While We Wait on God…

Each fall, the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds linger at my feeder a few weeks longer than I expect them to. Their visits to and from my deck occur at an increasingly frenetic pace as September rolls along. If two or more of these little winged spitfires cross paths, they chatter and chase each other waging an all out territorial nectar war. As much as I enjoy watching them, each year as fall progresses, I wonder why they wait to leave. Being a planner myself, I long to encourage them to beat the migration rush.

I always assumed hummingbirds migrated because of the dropping fall temperatures. But, what I learned recently through a little research surprised me. Hummingbirds do need warmer temperatures to survive, but it is actually fall’s decreasing daylight hours which trigger a hormonal change and cause them to migrate.

While waiting for this internal alarm clock, they take care of important business– they eat. In order to survive the non-stop 500 mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico, which most hummingbirds will make every winter, they need to work on doubling their body weight before reaching the south. The sought after nectar at my feeder provides their tiny bodies with a high potency fuel. This fuel allows them to catch flies and other insects which are the staple of their diet. Yes, my sweet hummingbirds are carnivores! Who knew?!

So, it seems my concerns over the hummingbirds missing their window of migration opportunity and freezing are unnecessary. Instinctively, they know what they need to do without any help from me. There is no element of human logic, hurry, or worry in their timeline — only patient waiting and off they go.

I wish I could wait like that, don’t you? Waiting is challenging for humans, even in instances where benefits are certain — like lines for ice cream. When we are in the midst of a trial the benefits of waiting are especially hard to see. Waiting on God is not easy. We want to know what, when, why, and how things are going to happen. We want to plan, influence, and control events because all that waiting, well, it can make us feel like we are NOT doing anything.

But, what we need to remember is this: waiting on God IS doing something, and it does bring benefits. Like the hummingbird instinctively preparing for a strenuous trip, we too, can actively wait on God to direct our journey. While waiting we can:

Use God’s Word

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NIV

When we feel stuck in a painful season of life, it is hard to find time, energy, and motivation to study the Bible. Consistently showing up on God’s doorstep, however, demonstrates our eagerness to learn. If we keep searching his promises for wisdom and reassurance, he steers us in the right direction. By using Scripture verses in our prayers, we honor God, and we pray the way Jesus did. Changes in our situation may be gradual, but they will be powerful when we allow the Bible to work within us. Reminding us of what is good and true, God’s Word shapes our character, decisions, and outlook while we wait.

Trust in God’s Character and Timing

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8 NIV

On days when we are weary of waiting on the Lord, our faith can grow weak, and we may think God is never going to show up. But, the Bible repeatedly teaches us about three important attributes of God. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

Omnipotent means God is all-powerful. He is in control and can handle any problem we face.

Omniscient means God is all-knowing. He knows every detail of our lives — from our birth to our death, who we will meet, and every situation we will face. Nothing surprises him or leaves him unsure of how to work things for our good.

Omnipresent means he is all-present or everywhere at the same time. God is always with us even when we feel alone.

If life is going well, we have a tendency to think it is all our doing. In hard times, we wonder if God knows what he is doing. Suffering, although frustrating and painful, encourages us to search for God and trust him to do things beyond ourselves. Waiting in the hardship of the unknown leads us to the comfort of what we do know: we belong to a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and with us at all times.

Pray Boldly

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15 NIV

In this Scripture, the Apostle John tells us with certainty that prayer works, and he knows how it works. Notice he says, “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” Prayer is not a to-do list for God to magically and immediately grant our requests. Rather, it is a means of receiving what is the will of God — answers which meet his good purposes and timing.

As we pray whatever is on our hearts, we must also consider God’s will. We humble ourselves as Jesus did saying, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” Praying for discernment, we think about how God wants to reach us or use us in this trial. His thoughts and ways are sometimes beyond our comprehension in the here and now, so we also ask for his peace to comfort us. Waiting encourages us to look for God’s instruction and pray with a bold confidence that he will do what is best. 

Love and Serve Others

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT

Every trial we endure teaches us about suffering and comfort. Through our trials we gain valuable understanding about how to love and serve others. For example, we might be able to share knowledge about a medical procedure, empathize with feelings, cook someone dinner, or meet them for a walk. Waiting for God presents us with valuable opportunities to show others the love of Christ and to possibly find purpose in our pain. 

