My God, What Are You Waiting For?
- Cheryl Boyd Contributing Writer
- 2012 4 Apr
Closing my journal, I clicked the lid on my pen and set it on the bedside table. How many entries can I trace back to the same thing—the same desire? It's been over five years. The desire is still there, as strong as ever, but the answer is not yet clear. Sure, I've gotten smaller answers related to the same theme of that particular desire along the way, but the ultimate answer is neither "yes" or "no" at this point.
"My God, what are you waiting for?"
If we were as honest as David was in our conversations with God, I think that we would ask this question a lot more often. I am confident that God wouldn't be offended if we let ourselves sink past the veneer of our shallow quiet times and self-pep talks to ask him that question—especially if we wait for his reply.
A quick glance around the world stops me in my tracks. The simple Sunday School answers don't satisfy when you are sitting across the dinner table from a beautiful Congolese woman who explains how the horrors of rape, murder and corruption are part of the daily landscape in her lush yet broken country. Just a few days after listening to her heartbreaking stories I sat in a funeral for a friend of mine who died at a young age because of cancer. Do I honestly believe that God is apathetic to these dear people's suffering or about my pain? Is the problem that we didn't bother to stop and pray for his intervention? None of these answers are satisfying. The problem is that both answers to this question of why God waits to answer our prayers or meet our most basic needs end up painting him in a false light. He is not indifferent to our pain. He is not unaware of our suffering. He doesn't expect us to jump through hoops before he'll protect us. He is a kind, all-knowing, empathetic, vigilant Father. So while he waits to intervene, we wait on him.
History is made up of plots that have unfolded through the lives of people as they experience glory and tragedy. We aren't the first to wrestle with this entangled convergence of our Sovereign's character as it collides with our plans. The world is broken. That fact is undeniable. Whether you are waiting for God to bring judgment to Kony or to provide a job so that you don't have to go without cable television, deep down in your heart, there is a level of frustration with the One who spoke all of creation into existence and raised his friend John 11:1-45 from the grave.
I have come to understand that on this side of eternity I will ALWAYS be waiting. In light of that fact, I had better learn how to do it well. That begins with God's character. Until I calibrate my heart and mind on Truth, I lose my ability to function in a productive way. Without that foundation, my mind and emotions will spiral out of control. Positive thinking is impotent when the thinking is based on lies. The Truth sets us free. Lies keep us in bondage.
What does it look like to calibrate my heart and mind on Truth? I must go to a source of Truth that is outside of myself. My perspective is limited and skewed. For that matter, so is the perspective of every other human being who bases his or her reality on personal viewpoint. The only source of Truth is from God. If you don't start there, everything else is futile and pointless. Science will not solve the problem of evil. It will not mend a broken heart. If Truth comes only from God, where do we go to find it? We start with his Word. He tells us about himself and his character in his Word. He doesn't candy-coat the picture, either. Some of what I learn about him there makes me uncomfortable. That is how I know it is from him and not merely a book thought up by humans. Humans would never create a God, call him all-powerful and then have him wash dirty feet of foolish followers.
God also reveals himself and truth in creation—even through the brokenness. It doesn't paint the full picture, so it is important to start with his Word, but it does allow us to experience his beauty, his goodness, his attention to detail, and much, much more. In particular, we can find out more about God through his creation of relationships with other humans. We need others who are also calibrating themselves to Truth to remind us, encourage us, and help us along the way. On our own we will experience vertigo in our perspective. God gives us others to remind us which way is up. I'd be lost without those friends and family who are so close to me.
God created me to have a relationship with him. So, it only makes sense that two-way communication is part of the package. I share my heart and I listen as he shares his. He gives me insight, wisdom and counsel. Sometimes he just gives me a sense of his presence. When I am not making it a priority to talk to him and listen to his heart for me, then I am choosing to stay in the dark. I am choosing confusion and lies. I begin to spin out of control and take a nosedive toward destructive deception. The story line that began in the Genesis 3 repeats itself in every life and in every generation.
I was recently watching that theme unfold with my seven-year-old niece. "So I'll never ever get to eat ice cream again?!?!" This was her tearful response when my sister told her that she couldn't have dessert that night. It was hard to hold back my laughter at her ridiculous conclusion because she was basing all future decisions about whether or not she could have a sweet treat based on her mother's decision for that particular situation. I hate to admit it, but left to my own understanding of God's response to my heart's desires, I'm tempted to jump to the same type of ridiculous conclusions.
As I have read, listened and experienced God's Truth, I can start to see a pattern in the way God responds to my pleas. His ultimate answer is not often predictable with any degree of certainty, but I do know that he chooses to act in his own way and in his own timing based on a two priorities: his glory and my good. Before you assume that I am reverting back to Sunday School answers, I have to tell you that "my good" is not always achieved by my desires or even my physical and emotional health. He wants something more for me than I want for myself. He wants my attention, and he wants my heart. Just look at a spoiled child who receives everything he wants when he wants it and you will see that child's undivided attention is on his own desires. He isn't focused on his parents who love him or his friends around him. He is focused on himself. If he continues down that path, it will lead to a lot of heartache for himself and everyone around him. Much like that child, what I think I need is not always what is best for me. I will question God's character based on his provision for me if I am viewing him primarily through the lens of my desires.
What do I do, then, with those unmet desires? I always find it helpful to ask myself the same question I started with which is, "Cheryl, what are you waiting for?" If I can state it clearly, then I can start to look at that desire through the prism of God's character and his priorities for me. I have started asking myself if I can continue to long for that particular thing while pressing into Jesus. That looks like wanting to know him and have intimacy with him above that desire. If my desire leads me down the tempting path of questioning his goodness and his character, I have believed a lie and my desire has become an idol. If, however, I can press into Jesus while waiting, even if the desire goes unmet for a long time I can see his timing as a gift that is bearing amazing fruit in my relationship with him. If the desire is never met, I can still rest in his character and his provision for me. I know without a doubt that my Father chooses better gifts for me than I choose for myself.
I am sure that I will fill a few more journals as I pour my heart out to the Lord about this particular request. I can't even begin to guess what his final answer will be either. As I look back on the past five years, though, I am already thankful for his response. I have been driven to my knees, I have cried out to him in tears, I have searched for wisdom in his Word, I have leaned on the support and encouragement of others. And I trust his heart for me more than ever.
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9).
Cheryl Boyd is on staff with Cru where she currently serves in launching a new ministry among young professionals in cities across the country. For 12 years she called Russia home as she helped give national leadership to the campus ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Follow Cheryl on Twitter @cheryloboyd.