To Wait on the Lord

After a period of time of feeling very weak and exhausted, I have been encouraged by how the Lord has answered my prayers in giving me enriching time in His word. I recently celebrated being in the country for two months and there was a part of me which felt I was done with adjusting and I was ready to move into focusing on working and being in the field. And yet, it seemed the Lord did not have such a transition in mind for me just yet. But, in typical fashion for a task-oriented person, I became frustrated with not getting to do what I thought I was ready for. I was eager to move on to the next phase because surely this adjustment period shouldn’t last much longer. Then I began to wrestle with what the scriptures seemed to be teaching me. 

Joshua 7 tells the story of Achan, how he sinned against the Lord by taking treasure from Jericho that was intended to be consecrated to the Lord and how this obedience led to destruction as the Israelites attempted to move further into the Promise land. The beginning of Joshua 7 tells us of how Achan’s sin hurt the Israelites and eventually led to his demise. In isolation, the story of Achan clearly states that we must not disobey the Lord. Something similar happens in parenting, if you disobeyed your parents growing up chances are you received some type of reprimand for your transgression against them. 

So the Israelites go on, after Achan is punished for the sin he committed, the Israelites have victory over the next city, Ai. While I read Joshua 8, one verse took on a whole new meaning to me. Joshua 8:2 states, “You shall do to Ai and its king as you did in Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves…”. I was shocked, in the very next city they went to attack, the Lord commanded them to take the plunder for themselves. If only Achan would have waited, then he could have received all he desired and maybe more. 

I went back to Joshua 7, and I began to meditate on why Achan disobeyed the command. Although I can’t perceive Achan’s heart in this situation, I can think of why anyone would disobey a command. Inherently, I believe it comes from a distrust, a lack of faith, in the person who gives the command. Achan could have feared that the Lord wouldn’t provide all that he needed, or maybe that he thought he needed more than what the Lord was going to give him. Either way, he took matters into his own hands. He took control of the situation instead of trusting the way God was leading him. 

I thought of the ways that I try to take control of my life. When I try to choreograph what my life will look like. In my sin, I don’t want to wait, I want to have what I want right now. Whether that is a thriving ministry, a relationship, or a sense of comfort. I tend to try to make those things happen for myself as quickly as I can. I am not patient, and it is because I don’t trust that where I am right now is good. In Joshua 1:9 God says, “…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

What a promise, the Lord tells His people that He will always be with them. Not trusting where God has me reveals how I think I know better. I think I know what my life should look like now. I have to examine myself in those times, do I think the Lord is not slow in keeping His promises as 2 Peter 3:9 says. So instead of attempting to maintain total control, in faith I wait on the Lord to provide all that I need.

The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

So what does it mean to wait on the Lord? For the Israelites it was an active obedience. The beginning of Joshua is riddled with God’s promise that He has already given victory to the Israelite army. He has already delivered their enemies into their hands in order to fulfill His promise of delivering His people into the Promise land. Joshua, leading the army, receives this promise and leads the army into action. Joshua didn’t attack before the Lord commanded and he followed the Lord’s instructions in their war strategy.

Even in the battle of Jericho, despite the city being in an almost impenetrable fortress, the Lord had promised that they would have victory over Jericho. So when God instructed them to simply march around the city for seven days, Joshua obeyed. The walls fell, the Lord’s power and Joshua’s obedience led them to victory. Joshua could have tried to take control of the fight by relying on his own strategy, but instead he trusted that the Lord would fulfill His promise. Joshua exemplifies what it looks like to be a person who trusts in the Lord with all his heart and to not lean on his own understanding as Proverbs 3:5 describes. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

So I ask myself, “Do I trust that God is working for my good?”, “Am I being faithful and obedient to what He is asking me to do right now?”. 

These are the questions I want to continually ask myself as I fix my eyes on where I am now instead of where I could be in the future. Focusing on consecrating this very special season I have been given to glorify God in rest and in dependence on His strength rather than glorifying myself in my works.

Breaking Independence

Almost my entire life I have been categorized with a personality of independence. In typical middle child fashion, I would often strike off on my own and tend to isolate myself from my family. Throwing myself into school and activities, I gained leadership skills and developed a sense of responsibility to care for myself. My parents would describe how I rarely ever asked for money and as soon as I started driving I had even less of a need to ask them for things. Throughout high school, I looked forward to going to college and truly getting to be on my own.

