I was standing knee deep in Lake Superior as dusk fell one August evening with a question echoing throughout the depths my mind. As the waves came in, the cliffs turned black, and the swirling air began to bring forth the smell of evening, I reeled over my reoccurring plea–– “God, please just show me what to do”.
The panoramic view, the picturesque moment, the solitary cry, was, I thought, the perfect place for an epiphany. It could have been a story to tell, a moment something momentous hinged upon, or a time it all just “made sense”, but it wasn’t. I stood there, asking, thinking, and praying, in the cool of the evening and slipped quietly back up the beach and to the car minutes later with nothing, nothing at all.
Psalm 37 has been a standby for me in past year and a half of my life and following my time on the beach I read through the first eleven verses or so. David’s “Trust in the Lord”, “Delight yourself in the Lord” and “Commit your way to the Lord” have proved to be orienting in days past, but his command in verse 7, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him”, made me stop and wonder.
Over the next few days my thoughts began to shift. They went from impatiently asking God to show me what to do to pondering just who it is I’m commanded to wait for, trust in, delight in, and commit my life to. My question then became a humbling, “Luke, do you know who you are waiting for?”.
In the book of Job, specifically chapters 38 and 39, we read words of startling gravity and humbling revelations––we are no match to question God. Questions posed by God to Job make us realize the pure insanity of questioning the king and creator of the universe. They include phrases such as, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”, “Who determined its measurements?”, and “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out of the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band?” God continues in asking, “Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?”, “What is the way to the place where the light is distributed?”, “Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?”, and “Do you give the horse his might?”. God ends such statements in 40:2 with “He who argues with God, let him answer it”.
What we conclude and learn from such questions is key in how we handle uncertainty as well as impatience in those uncertainties present in our lives. Job’s response in the ensuing lines provides a noteworthy template for what our response ought to look like when we question God––namely, humble repentance.
But wait a minute. Are we left simply to fasten our lips closed, put our heads down, and wait for eternity without question or concern for any “future matter” in our life? Do we serve a God who, in his children’s cry for direction and wisdom, looks down, puts his hands on his hips, and reproachfully says “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Certainly not, we find in Matthew 6:26, among many other places, that God thoroughly cares for us. Likewise, we read in James 1 that God graciously gives wisdom without reproach, continually!
Additionally, we can read Philippians 4:6, which states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” and see that God wants us to ask, to bring concerns before him, and run to him in every single circumstance we face. Similarly, in 1 Peter 5:7 we are told to cast all of our anxieties on him. Why? Because he cares for us.
So clearly, we are not pushed from God in the midst of uncertainty or shamed for presenting our concerns and difficulties before him, but are instead instructed to do quite the opposite––to cast all our anxieties on him. Yet, we are reminded by Job’s account that we are without ground to question if God’s purpose for our lives is the one best for us. We may read about such overarching, unconditional, and totally sovereign purpose in various places in scripture. Psalm 138:8 says, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” and Proverbs 19:21, states, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand”.
We are not left hoping that God will put us where he wants us, where we will be made like Christ, like we are hoping it won’t rain next tuesday. No, we read in Psalm 138:8 that God has a purpose for us and in Proverbs 19:21 that that purpose will not fail.
Such providential care should cause us to rejoice in the life given to us, not to question God or long for something else. That means, whether you are fifteen and getting dropped off to the movies by your mom, thirty-five and wondering how in the world you are going to work for another twenty five years, or a recent college graduate without any prospect of a desired relationship or job, you should be rejoicing in the circumstance God has placed you in. You should be leveraging the tools you have––some of them undoubtedly unique to your current circumstance––for the building of the Lord’s kingdom and the magnification of his name, not for building houses of complaints, distain, and unthankfulness.
So what should our mindset be? What should our approach to lack of direction in post graduation endeavors, in our job search, or relationship pursuits look like? Well, in waiting, we can without a doubt be convinced of three things. One, God cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), two, he is fulfilling the purpose he has for our lives (Psalm 138:8, Proverbs 19:21), and three, that he is in total control (Proverbs 16:33, Psalm 102:12). This news, this knowledge, ought to cause us to worship and praise God, not question him.
When we grasp these passages and promises we realize we aren’t so much waiting as we are leveraging. We are, through the power of the spirit, using all things and circumstances to glorify God. In 1 Corinthians 7:17 we are commanded to lead the life that the Lord has assigned to us and to which we are called, and that should remind us that God has placed us exactly where he wants us each and every day.
When we remember who we are waiting for anything but patient, satisfied interim is logically ridiculous. We are not waiting for a disinterested waiter to bring us the bill or for a delayed flight to finally board, no, we are waiting upon the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, the very creator of the universe. We are waiting upon our blessed savior who gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5:25), who died to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18), and into everlasting pleasure (Psalm 16:11).
So when we wait, when aren’t sure where the next road leads, or even where the next road is, we ought to stand up straight being convinced that God has put us here purposively, that we can cling to and inquire of him through it all, and know that in the midst of it all Psalm 31:15 is true––our times are in his hands.
We can “wait patiently for him” because of who he is, not because of who we are. If it was will power, a decision simply of the mind, or anything within us we would be left in total inability. Yet, Christ has “made us alive” when we were dead, and “created us in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2). He has given us a new heart, a heart of flesh, and causes us to walk in his instruction (Ezekiel 36:26-27). In the midst of every circumstance we can wait patiently because God empowers us, by the work of the spirit, to.
In short, we can wait for God because of God. May we be found praying, then, that we would cast our cares upon him, trust in him, delight in him, and commit our way to him out of our recognition of pure need and out of our desire for Christ––out of affectionate dependence.