Lamentations 3:26). I struggle with that. Nothing about waiting is good. It turns your stomach upside down. It turns your hair gray. It makes you cranky and irritable.

Or does it? Does waiting really do all that? Or do we do that to ourselves because we refuse to relinquish control of our lives, our dreams, our plans to the Person who already owns them?

Stuck in summer

I wake up in the morning, and I stare down a beautiful curving path into an autumn forest. Line with golden-leafed trees, blazing red maples and shimmering, white-barked aspens, and it smells like cinnamon and nutmeg and joy. There’s a giant pile of leaves just ready for me to dive into, and pumpkin-flavored everything is waiting just out of reach.

But I can’t get there because I’m stuck in summer. In the heat and the deadness of post-harvest dirt. There’s no end in sight. And I want that world so badly I can taste it, and I can see exactly how I’m supposed to get there. So why shouldn’t I run? Why shouldn’t I just leap forward and reach for that dream? It’s right there.

[su_pullquote] While I’m waiting, I’m learning who God is.[/su_pullquote]

But it isn’t just right there. I can’t see the twists and turns. I can’t see the distance or the effort or the disappointments or the successes that I’ll need to experience before I get there. But God can. And that’s why I have to wait.

That’s why waiting matters. That’s why waiting is good. Just like a Frappucino is better once the ice has started melting, tomorrow will be better if I wait until God says it’s time to run.

lam3-22-23Choosing to wait is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Making the conscious decision to set aside what I want right now in favor of what God wants right now has taken more faith than I thought I had. But I’m still here. I’m still waiting. And I’m not going to stop, because while I’m waiting, I’m learning who God is and who He wants me to be.

Every morning, I get to start over fresh (Lamentations 3:22-24). New day, new mercy, same God. He doesn’t change. He won’t be rushed. And His timing really is perfect.

You can’t win a fight without fighting back

I finished the revised draft of a 109,000-word novel yesterday. This is the sequel to my debut novel, which released December 2014, and it’s part of a series I’ve been writing since 2001 or 2002. Somewhere in there. It isn’t the hardest book I’ll ever write, but it is the most difficult and challenging one I’ve written to date. I was sorely tempted to give up a few times over the last month.

Fortunately, I am blessed to be surrounded by many much-loved friends who were willing to encourage me and brave enough to tell me I needed to eat a sandwich or take a nap. (If you are a friend to a ridiculously stubborn and independent person, you understand what my poor friends deal with.)

I was tired. I was frustrated. I was irritated at myself (for my perceived slowness and my inability to hit my overly ambitious, self-imposed deadlines). I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. I kept pushing forward because I’ve got a host of people who would probably track me down and strangle me if I didn’t deliver the sequel pronto. That was one motivating factor. 😉

But the biggest motivation to finish came from my deeply held belief that God keeps His promises.

black-and-white-sport-fight-boxerToday’s verse is Hebrews 10:36.

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

God has never let me down. Not ever. He’s always been there when I needed Him. He’s always provided for me, sometimes even when I didn’t know what I needed or when I needed it. And years and years ago before I even understood what I was doing, God showed me that I could write. And God promises that if we use our gifts and talents for Him, He’ll bless us and He’ll bless the work we do in His name.

Somewhere along the line, during this crazy month of rewriting, I lost track of who the book belonged to. It’s not mine. I gave it to the Lord all those years ago when the idea first came to me. So no matter how difficult the journey gets between now and when the book releases, between when the book releases and Book 3 goes into production, and so on and so forth, God will make it worth it.

It’s hard to hold on to that sometimes because–let’s just be honest–life sucks. Crazy bad stuff happens. Loved ones die. Your insurance goes up. Your car breaks down. That unexpected expense that empties your bank account. Work is too stressful. You lose a relationship. The other half of your brain moves away. And it can’t all happen one piece at a time. No, it’s all got to happen at once, and you get so distracted by all the awful, discouraging things going on that you forget who’s really in control. Because nothing feels controlled. Everything feels out of control.

So what do you do when it feels like life is circling the drain? When nothing you do is good enough. When the straw broke the camel’s back years ago but nothing’s changed. What can you do?

You can give up, sure, but do you believe God or not? If God’s given you a job to do, you need to do it. It might stink right now, but if you throw in the towel, you have no idea what you’re leaving behind. God made you a promise, and He always keeps His promises. So instead of walking away, endure patiently.

Enduring isn’t fun. Being patient isn’t fun either. So patient endurance is a double whammy of anti-fun. But if you can do it (and God will give you the strength), you’ll be able to keep moving forward. And you will move forward, even if you feel like you’re standing still. And someday, farther down the road, you’ll be rewarded for it.

You don’t get rewards for giving up. You can’t win a fight without fighting back. And it’s not that our lives should be about rewards or what we get in return for serving God. That’s not the point. But we do need to remember that God doesn’t give us difficult tasks without promising to make them worth our effort.

What are you facing today? A frightening diagnosis? A new diet? A new job? Shoot, I’ve got lots of friends who just had new babies. Talk about a challenge. God has promised to be with you and to give you strength when you need it most. And He’s promised that the trials and struggles you go through are all part of a bigger plan.

