3 Mistakes to Avoid While Waiting

 

Waiting is tough. We wait for tax returns, job offers, test results. While “in the queue,” we feel completely out of control, at the mercy of someone else’s timetable.

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One of the greatest temptations during times of waiting is to lose faith in God’s goodness. Because His timing doesn’t match ours, we start to think He doesn’t care, that He’s never going to act on our behalf. As a result, we spiral downward in anxiety instead of resting in joyful anticipation.

To experience joy while waiting, there are three common mistakes we must avoid. We find them in the Biblical account of the Hebrews en route from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Let’s set the stage. First, God tested the patience of His people by taking them on the long route. Then, because of disobedience, God sentenced them to 40 years of wandering before entering the Promised Land. Now they find themselves in “the land between,” waiting to receive what God had promised.

At one point along the way, God delivers them from an attacking army, and that’s where we land in Numbers 21:4-5.

And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

And here we find our three mistakes.

Becoming impatient

Impatience betrays a lack of trust. It assumes that God has lost track of time and needs to be prodded to action. In our microwave, FedEx, instant download world, it’s common to want everything NOW.

I’m all for time-saving devices. I use my microwave every day. But when I am waiting for something out of my control, something that is in God’s hands alone, I do well to trust that He is orchestrating the timetable and the path according to His perfect wisdom.

One of the fruits of the Spirit is patience. It is a good thing to rest quietly in our spirit and trust God’s perfect will to happen in God’s perfect timing.

Grumbling against God

Instead of remembering the amazing miracles God had done for them (very recently), the Hebrews complained about what they didn’t have. Case in point: food. God provided daily food for them called manna. Now, I’ve never eaten the same food every day for years on end, so I can imagine that might grow old. But notice the contradiction even in their own words:

“…There is no food…and we loathe this worthless food.”

Wait a minute – was there food or wasn’t there? There was food; it just wasn’t what they wanted. We need to be careful not to miss what God is providing as we wait for what we want Him to provide.

Grumbling against God’s chosen leader

Many people who aren’t in leadership think leaders have it made. After all, they get to do what they want, and make other people do what they want, right? But it doesn’t take long to recognize that leadership is 10% privilege and 90% responsibility.

Moses didn’t aspire to a position of power; in fact, he argued with God when called to lead the people out of Egypt. Moses’ challenges leading the people demonstrate that there isn’t always glamor in leadership. And things get especially dicey when God calls a leader to lead people somewhere they don’t want to go, without the resources they think they should have, on a timetable that feels too slow.

Trusting and respecting the God-fearing leader placed over you is a way to trust God.

A new habit

So now we know 3 things NOT to do while waiting. One of the best ways to combat impatience and grumbling is to cultivate gratitude.

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…Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:18

When you’re tempted to grumble against God’s dragging timetable, thank God for His faithfulness in the past. When you’re tempted to grumble against some hair-brained idea God’s leader has suggested, thank God for providing for your needs. It may be helpful to write out a list – make it a prayer.

Practicing gratitude may not cut your wait shorter, but it sure will make the wait a lot more enjoyable.

What have you discovered that helps you wait with joy? To leave a comment, click on the title above.

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Four Practices that Help Me Feel Closer to God

 

In any relationship, there are times we feel close and other times when we feel distant. All things considered, I much prefer the warmth of closeness over the chill of distance. If anyone has ever given you the “silent treatment,” you know what I mean.

Our relationship with God is no exception. Sometimes we feel close, like He’s right in the room with us, warming us with His affirmation. Other days He seems far away and we wonder if our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling.

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One thing we can be sure of – closeness with us is something that God desires:

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. – James 4:8

While there is no formula to ensure constant closeness to God, there are practices that cultivate closeness, just as regular dates with my wife help us feel closer as a couple. Here are four things I do daily that help me feel closer to God:

Praise

Especially when I’m stressed, it’s easy to dive in asking God for things. But it’s more appropriate to start with focused attention on Him, reminding myself just Who this is I’m meeting with. How big He is, how wise, how caring. When I focus my eyes on how great God is, my problems shrink.

Some days, I admit, praise does not come easy. When I need help remembering how great He is, I flip to a Psalm. Most Psalms contains undiluted, God-centered praise – you can make these verses your own prayer.

Read

There is a direct connection between feeling close to God and obeying His commands. Jesus said:

Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” – John 14:21

To obey God’s commands we must know God’s commands, know His heart for us. Daily time in God’s Word is not an option if we want to feel close to Him.

I use the One Year Bible (available in many versions), which breaks up the Bible into daily 15 minute readings, including segments from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. It is also available as a reading plan in the YouVersion app. That way I’m sure I’ve covered everything He has to say every year!

