A few years ago, I struggled every day to get up for my job. Describing the job as miserable would be a severe understatement. My boss was a modern-day Napoleon, and the commute was nerve wracking. I really wanted to be in full-time ministry and had been begging God to do something to get me there.
In prayer one morning, I felt the Lord tell me I would work for the church I had been faithfully serving. I was excited about this and expected it to happen soon. I ran off to tell my wife, then waited for the call from the bullpen to go play with the pros.
The only problem was that it took me four years to see anything happen.
Maybe you have your own version of this story. You heard from God, but nothing happened or is happening yet. You’ve read your Bible and underlined the right verses, but the reality of the wait is crushing you. You’ve waited so long, you’re beginning to wonder if God is mad at you or if you offended Him in some way. You’re thinking if you just do the right things or pray the right mix of words, somehow God will notice you—because He hasn’t seemed to notice you yet.
Since that four-year season of waiting on God, I’ve learned a few things about this process of waiting. And the main thing I’ve learned is that there is a process to this waiting business. Here are a few reasons you might be asked to live in an “already but not yet” place.
You’re not ready for the size of what you’ll receive
In the Old Testament, God promises the Israelites the Promised Land, yet He seemed to drag His feet on keeping His promise to them. But God gives us insight into His thoughts on this in a few small verses:
“But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” (Exodus 23:29-30, NIV)
God didn’t give the Israelites the Promised Land all at once because they were not yet large enough to occupy it. If God had given them all the land promised to them right away, the wild animals would have outnumbered them and destroyed the hard work they put in to cultivating the land.
As a father, I can understand this. I would never give my 9-year-old the keys to the car and tell her to be home by dark. At 9 years old, she isn’t prepared or experienced enough to safely control the car. That car is like a wild animal to her. But when she’s ready, I will give her the privilege and responsibility to drive it. Just like the Israelites, God will only give us what we are prepared to handle once we’re prepared to handle it.
You’re unlearning improper worship
If we aren’t careful, the very thing that God intended for a blessing can turn into an instrument of destruction. We see this countless times with the Israelites, especially when they melted down the gold and made a golden calf to worship. We may not worship golden calves these days, but that doesn’t mean we don’t find other things to worship—and we can be especially tempted to worship God’s plans instead of God Himself. Right now, you’re being refined.
You’re learning dependence on God
The Lord gave the Israelites the Promised Land “little by little” because it required them to wait upon Him the entire way through it. When we have to wait on God it teaches us to depend on him more. Maybe the Israelites would have turned their backs on God if they received all the land at once because they wouldn’t have felt the need for Him anymore—they’d have gotten what they wanted, and life would be good.
The time I spent waiting on God those four long years kept me asking questions and learning to pray. In fact, I spent many hours in the car praying while driving through Atlanta traffic. (It was either learn to pray or give in to road rage.) And during that season, I learned God is more interested in His relationship with me than my own personal comfort.
You’re needed to help others right now
While Joseph, a fellow dreamer, was in prison waiting on his dreams, he learned to help others with their own. The funny thing is, by helping other people with their dreams, he ended up reaching his own. It was only because he interpreted the dreams of the cupbearer and baker that he ended up in front of Pharoah later down the road. So maybe right now, God wants to use you to help others who are struggling.
God is preparing you for a successful transition into His plan when you’re ready. If He does it too soon, you won’t be ready for it, and it won’t be ready for you.
Don’t confuse times of waiting as a sign of God’s anger. You’re going through a process that prepares you for the plans God has for you—and I suspect you’d rather have God take His time and make you ready than plunge you into water that’s over your head. Am I right?