Yes, life is hard. And following Jesus is harder still. But He promised that it would be worth it.

He’s God at both ends of your journey

When I have a question, no matter how random or strange, all I have to do is type it in my smartphone and wait for an answer. When I’m hungry, I can go to a fast food restaurant and get a burger immediately. When I’m thirsty, there are Quik Trips on every corner with fountain drinks on the cheap.

No matter what I need, or even really what I want, there’s a way to get it right now. Nobody really has to wait for anything.

We live in an instant gratification kind of world, and to a certain extent, there’s nothing wrong with that. The convenience of modern technology has made it easy to get fast answers, make fast decisions, and accomplish more in less time than ever before. Those are all great things. But instant gratification doesn’t help us learn patience, and it absolutely doesn’t help us learn to make long-term decisions.

mountains-man-person-hikerToday’s verse is Isaiah 46:4.

I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
    until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
    I will carry you along and save you.

There’s nothing short-term about God. But being a long-term God also means He’s not really into instant gratification.

You can ask Him for an immediate answer until you’re blue in the face, but He won’t just because you asked. He loves you enough to withhold a good blessing in order to give you a better one, and sometimes that means holding off on answering your prayer until it fits in His schedule. Not yours.

In a world obsessed with now, now, now, I think God is asking us to wait, wait, wait. Nobody really likes waiting, but you have to admit that it builds character. And once you get down the road a little farther, you can look back and realize that waiting actually did you a favor. How many times have we jumped on a deal or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity only to discover that a better deal or a better opportunity came up a few weeks or months later?

There’s always a time for action, but waiting is an option we need to consider more frequently in our fast-paced, instant-gratification focused, short-term world. God has promised that He’ll be with us until the end of our life on Earth. He isn’t just God for a moment. He’s not just God until you have a problem too big for Him to solve (that never happens, by the way). And He won’t even stop being your God after you die. He’ll be your God in eternity too.

So don’t ever get it in your head that God’s going to walk away from you or abandon you. One of the many things I love about God is that He’s in it for the long haul. He doesn’t sign up to be our God for the days of our youth. No, He wants us all the days of our lives, from our foolish childhood, to our rebellious teenage years, to our bullheaded mid-life crises, and finally to our wiser years when we finally start understanding what matters in life. Throughout all of those stages in our life experience, God wants to be our God. And if we ever feel like He’s stepped away from us, He isn’t the one who moved.

Don’t rush learning how to follow Jesus

I’m not a patient person. I’m like the least patient person you’ll ever meet. That’s why I marathon television shows. That’s why I rarely read books series until they’re complete. I don’t like waiting for stories to resolve. I want to know what happens right away.

Unfortunately that lack of patience seeps into other areas of my life. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t do well in music lessons. My mom is a crazy accomplished classical musician, but she didn’t get there overnight. It took 45 years for her to get to that place. I wanted to pick up a musical instrument and be perfect right away. I didn’t want to work at it. I didn’t want to make mistakes and have to learn from them. I wanted the benefit of the skill without the drudgery of the discipline required to achieve it.

Sound familiar to anyone? We all have our sticking points when it comes to patience and discipline. Ironically, I had to learn that I had a lot to learn, regardless of what career path I chose. I settled on writing because I thought I was a great writer when I was little.

Yeah. Wow. Looking back, I knew nothing. And all I’ve learned in 25 years of writing (yes, I wrote my first story in kindergarten) is that I still know nothing, and that I have a lot more to learn. I’ve learned that I’ll never stop learning. But learning isn’t about filling your head with information. I mean, that’s part of it. The greater part of learning is patience. It’s hard work to learn. It’s trying and difficult, but the more you work at it, the stronger you get.

S059QDGBOG_1549x1037Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:32-36.

Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

Following Jesus takes discipline. Sorry to burst the bubbles of anyone who signed on expecting an easy ride. Think of following Jesus like two magnets with opposite poles being pressed together. On one side, you’re drawn to Him because you belong to Him, but on the other side you’re repelled because you still have a dark nature that wants your own way. You have to fight yourself every step of the way if you want to follow Jesus.

And then add in the trouble our enemy throws at us. We have an enemy who hates us because Jesus loves us, and our enemy will do everything in his power to distract us, stop us, hurt us, discourage us, and slow us down. But instead of seeing all those obstacles as barriers to following Jesus, try to see them as opportunities to grow.

Don’t rush following Jesus. Enjoy it. It takes time. It takes years. Learn to see the trouble as opportunities for God to show His power. Learn to see people as family members who just don’t know Jesus yet. But the more you seize opportunities to follow Jesus, the stronger you’ll become.

Jesus says to love your enemies. That’s not easy, but that’s part of following Him. You won’t want to do it, and Satan won’t want you to either. But Jesus says it, so we do it. Loving an enemy is an obstacle because they don’t want your love, but if you treat it as an opportunity, your faith will grow. Every time you extend love or kindness or forgiveness to someone who wants to hurt you (and you get nothing in return), it demonstrates to everyone around you and even to yourself that what Jesus says matters more to you than what is commonly or popularly accepted. And God blesses an attitude like that.