TODAY’S VERSE TO PONDER: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
I want it now. I need it now. I expect it now. I’m getting discouraged now. I’m getting mad with God now.
What? I can’t have it now? Why not? What is taking God so long? Does God hate me? Is God punishing me? What else does God expect me to do before He grants my wish?
If these words don’t ring at all familiar to you and in some form or fashion have never crossed your lips, you are one freakishly patient human being. You probably actually enjoy long lines at the supermarket and waiting for that famously stubborn ketchup to creep slowly out of the bottle
Let’s be real: we human beings are seriously impatient creatures. We have been conditioned to desire instant gratification, and when our desires are not met exactly when and how we want them, we have a tendency to “act out” (as my long-ago elementary school principal used to say) and blame God.
I must confess that patience is not one of my natural gifts. When life isn’t going precisely as I have imagined it should go, I really do have to focus hard and work harder on not being discouraged and not reacting less-than-perfectly. In my human imperfection, patience is a skill I really have to practice to make imperfect. Fortunately, most people who love me – and thankfully, God – are patient with my impatience.
The Bible is full of tales of God’s children being disappointed by life. In the Book of Jeremiah, the eponymous prophet writes to God’s people who were scattered by the Babylonians to tell them that they would spend 70 long, hard years in exile. Of course, the people of Judah were pretty disappointed by that news, and so was Jeremiah.
Still, even in his disappointment, the prophet delivered words of hope given by God: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)
As faithful followers of Jesus Christ, we sometimes slip into an almost arrogant sense of entitlement. As “good Christians,” we pray the prayer of salvation; we try to live our daily lives in a manner that we believe honors and glorifies God; we give generously and commit ourselves to sacrificial service of others. So, when we pray to God for something, we come almost to expect that He will reward our efforts to be more Christ-like by giving us whatever we ask of Him whenever we ask for it.
Recently, I prayed to God to bless a long-dormant ambition. I asked Him to smile on my efforts, and then I set to work refining my skills and laying the groundwork for what I knew in my heart would be an absolutely assured blessing from God. I started making plans to pour myself into my re-ignited ambition and give every ounce of energy to my renewed mission.
Then nothing happened. Form rejection letters arrived. One bright glimmer of hope quickly faded. I began to believe that my prayers to the Father had fallen on deaf ears. I became discouraged. Disappointment set in.
One of my mistakes was expecting instant gratification for my dreams and ambitions. I confess that I came to believe that because I had been so faithful in my worship of God, because I felt that I was “doing everything right” within my limited abilities, there was no way the Lord wouldn’t grant my desire.
What I conveniently forgot was that I really don’t have much right to expect anything of God nor to question His faithfulness. God is God, and I am a child of God – loved, but ultimately broken and imperfect, ultimately human. I wake up every day at His pleasure, and every day of my life exists solely for God’s purpose and enjoyment. I am entitled to nothing from God unless He wants me to have it.
For years, my life verse has been Romans 8:28. I have rested on the comfort of these words through both my most prosperous times and the toughest seasons of my life: “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” When I get complacent and forget the truth in those words, that is when disappointment, discouragement, doubt and self-pity start to creep into my life.
As Christ followers, it is essential that we never doubt God’s ultimate faithfulness. God is not a vending machine, standing by to dispense our wildest dreams on demand. God wants us to pray to Him, to tell Him our desires of the heart, and to lay our heaviest burdens at His feet. When we do, He surely will give us all that we need – because what we NEED ultimately meshes with His plans and His purpose for our lives.
When God falls silent and we start to think that He has turned His back on us, it is often because we have turned our backs on what He wants from us as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. If we find ourselves asking, “Why me, Lord?” there is a good chance God is just waiting for us to ask the right question: “What now for me, Lord?” followed by the words, “Your Will be done.”
So, for what will you ask God today? And if you do ask something of Him today, search your heart, steady yourself and be prepared for His answer to be, “No. I have other plans for you.” Be prepared to accept that, unlike our very human and often selfish desires, His plans – whether or not we like them or agree with them – are always perfect.
When life throws us disappointments, our job description as Christ followers is pretty simple and clear-cut: Trust and wait on God.