Waiting with Peaceful Expectation

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I’m a picture person.  A visual learner. I understand things better if I can get a picture of it in my head. Today God gave me quite a profound picture.

I was reading Matthew 4:18-22.  It’s the passage where Jesus invites Peter and Andrew to join Him.  The whole scene played out so vividly in my head. It says, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee”.  Peter and Andrew weren’t out in a boat. They were standing in the water, quietly waiting and watching for fish to swim by so they could throw out their nets to catch them.

And I thought about that picture.  These two men standing quietly watching.

I don’t often stand still.  I’m very rarely blessed with quiet. And who has time to watch and wait for something in this world?

Well, I was struck profoundly that maybe those are things I should start doing.

At first, I was thinking about the fish. Each fish caught would certainly be considered a blessing.  Peter and Andrew surely had an attitude of expectation and hope.  Their time, at that moment, was spent looking for the blessings.

Maybe I’m stretching this a bit…but this is what God impressed upon me this morning.  

There are blessings to be had…moments to be blessed…moments to stand still and acknowledge the blessings.

Too often I find myself rushing, racing, running, and rattling off my list of to-dos like there is no tomorrow. What about taking  a moment and standing still, breathing deeply, and thanking God. Watching for what He’s doing!

If you were to have a visual picture of me to juxtapose with Peter and Andrew…I’d be the frantic woman down the beach a bit, tossing my net willy-nilly into the water. Creating splashes and extra waves in my frenzied attempt to capture blessings that I think I need immediately. I’d be knee deep in the water splattered with sand and mud, damp all the way through. One pant leg slightly rolled up. One unraveled around my ankle, floating around me with each wave.  My hair would be half in a ponytail, half blowing over my eyes causing my efforts to be even more harried and ineffective (if that were possible). My net would be flying through the air in crazy arcs, landing in the water with a splash, crumpled and twisted. See, I tend to go at things with a gusto that is often not well thought-out. I race into possible solutions because I want to fix things. I try too hard…my intentions are all great, but my execution is often flawed.

What I realized this morning is sometimes its okay to relax and pursue solutions with calm and quiet.  To trust that God will handle things, provide the solutions, provision, and blessings in the perfect time.  I just need to be watching and waiting, prepared and ready to act when He shows me it is time.

I also noticed that Peter and Andrew were fishing together.  They had fellowship, companionship, and a common focus. How beautiful is that!  I love relationship. God has provided that for me and I’m grateful. Sometimes I forget that I wasn’t meant to be a lone survivor…that God has provided others to walk through this life with me.

It’s important that I stand peacefully beside them and they beside me as we expectantly wait to see what God provides.  

And God does provide.  Not only blessings, but Jesus.

How amazing that as they stood quietly watching for the blessing of fish in a net, the Savior of the world calmly walked up to them and said, “Come, follow me.”  

I’ve always been shocked at their response, “At once they left their nets and followed him.”  Wait, what?! Really? No questions. No discussions. No “let me get my stuff together. “ No “let us store these nets for later so no one takes them”.  No “and who are you exactly?” Nothing, just following. Crazy.

What was it about this moment that resulted in that response?  What was it about these men and that Man? How remarkable! I can only imagine that Jesus, being God, knew they were ready and willing.  That they were available. Men of courage, conviction, and commitment. Men willing to leave it all behind and follow Him.

Was it that they had learned to look for blessings?  Was it their attitude of waiting and watching expectantly that made them more available for their Savior to radically change their lives?  Was it Jesus just working supernaturally in the way only He can to soften their hearts to His calling?

Yes.  

Yes all those things…at least I think so.

God had prepared these men to be disciples and apostles of Jesus.  He had given them time to learn perseverance, patience, and peacefulness even as they battled storms, endured long waits for full nets, dealt with disappointingly small catches, enjoyed the bounty of boats overflowing, carefully repaired torn nets and dented boats, spent long nights at sea, celebrated beautiful sunrises, enjoyed the companionship and dealt with the irritation of working with others.

The day in and day out struggles and successes of our days are the places we learn and grow into the people God created us to be.

It is super easy for me to see my overwhelmingly busy days as just crazy chaos that distracts me from what I really want to be doing…the things I think are most important.

But, what if everything is important?  What if all the moments of the day are set into motion by my sovereign Lord and Savior to mold me into the woman God wants me to be?

What if the minutes of minutiae in a day are really minutes of meaning?  What if it is less about big defining things, and more about little details in the defining of me.  Defining of my character, my attitude, my perspective, my hopes and dreams and expectations?

What if the things I do everyday that might seem inconsequential, insignificant in the grand scheme of things, irritatingly repetitive, and just a tad (or a lot) boring, are the things that will make me who I am, who I am meant to be…  

The standing knee deep in the water, watching quietly for a school of fish to swim by so I can carefully and strategically throw out my net…maybe these moments are much more important than I thought.