While I was in college, I strived to figure things out on my own. I didn’t want to have to ask others for help, so I did everything I could to learn on my own. My self powered responsibility, strength, and motivation is what powered me through college and I would argue, it even powered my relationship with God.

The two disciplines that I quickly latched on to when I started following Christ were obedience and scripture memory. These were things I enjoyed because I appreciated the clarity in what I was being told to do. My task-orientation took over, I looked forward to the bible studies and the scriptures that told me how to live a life that aligned with God’s will. I wanted leaders and studies to tell me what to do in order that I could change my life and look more like Christ. 

Want to grow in holiness? Great, stop doing these things.

Want to disciple women in my life? Show them these illustrations.

Want to be a spiritual leader? Memorize these verses.

Want to have a deep relationship with God? Read these passages. 

I wanted to have something tangible in my relationship with God and there was something that met that desire in me when I made a list of things to do. 

At first glance, this all seems great. Most people struggle with obedience and being told what to do, but not me.

But somewhere along the line, there was a shift in my heart. My joy was not rooted in God, it was rooted in the things I did that made me feel close to God. When I felt as if I was going through the motions, I looked for other things to do in order to revive my relationship with God. I wanted someone to tell me what to do so that I could feel close to God.

While I was support raising, it started to be clear to me how this shift was affecting my heart and my perspective on the grace that God had given me. My support coach once said to me, “Zoë, you can’t change your heart. Only the Holy Spirit can transform you, you can’t transform yourself.”

This was a direct hit against the way I had been living my life, I relied on my works and my tasks in order to provide transformation in my life. In support raising, I grew a lot in what it meant to depend on God for the fruits of my works. I learned that I could only be faithful to what God had asked for me to do, but I couldn’t make people join my support team. When support raising was finished, I thought I had learned all I needed to learn when it came to dependence on the Lord.

Then I got to South Africa.

The first few weeks were a true honeymoon season. I reconnected with so many friends that I hadn’t seen in over a year, I got to buy things to decorate my room, and I was really enjoying my seminary classes.  

But after a weeks, it all started to catch up with me. I was struggling with the fact that I didn’t have an established ministry so I didn’t know what to do most days, I couldn’t drive so I relied completely on my house mates to take me to meetings and to drive me to my events, and I felt so tired.

I had lost the joy in my time with God tasks, some nights all I wanted to do was watch shows and not talk to people, and I kept looking for things that were going to snap me out of this funk I felt l was in.

I believed that if I just kept doing the things that I had always prescribed to myself: a dose of reading the word, reviewing scripture memory, and writing my single page of prayers that eventually I would be more adjusted.

But, when you move to a different country and a new job, your capacity is a whole lot lower than you are used to. I truly felt exhausted and I wasn’t feeling refreshed in my time with God. 

Then one Sunday, God revealed to me what I was missing. At the church we attend here, we go to a service in the morning and a service in the evening that preaches a different service. 

In the morning I was reminded that if I wanted to be growing in godliness, I needed to spend time with God, but that growing in godliness starts from within, my right behaviors will not fix my heart. Our pastor spoke on how godliness grows from a knowledge of the truth of the gospel, loving and knowing the truth will lead us to godliness. He finished by going through 1 Timothy 3:16 and sharing that true godliness springs from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

“Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh , was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16

I walked away determining that I needed to find the root problem for why I wasn’t growing in godliness since arriving in South Africa. I know the gospel and the price that God paid in order to have a relationship with me but there was something missing.

At our evening service, I found that piece. The message was based in Ephesians 2:1-10 and was entitled, “Disciplined by Grace”. He highlighted the fact that we are sinful and we can do no good thing by our own desire, we were dead and could do nothing. But out of His great love, He gave us grace so that we could be made alive in Christ. It is only by His grace and His revival that I am able to do any of the works that He has given me. 

And that was it, I sat in the pews after the service and felt convicted about how I had been trying to live off my own strength and been trying to motivate myself in order to deepen my relationship with God. I was reminded of 2 Timothy 2:1. I was not letting the gospel strengthen me to do all these works. I didn’t just need to depend on God for ministry needs but also, I needed to depend on Him for my relationship with Him.