Harvest Gratitude

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

Giving thanks while we are hurting can seem like an impossible task. While we do not feel grateful for our circumstance, we can be thankful for God’s presence in it — for all the ways he comforts us.

We can be grateful simply for the time God gives us to wait. In the waiting, we can learn his Word, place our trust in him, pray boldly, and love others. In the waiting, our character grows in patience and persistence. And in the waiting, we awaken to the hope we have in him for our future. Remembering the things we are grateful for, even in difficult circumstances, keeps us focused on God’s everlasting love for us.

This morning, a hummingbird perched on the bird swing I have attached to my window. He sat there, content, for the longest time. I smiled and paused in the moment. I watched him as he watched me.

“We wait,” I said to him. God is near. God is good. “We wait.”

Press on in faith, my friends!

 

Other Related Posts:

Where is God when Life Hurts?

Learning to Pray

Trusting God Along the Eagle Trail

The Worry Fight

Inspiring Resources:

Hummingbirds.net

Where is God when Life Hurts?

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Book pages, torn and tattered, lay scattered like breadcrumbs along the muddy trail in front of me. Disheartened by the littered mess, I bend down for a closer look. My heart sinks further as I recognize holy words displayed on the pages in front of me.

At first glance, it seems they are pages from the Bible. But, then I see an unfamiliar heading of Mosiah (not a book in the Bible) at the top of a page. Gathering some of the pieces, I research the words with my phone, soon concluding it is the Book of Mormon, strewn like a forgotten jigsaw puzzle across the forest floor.

For me, seeing the Book of Mormon torn to pieces disturbs me just as much as seeing a Bible, or any other holy book, in the same condition. What causes someone to walk along a quiet, beautiful trail ripping out pages, pausing to tear them into tiny pieces and scatter them into the distance?

Some pieces were tossed along the sidewalk, others face down in the mud, between blades of grass or leaning against tree trunks. This act took considerable time and effort to accomplish. What was this person feeling? Anguish, despair, defiance, confusion…emotions which cut raw and deep, making us ache.

Along the paper trail, did this person cry out, “Why am I suffering?” or “Do you hear me God?!”

Do you think the questions were answered?

We long to know.

Because honestly, at some point in life we all feel such pain and probably ask similar questions. And, often we feel like our most difficult questions are met with silence from God.

In the Bible, we learn about many people who faced dire circumstances and proclaimed their frustration to God. They talk of feeling hurt, abandoned, unheard, and confused. One of these people was a man named Job.

The Bible describes Job as an outstanding man with whom God was greatly pleased. He was wealthy in terms of livestock, possessions, children, and health. Through no fault of his own, he lost it all. His livestock, his home, and his children were all taken from him. Then, a painful disease of sores overtook his body.

His friends, desperate to make sense of the tragedy, reasoned that sin must be causing his suffering. They told him he must confess his wrongdoing. This was not a particularly sensitive way to comfort Job, but he examined his heart for sin nonetheless. After coming up empty-handed, Job rightly maintained his innocence.

Clearly, Job was devastated that the God he worshipped allowed such immense pain to pervade his life. Throughout his struggle, Job did not try to hide his overwhelming anguish and grief. At one point, overtaken with emotion, he exclaims that not being born would have been better than being forsaken by the God he loves.

“At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth.” Job 3:11 New Living Translation (NLT)

“I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; only trouble comes.” Job 3:26 (NLT)

In the midst of all this hardship, Job’s faith undergoes a lengthy and mighty test. Conflicted about trusting God to pull him through, he repeatedly asks why he is suffering. He easily trusted God’s plans when life was going well. But, once life became really difficult the extent of his unbelief became clear to him.

Faith wavered and questions surfaced. He faced a choice of either giving up on God or relying on him like never before. God’s silence did not make his decision easy. For thirty-seven chapters in his story, Job challenges God for answers and receives silence.

