The Art of Waiting
By Sheila Jacobs
Once, when praying about a situation in my life, I had a ‘picture’. In this picture, I saw a bus that just went round in a big circle, finishing up at the same bus stop. I realised I hadn’t actually checked the destination on the front of the bus. Hmm. Better let that bus go by, and wait for the next one.
Maybe you have been in relationships in the past where they fizzle out, never amounting to anything. You are not getting to the destination you want: perhaps meeting your soul mate; marriage. It can be frustrating, leading to disappointment – even becoming angry with God.
So often we have our own agenda, without seeking him. We tell him what we want; we simply assume the destination on the front of the bus is in alignment with our own desires.
But we need to be careful. The Bible tells us ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’ (Proverbs 4:23).
It’s a good thing to exercise caution, to be patient before jumping into new friendships wholeheartedly. Otherwise we, and perhaps the other person, could get hurt.
It’s easy to want to paint our own destinations on the next available bus. ‘OK. This is where I want to go.’ But what is the actual destination? Only God knows!
One of my favourite Bible passages is found in Psalm 46:10: ‘Be still, and know that I am God’. Being still is not easy for some of us! Truthfully, I find it hard to be still before God and just listen.
The full picture
The prophet Elijah, in the Old Testament, was running away from a difficult situation. He was exhausted, trying to find God but failing. Worn out, he virtually collapsed, then God found him, in the midst of it all. He didn’t give him an answer to all his issues straight away – he simply fed him, knowing the ‘journey was too much’ for Elijah (1 Kings 19:7). Maybe you feel the journey – whatever that journey is – is too much for you, too.
Elijah, made strong by God’s ministering, seeks out the Lord and complains about his situation. God doesn’t answer directly. He just shows him who he is. He isn’t found in the fireworks: he’s found in the stillness, in the ‘gentle whisper’ (v12).
Elijah renews his complaint, and God again doesn’t answer directly. What he does is give him a new commission – and part of that is in gently altering Elijah’s perspective. Elijah, in his exhaustion, hasn’t quite got the full picture.
Only God has the full picture. Sometimes we can seem to be continually hammering in a piece of a jigsaw that just refuses to fit: maybe it’s not meant to. Let go, says the Lord, and listen to me. There’s no rush. Relax.
We don’t actually have to worry about our destinations. We only have to be concerned with being in God’s will. If we really want a relationship, and are asking God if this is ‘the one’, or whether we will ever meet that person, then we need to trust that God loves us and knows what’s best. We need, in effect, to ask him to show us which bus to catch.
God knows what it says on the front of each bus. He knows where situations will lead us, if we choose to embrace them. He knows which path we should take, for our good and his glory. God has a destiny for each of us, and it may not always be the destiny we had hoped for or planned. In fact, it may be better.
But there are times of waiting when we feel it isn’t better. Yet as we look back, we may be surprised and eventually grateful to see paths that, if we had taken them, would not lead anywhere good. Perhaps they would have ended in a difficult climb, or a dangerous drop. We may have wanted to take that path yet felt that ‘check’ in our spirit as we listened to God. When we hear: ‘Not my plan for you’, let’s trust that, rather than trying to make it ‘fit’ what we want.
All about trust
When we come to Jesus in faith, he asks us to ‘follow him’. This life, as we know, can be hard to navigate, with unexpected twists and turns. We might finish up saying, ‘I don’t know how I got here.’ But ‘here’ is always a good place to start a fresh journey.
God is good. He loves us. He knows the beginning from the end. Jesus didn’t promise us an easy life, but he promised us himself. He is always with us, desiring our company, wanting relationship. Yes – wanting relationship with you, and with me.
Perhaps you have experienced his presence in the past. Maybe it is a long time since you felt he was truly ‘there’. Disillusionment, let-downs, the isolation that may have been exacerbated through Covid… all this and more can make us cynical and jaded.
If that’s you, stop fretting. Sit, or maybe go for a quiet walk, if you can. Be expectant that God will speak in the silence. He has much to say to us about our lives – and how much we are of value to him – if only we would take the time to listen.
God may not tell us the destination of our next friendship, our next relationship, but as we get closer to him we will recognise his voice more, and be more attuned to his ‘stop’ or ‘go’. But let’s always remember that the greatest relationship is with him – the One who loves us best, accepts us, values us, esteems us, and calls us ‘precious’ (Isaiah 43:4). Let’s ‘follow him’, wherever he may lead us. Your will, not mine, Lord.
All scriptures NIV 2011 (UK)
Sheila Jacobs is a writer, editor, and an award-winning author of 19 books to date. Her new title is A Little Book of Rest: Walking Out of Anxiety and Fear (Malcolm Down) – See back page for more information. She is also the author of our amazing resource: Open to God. For more information visit www.friends1st.co.uk/opentogod