Because the result is recognized blessings…is moments where I’m watching for God to provide and I grab that provision and thank Him for it.  And then, the beautiful then, is that I’m more than ever ready to follow Jesus. To go where he has called me…whether its another day of the mundane or a day full of magnificence.

But whatever He calls me too, I’m ready.  As Andrew Murray says, I expect great things from God.  

He is a great God after all!

So the visual now is not me casting my net in crazy contortions of desperation.  It’s me, quietly and expectantly waiting for God to show me His blessings…to be acutely aware that He is working and providing and blessing.  And because I am peacefully watching, He most certainly will be calling and leading.

I might not be able to stand still for very long, but I can certainly slow down a bit.  Slow down and watch what God is doing…expect Him to do things. Expect Him to show up.  Just like Jesus did.

And I pray that I will always choose to follow Him.

Let’s drop our nets and follow Him today!

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Happy to Wait?

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Is there anyone in the whole wide world who is happy to wait? Anyone like the Psalmist who can truly say they waited patiently?

Let’s just say that I could absolutely not have written this Psalm unless you added the word kinda… I kinda waited patiently for the LORD.  I’m trying though…trying to wait patiently.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry blog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.  Psalm 40:1-3

I had, as I prefer to refer to it, my stupid additional test last week.  But no results yet.  Still waiting.

I hate waiting.

And not knowing if I’m going to receive good or bad news is driving me crazy.

I wish I could just forget about it until they call.

I do forget…but then I remember and I’m awash with worry and anxious thoughts and my chest feels heavy and my eyes feel misty at the thought of being ill.

I know that God has me in the palm of His hand and that He loves me completely and totally and relentlessly.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hand; your walls are continually before me.  Isaiah 49:16

But I know sometimes the answer is “no”, sometimes “yes”, and sometimes “not yet”.

And honestly I’m worried that the answer will be “yes.”  Yes, you have to go through this.

He has said “yes” before.

He has said “no” before.

He has said “maybe” before.

And He has said “wait” a lot.

“Dearest, wait.  And trust me.”

Waiting and trusting produces perseverance.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.  Romans 5:2-6

Suffering…endurance…character…hope.

Waiting…suffering.

Endurance…waiting.

Character and hope.

I really don’t want any more character…to be truthful.  I feel like I’m kind of doing the suffering – endurance – character – hope cycle often.

Living here on this planet has its fair share of suffering.   And there is need for endurance.

Then God puts that word character in there and I’m a little at a loss.  I would think this would work better

Suffering – Endurance – Peace – Hope

or

 

Suffering – Endurance – Faith – Hope

But God puts character in there.

A person of character is someone known for their integrity, kindness, generosity, and morals.  The things we think and do, the way we act and react, the hopes and desires we hold.

I want to be a woman of character…I do.  A woman after God’s own heart.  That sinner David…he was a man after God’s own heart.  I take great hope in that.  A man who had such big sin issues…a man who tried and failed but was given grace and forgiveness.  Just like me.

We suffer.

We endure.

We become people of character.

We have hope for the future.

The future.

Usually when I think of “the future” I’m thinking loooong term.  You know, the eternal future God has planned for us.

But today I’m thinking the future like 2-4 days from now.

I want hope for then.

I want to feel hope regardless of the answer I receive this week.

When my marriage ended, for a brief time I felt hopeless.  I felt there was no way in a million years I could be a single momma with my quiverful of children.  But God has enabled me to do it.

When my ex-husband lost his job, I felt there was no way in a million years I’d be able to provide for my family, but God has provided instead.

Those are big ones, but there are small ones too.  Things that happen any given day that make me wobbly…that make my hope wobbly.

But every single day, God provides and gives me hope.

And he will do it again.  He will do it tonight.  He will do it tomorrow.  He will do it every day this coming week and beyond.

He will provide and give me hope on the day my doctor calls… good news or bad news.

Of that I am confident.  Of that I have hope.

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day for their number is past my knowledge.  With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours along.  Psalm 71:14-16

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More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5

This morning my Bible study was on suffering.  I had a few thoughts as I realized what the day’s topic was:

Ugh.  Really? Suffering? 

What a minute…isn’t this Bible study on the book of Philippians – shouldn’t it be mostly about joy!?

Oh no!  I don’t want to study suffering…whenever I study something my life seems to mirror the topic. 

Can I opt out?

