Blog

Not So Fast

From the series:

by Anna Mondal

I’m a patient woman. I can wait in the self-checkout line at least 26 seconds before I start deep-sighing and foot-tapping. I’ve also built up to exactly three seconds before I blast my horn at a still-stopped car when the light turns green. I can’t speak globally, but I know my country is full of people like me, who have an acquired taste for the instantaneous: swift service, quick text replies, immediate resolutions.

Many of us impose this immediacy mindset on our spiritual growth in suffering. We want to isolate the problem and execute a resolution. Painful experiences like gender identity struggles, marriage crises, or chronic illness defy watertight categories and quick answers. We can easily become confused, weary, and disheartened.

If our pain is supposed to produce endurance (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4)—why isn’t it happening faster? Why doesn’t God give us answers? What words of hope does Christ offer the weary and waiting?

Cultivate and wait

If you grow flowers, you know that beautiful things don’t bloom overnight. A garden bursting with tulips and dahlias is the result of thousands of hours of buried bulbs and unseen cultivation. Before the blossoms, there was only dirt (and sweaty tilling, watering, fertilizing, and all the other prosaic but necessary things). In the same way, we grow into spiritual wholeness in a thousand silent, hidden, inglorious moments. God is always using the dirt and darkness redemptively, but we cannot always see it.

This phase of unseen growth is precisely where we want to give up. We think, “I tried that, it didn’t work,” or “I’m not changing, it’s hopeless.” But God beckons the weary ones: endure, don’t lose heart, come closer (Matt. 11:28-30; Gal. 6:9; Heb. 10:36). J.I. Packer writes, “God will glorify himself by the way he enriches us … through the waiting process God is attuning us more directly to himself.”[1] He asks us to keep sowing, nourishing, and waiting, because He promises a harvest. Take heart and remember that God never commands you to produce fruit, He just asks you to abide (John 15:4-5).

Embrace uncertainty

Waiting is uncomfortable because it involves uncertainty. We ask: Will I ever stop feeling this way? Will we figure this out? Maybe we blame ourselves or other people for our painful circumstances. Maybe we force an outcome or make a rash decision, just to feel the rush of certitude.[2] But this is dangerous— “the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.”[3]

Scrabbling for certainty puts all the emphasis on problem-solving and human reason, while de-emphasizing faith, humility, and Spirit-dependence. We can’t know everything, and God doesn’t ask us to. He calls us to walk boldly into the unseen, unknown, and uncertain, because He is faithful, and He knows (Heb. 12:1; Matt. 6:8). It’s not always given to us to know how things will happen, but we can always trust an omniscient God who directs seemingly mysterious events (Gen. 50:19-21; Job 42:1-6). Your uncertainty is an invitation to trust God.

Trust in the timeless God

Patience in our painful circumstances grows out of trust in a Faithful Person. We have no hope and no reason to wait patiently unless we trust in a God “with a reliable record of kept promises.”[4] Our Father promises us great things: eternal, abundant life, light after darkness, beauty after ashes, joy after mourning, and newness in Him (John 10:10; Col. 1:13; Isa. 61:1-3; Rev 21:5). Some of these promises we experience immediately, and some we experience in slow-release form. But as you wait in weariness, remember that “[you are] being refined—not incinerated.”[5]

When promising Israel’s restoration, God said: “I am the Lord, I will accomplish it quickly in its time” (Isa. 60:22 CSB).[6] When we trust God’s character, we can rest even when the sad things don’t come untrue in our time. We can relax into the silence and mystery, trusting in a God Whose very existence is unbound by time as we know it. C.S. Lewis writes,

“God is not hurried along in the Time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us… Though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him.”[7]

Keep cultivating, abiding, and waiting. Cling to Christ amid the mystery. Find quiet strength as you trust God’s timeless promises (Isa. 30:15).

 


[1] J.I. Packer, The J.I. Packer Classic Collection: Daily Readings for Your Spiritual Journey (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010), 301.

[2] “Black-and-white judgments…do not value mystery [and] lack patience with [our] ability to grow and change” Makoto Fujimura, Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 81.

[3] Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005), 257.

[4]Ted Hamilton, “Christian DNA: Patience,” New Life Presbyterian Church, https://www.newlifepca.com/sermon-archive/ (March 1, 2020).

[5] Christian Gonzales Ho, “Rung #9: On Malice and the Remembrance of Wrongs” The Lent Project, Biola University Center for Culture and the Arts, http://ccca.biola.edu/lent/2020/#day-mar-11 (published March 11, 2020)

[6] “The fulfillment of [God’s promises] does not await favorable historical conditions [our version of “the right time”] but depends directly on the act of God.” Note on Isaiah 60:61-22, English Standard Version Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 1352.

[7] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 170.