Confession: even after seminary and years of studying the Bible, I don’t understand it all. And I don’t work to try to understand it all during these morning readings. I just take it in, like eating a meal, and trust God to nourish my spirit. Rare is the day that I don’t come away with some truth that I needed, like a hungry man just fed a life-giving meal.

Be Quiet

In this rat race world, I find myself so driven to accomplish tasks that I have come to treasure a few moments of silence in God’s presence every day.

“…In quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” – Isaiah 30:15

After opening my heart to listen to God through reading His Word, I sit in silence for about 10 minutes (I set the timer on my phone) and just ask if there is anything He wants to communicate to me. I have never heard an audible voice, and some days I don’t sense any specific thought, but often I sense personal application of something I read, a prompting for an action I need to take that day, or the warmth of His nearness.  Wow, those are priceless moments.

Pray for Others

My final few minutes are spent praying for others. I pray daily for my wife and children (I’ve been using Stormie Omartian’s Power of a Praying Husband / Parent books for years as guides). I then turn to my prayer list for extended family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. And I use the Global Prayer Digest to expand my vision of God’s heart for the world.

I don’t set a specific time to pray for myself. I don’t need to be intentional to remember that!

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This may all sound like a lot. For me it takes about an hour, and you may not have that much time. You’ll have to consider what is doable given your unique circumstances.

I do know this – if you don’t carve out undistracted time to spend with God, you’re not going to feel close to Him. Our human relationships need regular practices to feel close, and there are no shortcuts with God either.

What about you? What helps you feel close to God? To leave a comment, click on the blog title above.

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Turning Disappointment into Hope

Disappointments often derail us. We’ve all known someone who encountered an unwelcome disappointment in life – a broken promise, an unfair circumstance, a rude encounter — and they became bitter and angry. But then we’ve seen someone else face the exact same challenge, and they emerged stronger, more hopeful, with a brighter smile. What makes the difference?

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I am inspired by a person like Nick Vujicic, who lives his life without limbs with great faith and joy. How can we face our challenges with a similar attitude? How can we become one of the “better, not bitter” people?

It starts by realizing that every time we face disappointment, we have a choice to make. We can mope, cope, or hope.

Multiple choice

Moping is the easiest – just let yourself slide into a pool of self-pity. Listen to the voice that says your problems are someone else’s fault and you are helpless. Complain how you always seem to get a bad deal in life. This option is effortless; it just comes naturally. If you take this option often, you’ll probably find yourself lonely because mopers don’t attract friends.

Coping is a big step forward, but it requires an intentional decision and some elbow grease. Coping happens when we decide, “I’m going to do everything I can to manage this tough situation and make the best of it.” This at least is proactive, and it will move you forward. People will admire and praise you for your strength and resolve. But coping still misses the best option because it draws on limited resources – our own. There is only so much we can do to help ourselves.

Hoping gets my focus off myself and my limited resources, and puts my focus on the God Who created me, loves me, and has good plans in store for me. Hope is a choice. Listen to the “self-talk” of the Psalm-writer:

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. – Psalm 43:5 (NIV)

Notice he talks to himself (so that’s not always an indication of “crazy”), gives himself a command, tells himself to hope, and where to put that hope.

Hope is not fluffy optimism, as in “I hope tomorrow gets better.” Hope is confident rest in the reality God has designed. Hope is looking forward with anticipation to God’s certain future. Hope is trusting in God’s promises to do good toward us, and His ability to keep His promises.

In the end, the choice we make – whether to mope, cope, or hope – depends on what fills the view screen of our hearts:

In moping, all we can see are our problems.

In coping, all we can see are our own resources.

In hoping, we have set our focus on the God of unlimited resources, who has good plans in mind for us.

Reset your viewfinder

Maybe you are in a seasphotographer-573137_1280on of disappointment, when you wonder if anyone can be trusted or if life is out to get you. Don’t passively let your focus rest on those problems. And don’t settle for picking yourself up by your own bootstraps. Use the words of the Psalm-writer and do some transforming “self-talk,” like this:

“Why, Dave, are you so down? Just what is so disturbing to you?
Put your hope in God, Dave – for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

In my disappointment, I can choose to look up, beyond the mess, to remember that God has not changed and God will not failed me. I choose to put my hope in Him. And suddenly tomorrow looks a whole lot brighter.

What about you? Have you found a way to effectively “talk to yourself?” What other ways have you found to help put your hope in God in times of disappointment? To leave a comment, click on the title of the post.

 

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