Maybe you’re asking a question like this, too.
by Tricia Lott Williford, author of Just. You. Wait
For those of you with children who have grown out of car seats but are not yet allowed behind the wheel, let me let you in on the key ingredient for a little dose of freedom on a family camping trip: walkie-talkies. Trust me on this. It’s a little space and independence for everybody. For our family trip to the mountains last summer, we busted out the walkie-talkies and our nicknames: Papa Bear, Queen Bee, Babe Ruth, and Hollywood. The boys headed down the hill for some evening fishing, their walkie-talkies in hand. It was 8:30 p.m., and Tucker’s prayer all week long had been that he could please catch just one fish.
They had been gone for maybe ten minutes when I heard the buzz of my walkie-talkie. “Queen Bee. Babe Ruth to Queen Bee. Roger.”
I pick up my walkie-talkie and respond. “This is Queen Bee.”
“You didn’t say Roger.”
“No, first you say Queen Bee, then Roger.”
“Tucker, what do you need?”
“I just have one question. Roger.”
“Say, ‘Yes, Roger.’”
“Yes, Tucker. Roger.”
“Good job. Here’s my question. If God can put the Baby Jesus inside Mary, why can’t he put a little fish on my hook? Roger.”
Ah, yes. An age-appropriate version of some very deep theology.
“Well, Tuck . . .”
“Babe Ruth, please. Roger.”
“Well, Babe Ruth, it’s hard to know. But maybe God has a different plan for that fish, and his plan doesn’t involve you or your hook.”
“I didn’t catch that, Queen Bee.”
I repeat, louder this time, “I said! It’s hard to know! Maybe God has a different plan for the . . .”
“I cannot hear you, Queen Bee. Are you holding down the button? Roger.” I received his coaching, as if he invented walkie-talkies and I’m new at this. (Please, I thought. I was chatting with Uncle Rob on these puppies before you were even a twinkle, pal.)
“Yes, I’m holding down the button. Roger.”
“Say it one more time. Roger.”
“I. Think. Maybe. God. Has—”
“Queen Bee! You are breaking up! I repeat! There is a poor connection, Queen Bee! You are breaking up!”
For crying out loud. Walkie-talkies are good for many things, like freedoms and explorations of independence. Fostering discussions on the cornerstones of theology may not be one of the strengths of this technology.
“Tucker, we can talk about it when you come back up the hill.”
What I wanted to tell Tucker is that maybe God has another plan for the fish. Or honestly? Maybe the fish doesn’t like the squeaks and squawks of the walkie-talkies, and he swam away on his own free will.
Fish are like that. So is free will.
~ ~ ~
Tucker’s question was ultimately this one: Why won’t God help me? Why won’t he step in? If he has all the power of the universe, and if answering me would cost him nothing, why doesn’t he help me? Anyone who’s lived through any amount of waiting has likely asked this very question.
Maybe you’re asking a question like this, too. (Although probably about a topic much deeper than a fish on your hook.)
I’ve been tempted to believe that God is angry with me, that this season in my life is obviously a punishment for something. I find myself searching my heart and my past, looking for something I could or should confess to hurry myself out of this mess.
Sometimes I’ve wondered if God is unfair. I begin to look around me, peering into the social-media perspectives of people who are living happy, joyful lives, and I wonder why God rewarded them with a, b, and c when we all know they’ve never given him x, y, or z.
In the face of my own waiting, invariably someone will say something stupid that makes me want to punch them in the neck. Like, “Praise the Lord who answers prayers! I got a great parking spot!” Or “Finally! I’ve been asking the Lord to put this sweater on sale, and he finally did!” Or “We weren’t sure if all our IKEA furniture would fit in the minivan, but praise the Lord, it did. He answers prayers.” You guys, those are not real problems. And if it seems like God is more helpful in finding lost keys or granting discounts and close parking spaces, then you may begin to feel like you want nothing to do with a God like that.
Heavy questions, seasons, and situations present a crossroads of faith, an intersection where you have a decision to make about what you will believe. Faith is won or lost, deepened or weakened. Roots grow deeper, or faith blows away like tumbleweed across a ghost town.
