It began with a song, as many things in our household do. We are not good singers, per se, but we are enthusiastic! With an eclectic background of music in our repertoire, each of the members of our family will randomly belt out a chorus when the inspiration strikes. Enoch, especially, is prone to comedic timing with his song choices. He strongly favors “Sunglasses at Night”—the 1984 classic by Cory Hart. Weird Al’s “Yoda” is another favorite which he sings at random times.
But one evening, after being told to go to bed, he gave a little booty shake dance move and loudly channeled The Clash with “Should I stay or should I go?!” The timing was impeccable, but the answer to his question: obvious. Of course he should go to bed, which I reminded him after a quick chuckle.
“Should I stay or should I go?” Such an existential crisis for a four year old. But it reminded me of a similar question I often ask myself: Should I be waiting on the Lord, or doing something? Here’s the first part of this Christian crisis: why am I waiting?
Sometimes I wonder if I’m supposed to be moving forward in certain areas of my life. Usually it’s because God gave me a passion or desire, but no answer of how to fulfill it. Sometimes it’s because I have need for provision, but don’t know if God will provide with or without my efforts. Or maybe I’ve been prayerfully considering a situation but don’t know if I am supposed to be taking steps towards a solution, or allowing God to handle everything behind the scenes. So I wait: filled with faith that God has everything under control. But…then I wonder if He is waiting on me to take a step in that direction.
Why am I waiting? Is it truly faith in God’s timing? Or is it fear that has caused me to ignore His instructions?
Maybe I’ve been telling myself that I’m faithfully waiting, but maybe it’s just lazy denial on my part. Am I afraid of what I should do, so I’ve just told myself that I’m waiting for Him to do something? If I think that I am waiting out of faith, but there is still a doubt in the deep recesses of my mind, perhaps I am disguising my fear (or laziness!) as faith. I think it’s easy to say “I’m waiting on the Lord”, and then not actually be listening for him to say “go”.
It can be disconcerting: this vague feeling of missing out on potential blessing due to my inaction. Have I not been listening well enough? Have I been tuning out instructions because I fear what they may be? Or am I just getting myself worked up and distracted when my focus is supposed to be elsewhere, leaving this aspect of my journey to faith for now?
It is difficult sometimes to determine if my waiting is due to fear or faith. Laziness or trust. Distraction or direction. The key is knowing His heart and my own heart. Why am I waiting?
Let’s look at two well-known Bible stories that involve waiting: The Parable of the Talents, and David sparing Saul in the cave. Since we have the luxury of hindsight, we can see the results of the two men waiting and whether or not they made the correct decision. Understanding God’s heart and their hearts leads us to understand why they were each waiting.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the story about a master who entrusts his wealth to his servants. The man who was given one bag of gold is faced with a choice: to act or wait. Unlike the other two servants, he chose to wait and it did not end well for him.
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.Matthew 25:14-19, 24-27
We can see that the man was afraid and that was the driving factor to his inaction. His heart was afraid of making a mistake and the consequences of such a mistake, and therefore he did not follow through on his assignment. However, this fear not only shows insecurity of his own abilities, but also a lack of faith in his master. The master gave out the bags of gold based on ability—which means the master knew that each could handle the assignment they were given. The master therefore calls him wicked and lazy, because through his inaction the man has inadvertently stolen from the master. By waiting and not acting, the man stole any potential that bag of money had to increase. He did not even have enough faith to do the bare minimum and deposit the funds in a bank to earn interest!
There is another story of waiting that shows the other end of the spectrum: David sparing Saul in the caves. Saul was King, but David had already been chosen and anointed years earlier to be the next King. David was successful in everything God told him to do, and Saul was continually jealous of, and threatened by, David. Saul had made many attempts to kill David, and that’s where the story picks up in 1 Samuel 24:
He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said[b] to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.1 Samuel 24:3-7
David had already been anointed as the next king, and this really seemed like a good opportunity to make that happen! His men encouraged him to fulfill God’s destiny for his life, but ultimately David did not kill Saul. He waited because he had faith that God would be the one to take Saul from his throne, not David. Saul had also been anointed by God, therefore he was God’s to deal with.
1 Samuel 26 gives another story of David sparing Saul’s life. If David had killed Saul in one of these instances, it is likely he still would have become king. However, David knew God’s heart, and he knew his assignment was to wait until the kingdom was given to him. He also knew that his refusing to wait on God’s timing would have come with a cost. The following chapters of 1 Samuel show how the foundation was set for David to become king in God’s timing.
Back to my current day’s decisions… These Bible stories give me some insight into how to decide whether or not waiting is the right thing for me to do. Each situation is unique, however, I can apply a sort of faith litmus test by asking these questions:
Who am I listening to? Has God given me an assignment and asked me to act? Has He asked me to wait? Am I listening to well-meaning friends? Or perhaps logic is making me doubt this time of waiting. Logic is great, but God frequently works outside of the confines of logic. David’s friends gave him some logical advice. David’s friends told him that he needed to act in order to fulfill God’s promise—God did not tell him to act. I believe that God can speak through others, but we must be very discerning when choosing to listen. Even when that means being discerning about listening to our own logical arguments.
Will acting compromise a conviction? If taking action means sinning, then I obviously should not do it since I am called to avoid sin. If David had killed Saul in the cave, he would have compromised his convictions that he should not do anything against God’s anointed. David would have become King, but in a dishonorable way.
Also, if taking action means I will no longer have the ability to take care of higher priorities, then perhaps it truly is a season of waiting. Asking God to help me prioritize can lead me to know whether or not I am supposed to be acting or waiting with a certain aspect of life. The man with the one bag of gold didn’t have any higher priorities than taking care of the gold—if he thought he did, then he was fooling himself. He should not have been waiting; he should have been doing his best with what he was given.
What is the root of my fear? If I am afraid that I might be waiting when I should be acting, I need to figure out what is driving that fear. Am I nervous because I don’t understand God’s timing and I am trying to speed it up? Am I feeling vulnerable because waiting makes me insignificant and invisible? Am I questioning how something might be accomplished and therefore I am trying to take control? Or, on the other side of the spectrum, am I afraid of failing at the task I think I’ve been given? Maybe I am afraid of the sheer amount of work or effort that might be asked of me. Or afraid of the sacrifices I must make in order to move forward.
If I am afraid because I lack understanding, that might be an indication that I am to wait in faith. But if the heart of my fear is centered around my abilities, then perhaps I am being called to act instead of wait.
The man with the one bag of gold was afraid and didn’t act. On the surface, his fear was the wrath of his master. However, the root of his fear was his doubt that he could do a good job with the task given to him. He needed to have faith that his master had given him the right job to do.
Is there anything you are waiting to do? Why are you waiting?
- Why are you waiting to apply for a new job? Is it because you have faith and conviction that God is preparing a position for you somewhere that isn’t ready yet? Or because you are afraid of the process and making a change?
- Why are you waiting to have an important conversation with someone? Do you believe that God has said “wait” because He is working on your hearts first? Or because you are afraid of what the other person might say?
- Why are you waiting to pursue a God-given passion? Has God given you higher priorities for right now? Or are you afraid to make the sacrifices necessary to accomplish your goals?
These can be difficult questions to answer, and they should be prayerfully considered. Waiting when God says wait, and acting when He says act, are indications that we are walking in sync with His will for our lives. It can be difficult to discern whether we should wait or act, but when we take a moment to evaluate our doubt, we often find that either our convictions to act are deepened or our call to faithfully wait is strengthened.