I don’t want any more character…

But I diligently went through all the verses on suffering.  They were familiar verses like Romans 8:28-30 “…for those who love God, all things work together for good…” and 2 Corinthians 4:11-18 “…this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” and 1 Peter 1:6-9 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

I really like the verses in 1 Peter.  Being a past grammar teacher (please don’t judge my grammar now…many many brain cells have died since then), I had the fleeting thought of diagramming the verses to see what modified what and all that English major geeky stuff.  Instead I decided to diagram 1 Peter 1:6-9 my own way.

It was interesting to see it all laid out visually.  I’m a consummate visual learning.  Big pictures are good for me.

So often I need big pictures, hand-written notes, and some serious concentration to understand.  Sometimes a friend will say that I’m a deep thinker…really I’m not.  Occasionally I’ll have a profound thought but if I don’t write it down immediately it’s gone…forever.

So as I’m studying today I thought I’d write down what God is showing me about suffering.

I’m in an interesting place right now.  There is no big thing causing me to suffer great amounts of pain or sorrow.  I’m living a life that is just simply challenging.  I don’t believe it’s more difficult than most nor is it easier than most.  It’s just my life.

I used be a judgmental kinda gal…in my head. I recall sitting at a Bible study listening to ladies share their prayer requests thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding?  Really, THAT’s your prayer request?!  Just wait til I share mine!”

Oh my goodness! I’m so ashamed of those thoughts.

I distinctly remember the last time I thought that.  It was during the second year of my single parenting adventure.  I was working full-time, trying to raise two toddlers, two teenagers and a middle child J and I was fried.  A sweet, sweet lady shared a prayer request that seemed so ridiculous to me…and those thoughts started.  Almost immediately I thought, “Who am I to judge how this dear friend feels about things in her life.  Just because they seem minor to me does not in any way discount how major they seem to her.”

I’m not sure what was different at that point except that God was softening my heart with all the love and grace He was pouring into my life.  I’d received so much of it that I was able to offer it…not out of the goodness of my heart but out of the overflow of His.

The suffering in my life has produced something good.  Something wonderful.  I believe that I’m becoming a more compassionate, kinder, more grace-filled woman.  It doesn’t always show but God’s working with me.  Becoming more and more that godly woman has become the desire of my heart.  I have a vision for it…for her…that woman, mother, friend, daughter, Christian I want to be.

It sounds an awful lot like the character thing that Paul mentions in Romans 5:3-5! Maybe I was wrong about wanting more character…well, I think I should probably take the word maybe out of this sentence.  I can always use more character.

Suffering = Endurance = Character = Hope

And hope.  Who doesn’t want more hope!?  I most certainly do.  Each day I’m beginning to understand more and more the hope that is mine in Christ.

In the days, months, years since my family shattered, I’ve been particularly blessed by many of the Psalms.  I especially love how they pour out their anguish, anger, and anxieties to God and then will often say things like this:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  Psalm 42:5

How beautiful that God continues to bring us back to Him.  What a blessing to know that in the midst of great suffering there is hope.  Not only can we bring all the difficulties of our suffering to God, but we can trust Him to bring us through it all.

It brings to mind another verse I read this morning:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:26-28

Those Psalmists probably were groaning to the Lord and the Spirit was interceding for them…searching their hearts.  He interceded for them just as He does for us.  And the confidence of that intercession brought them to the same place those verses in Romans can bring us…a place of understanding that God will always work things together for good.  Thank you Father!

It isn’t just in our suffering that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us though.  I have always loved this verse:

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.  Hebrews 7:25

Jesus LIVES to make intercession for us!  Lives to do it!  What!?!

Dictionary.com defines intercession like this:  “an interposing or pleading on behalf of another person; a prayer to God on behalf of another.”

Jesus lives to plead on my behalf.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind?  Not only did He live the sinless life I couldn’t, die the death I should’ve, and be raised to life again with power I can’t comprehend…He NOW lives for me!

Jesus is so all about me!

Why can’t I be all about Him?  (Argh.)

A lot of the verses I read this morning were about sharing in the sufferings of Christ, having a desire to know Christ better through His sufferings, following the example He set while suffering, and glorifying Him through our suffering.

I think being all about Christ means that I’m willing to suffer for Him, with Him, like Him.  I don’t think it means that I have a desire to suffer but rather a willingness to because it is a “gracious thing in the sight of God” (1 Peter 2:18-25) and it brings Him glory and me growth in my faith.

I write about suffering with great trepidation.  It’s not based on anything Biblical, just a fear of more suffering.  I wish I was braver.

I trust God and I know He uses it all for good, I just hate going through it.

I understand though and, like the Psalmist, I do believe that God is worthy of praise and trust even in the trials.

Studying suffering is going to be good for me.  Reminding me again that God is good even when life is bad.  That I can indeed rejoice in my suffering because I have Jesus.

Time to put the proverbial big girl pants on and get busy in the Word!

Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  1 Peter 5:8-10