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:1

I need to depend on Him for my joy, for learning in His word, for strength in scripture memory, to care for my anxieties, for everything.

So I decided to go back to basics. I lamented, I laid out my heart before God in prayer. I asked Him to give me the strength to be in His word. I asked Him for joy in the works that He had given me to do. I asked Him for strength, just to get through the day.

Psalm 51:12 has been my life verse these past weeks, and I have prayed it each night. He has answered this prayer by reminding me of the gospel through teammates and training and He has blessed me with the desire to be in His word each day. 

My prayer is that you will ask God to transform you and to deepen you relationship with Him, because He alone can change your heart. 

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12

Wishing Away Circumstances

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  Philippians 4:12

The idea of being content has always seemed to be an unattainable state of mind for me. In theory, it should be easy. Just be happy with what you have in life right now.  But as a natural achiever, I also feel as if there is always the next step. There is somewhere else to move to, some other higher level. I’ve noticed this is not only true for me.

Being surrounded by young adults, it is easy to desire what others have when we see the significant strides others are making in their careers and their relationships. Also, young adults look to those who are many seasons beyond where we are and can be jealous of the steady, lack of change pace. There is always something in someone else’s life to desire. Or as the adage goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. 

The sweetest month of support raising I had was the month of April. It wasn’t the sweetest because of how much support came in or seeing God do big things through my life. It was merely because, for the first time, I truly enjoyed where I was in life. I loved support raising and talking with others about what God is doing in South Africa. I had a lot of little moments at work or with friends I could acknowledge at the moment, wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for my extended season of support raising. In addition, I could feel God was going to get me to South Africa in His timing and it would be perfect. 

But as the month passed, and another goal launch date passed. My only desire was to get to South Africa. I couldn’t imagine anything sweeter than finally being done with support raising and getting to buy my plane ticket out of rainy Missouri. I would imagine what it would be like to reunite with my friends and to move into my new house. All of it glittering with the hope it would be better than what I was doing right now. It started to take a toll on the way I viewed support raising and the way I talked with potential supporters. I was desperate. I just wanted to be done so I could finally be where I was supposed to be. 

I didn’t realize the flaw in my thinking until I was talking to others in my life who had also been wishing for the next phase of their lives. Whether it was a new job, marriage, or having a baby, it finally dawned on me, so many of us hope and wish for the next season no matter what we have. 

In one particular conversation, I remember my “wise advice” was encouraging this other person to stop trying to skip into this next season because although it was the next logical step, there was no sign the season was going to come soon. “Why are you trying to rush into a season that is going to limit you and completely change everything you are doing and can be doing right now,” I told her. 

Little did I realize, I might as well have been speaking to myself. Here I was, hoping and wishing to be in full-time ministry but forgetting all the ways it would dramatically change my regular schedule. Although being in full-time ministry would mean I was getting to do what I felt like I was called to. I would also miss the freedom in each day to spend 3+ hours at a coffee shop by myself studying the word, reviewing scripture memory, and pouring into a prayer journal. 

The more I thought, the more I realized how much I doubted God’s goodness and timing by considering what would be next is better for me then where I am right now. 

If I genuinely believed God knew the plans He had for me and they were to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11), then why wouldn’t I fully trust if it were best for me to be in South Africa right now, then I would be. 

So, if I know God has me here right now, doing exactly what I am doing, for a specific reason. What does it look like to be content?

I would argue, I don’t just want to be content but I want to rejoice. I want to experience the abundant joy because I am here right now. I want to take every opportunity to discover how God is going to be glorified because of where I am. 

Practically, I think this could mean taking inventory of what would change whenever I reach full support and then with a glad heart, investing entirely into those things.

For me, this means taking advantage of the freedom I have to focus on my relationship with the Lord. It means spending time with friends enjoying the humid Midwestern summer and spending time in fellowship with people who have walked me through the highs and lows of support raising and encouraging them. I could probably come up with some more, but those are the ones are on my heart this week. 

So how do we encourage others who sincerely hope for their next season of life? The verse that comes to mind is 1 Corinthians 4:18:

“So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Focusing on what God is doing in and through our lives rather than the fleeting circumstances around us. 

Although I am definitely not refined in this, as every morning I hope I will open my computer to an email stating all my support has been raised. I know this is something I want to continue to challenge myself in.