And the thing is, these kinds of feelings are very normal. Doubts are well within the normal range of responses when you feel like God is unaware, angry, ignoring, absent, punishing, unkind, or unfair. Who would want to obey a God who doesn’t seem to know or even care? It can all start to get a little murky. Or a lot murky.
When I let my doubts go untended, the little questions can grow legs and mature into unbelief. That’s the beginning of a downward spiral, because in any relationship, unbelief breaks down trust. And broken trust leads to broken intimacy. If you don’t tend to the doubts, they will only grow bigger, deeper, stronger. They become a wedge between you and God, a distraction that sets you up to make decisions that will make everything worse, harder, and much more painful in the long run.
The enemy is an expert at sniffing out those times when we are weary of waiting, when we are tired and vulnerable to the seed of doubt. We can see this when Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days, and Satan met him there to tempt him.[i] Jesus, now burdened with the needs and boundaries of human flesh, was tired, hungry, and ready for God to lift the ban on his forty-day fast. Based on this encounter, we can see that Satan is persistent, clever, smart, aware of weaknesses, and cunningly opportunistic. He knows when the air changes and defenses are low.
But as we look at this encounter with Satan, we can also deduce some important things about waiting. First, a difficult season doesn’t mean that you misunderstood or misheard God. Jesus came into the desert directly after he was baptized, so this long drought came directly after his finest moment with God. He had just heard God announce, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”[ii] He didn’t mishear those words, and this season of waiting didn’t negate them.
We can also see that Satan is tenacious. He comes at Jesus again and again, with opportunities and almost-truths. He doesn’t give up easily, and we shouldn’t expect him to back down from his mission to distract us either. That prowling lion knows what he’s doing, and our impatience only gives him fresh meat to devour.
Here’s one thing we can be sure of: God was with Jesus when he was in the wilderness. In fact, he abides in all of us who call on his name. He weaves this theme throughout both the Old and New Testament. I love verses that say this very explicitly:
- We find, “The Lord was with Joseph”
- (Genesis 39:3).
- He promised Moses directly, “I will certainly be with you”
- (Exodus 3:12, hcsb).
- To Isaac, he said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you”
- (Genesis 26:24, esv).
- He sends Joshua into battle with this promise: “Be strong and courageous . . . I will be with you”
- (Deuteronomy 31:23).
- When Gideon feared he was too small for the task at hand, God said, “I will be with you”
- (Judges 6:16).
And God repeats his important message again to his people throughout Isaiah:
- “Fear not, for I am with you;
- be not dismayed, for I am your God;
- I will strengthen you, I will help you,
- I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
- Isaiah 41:10, esv
- “I have called you by name; you are mine.”
- Isaiah 43:1
We know that God doesn’t play favorites, though I confess it’s very hard to imagine that he loves me as much as his buddies James, David, Moses, and Job. But the fact is true whether I believe it or not, whether I feel it or not. He was with them; he is with me.
Just. You. Wait.: Patience, Contentment, and Hope for the Everyday by Tricia Lott Williford
Everybody waits. We wait for a spouse, wait for a baby, wait on our children, wait for our parents. We wait for clarity and direction. We wait on a job, a promotion, a new direction. We wait for hope, for healing, and for miracles. We wait on God. And when we misunderstand what waiting is about, we can get confused about what God is up to. Waiting is one of God’s favorite tools. He can do certain things in our hearts, our lives, and our relationships while we wait—things we cannot experience once we’ve opened the gift we have been waiting for. So just you wait, because everyone takes their turn in the waiting room. It’s a long and painful fact of life, but shortcuts and microwaves aren’t the answer. God is at work behind the scenes in invisible ways you can’t see . . . yet. Just you wait and see how ready you’ll be if you spend your waiting well. Because when your opportunity comes, you don’t want to spend more time on the bench. When you wait well, you can say, “Look out, world: I am getting ready to shine. Just you wait.” In these pages, Tricia discusses the joy hidden in the discipline of waiting, and the practices of believing God is for you and working on your behalf, even when the work of His hand is hard to find.
[i] Matthew 4:1-11.
[ii] Luke 3:22.