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.

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He’s an on-time God

God has perfect timing. There’s an old Brooklyn Tabernacle song called, “He’s an On-Time God” and it always used to make me smile when the choir tried to sing it.

Do you know anyone who has perfect timing? I don’t think I do. In our case, when humans have perfect timing, we usually attribute it to coincidence. Or to Providence. But people don’t have perfect timing. We’re either early or late — or we’re punctual.

God is never late. And I guess maybe He’s early sometimes, but even when He’s early, He’s still on time so I don’t think that applies if that makes any sense. God is always on time, and He’s always on schedule.

That’s hard to fathom sometimes because all we really know and understand is our own failures at keeping time. None of us can stay on schedule, so it’s hard for us to understand how anyone can always be right on time. But it’s a God thing. It’s part of being Who He Is. He made time, after all. And He’s not limited by it like we are.

Today’s verse is Galatians 4:4-5.

4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.

I love this. God sent Jesus “when the right time came.” If God had sent Him sooner, the world wouldn’t have been ready. If God had sent Him later, the rest of history would have unfolded differently. God sent Him at just the right time. God sent Him just when He needed to get here, to grow up during the Roman occupation of Israel, a time when the world was connected with all sorts of roads so spreading the Good News was possible.

I get bogged down with life pretty easily. I’m busy. I have a lot going on. And it’s really easy for me to get caught in the trap of thinking that God is late. I mean, I can see all of the avenues that God can work in, and I can see all of the opportunities that I have right in front of me, but I know that I can’t succeed in any of them until God shows up. So I wait — and He doesn’t come. So that means He’s late, right?

It’s easy to think like that. But it’s wrong. God is never late. He’s just extraordinarily patient. He has a plan, and He knows when everything needs to happen to make that plan work out perfectly. And even though we can see multiple opportunities — or if you have an active imagination like I do, you can see all the different ways that God can use you if He’d just do what you tell Him to — they may not necessarily fit into His plan.

God’s plans are specific. They’re personal. And they are individually designed for the people involved, designed to bring us joy and peace, a good future with hope according to Jeremiah 29:11. It’s all part of God giving us the desires of our heart. But the first step toward that is desiring the things that God desires.

First, we have to have a heart like God. Selfless. Full of immoveable, irrational love for people who hurt you. Mercy. Joy. And once you get there, then God can give you the things you desire. Because, face it, if God gave us everything we wanted just because we wanted it, He’d be no better than a lazy parent who appeases a screaming child with candy. And God is a better parent than that.

God is patient. So we have to be patient too. And, boy, God knows I’m tired of being patient. There are so many things in my life that I have been waiting for. The waiting seems interminable. But all I have to do is look backward because I’ve lived long enough to see God’s hand in the circumstances of my life. And I can honestly say that He’s never dropped me. And even through the times where I thought He wasn’t doing anything, now I can look back and see the things He did in me that have shaped me into the person I am today.

So if He worked that way in my life then, that helps me remember that He’s still working in my life now. And if being patient is what He needs me to do, I’ll do it. I won’t be still, though. There’s plenty to do while I wait.

God has perfect timing. And the dreams that He designed me for will eventually become reality, but that needs to happen on His schedule and not mine. Because He can see how it all fits together, and I can’t. And when it comes right down to it, isn’t it better to trust someone with perfect timing rather than someone who just gets lucky on occasion?