If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of all humanity? Why make me your target? Am I a burden to you? Why not just forgive my sin and take away my guilt? For soon I will lie down in the dust and die. When you look for me, I will be gone. Job 7:20 (NLT)

I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look. Job 30:20 (NLT)

After listening in silence for quite some time, God offers Job a revelation by asking him a series of questions no human could answer – things only a creator could know. The questions, focusing on things like the earth’s creation, forces of nature, star constellations, and the animal kingdom were certainly beyond Job’s comprehension (Job 38:1-41:34). Answers to the questions were not expected; God wanted Job to grasp his sovereignty and trust his care. 

Job wonders, if he cannot fathom these things about creation then how can he possibly understand God’s reasoning and ways in other matters? The questions spark an AHA moment in him as he realizes that God has a bigger and better picture of the world than he does. The magnitude of God – his wisdom, power, justice, and grace becomes clear to him.

Job “sees” God in a deeper way than ever before – a way that humbles him and strengthens his trust in God’s plans for him. Job’s question, “Why am I suffering?” is not directly answered by God, but it suddenly becomes irrelevant in his mind. He understands everything God allows into his life is meant to prosper him – even his struggles (Jeremiah 29:11).

If Job’s trouble had left quickly or the answers came easily, he would not have been enlightened in such a profound way. God ultimately increased Job’s faith to the same extent that he allowed it to be challenged. 

“But Job replied, ‘You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?’ Job 2:10 (NLT)

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”… “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:2, 5-6 New International Version (NIV)

In our lives, stories like Job’s inspire a fondness for popular quotes like these:

  • “I am thankful for my struggle because without it, I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.” -Alexandra Elle
  • “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” – Thomas Fuller
  • “Hard times are sometimes blessings in disguise. We do have to suffer but in the end it makes us strong, better, and wise.”  – Anurag Prakash Ray

It’s motivating to quote words like these when life runs smooth, simple, and good. Ironic, though, how when life takes a hard turn, these quotes are difficult for us to believe in. Like Job, we think we have faith. We think we trust God no matter what happens. But, struggles can surprise us with doubt. Trouble quickly brings us face to face with the depths of our unbelief.

And, that’s okay. God is not surprised by doubt. He understands raw emotions. In fact, the Bible tells us he aches with us. He knows the “why” questions and the desire for quick answers are part of human nature. God waits and endures like a loving parent. He trusts us to deepen our faith and allows us to embrace our own AHA moments.

Where is God when life hurts?

He walks the path beside us and silently picks up the pieces. He wants so much for us to trust his plans in good times and in bad. He hopes that a stronger relationship with him will ignite our faith like never before and lead us to share it with others.

Building a deeper relationship with God in the silence means we work on understanding his Word, trusting his love, and being patient for his promises. We can ask him to use our suffering to help others who suffer. Our hope can bring others hope. Our experience changes how we see God and the world. It allows us to actively search for and carry out his good works with a fresh pair of eyes.

Then, when another trial comes, as it surely will, we can pray, trusting him to meet us in the silence and piece us back together again.

A few things to remember from Job:

  • Faithfully loving and serving God does not provide an exemption from hard times.
  • God does not cause our suffering, but he may allow it. This does not mean he is insensitive to it.
  • We may not receive an explanation for our trial, but putting our trust in God strengthens us, provides hope, and ultimately, works for good.
  • Our struggles can be used to deepen our faith and that of others.
  • We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can always choose our response.
  • God created us with emotions, and it is always okay to express them to him.
  • Although God may feel far away, the Bible tells us he is omnipresent – everywhere at the same time. He is always with us, even if we cannot sense it.
  • God wants us to learn how to share our faith with the world. In struggles, we can either respond with “why me” or “use me”.

A Poem for your Week:

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The Hope Tree
by Jamie Trunnel

Passing this tree for a few weeks
Feel like it has a message to speak

With three solid trunks, it had stood tall and proud
Then a storm raged and two hit the ground

Now I see it standing there, broken limbs at its side
Stripped to the core, nowhere to hide

I think I know how you feel I say to the tree
Like you’ve been ripped in half and no one sees

They said you’d bend, but not break
They lied; it seems too much to take

Listen, I whisper, I’ve been here before
It’s so hard, but I finally found the hope you implore

Don’t look down at what’s fallen away
Look up, look up for what’s here to stay

May God bless you in your trials and in your celebrations. 

For more on how to get through hard times, see these previous posts.