Thursday, June 23, 2011

Waiting to Boil

"Life moves slowly when you're waiting for it to boil"
-Ingrid Michaelson, "Starting Now"

Ever feel like your life is living you? Like you're just going through the motions, waiting for something big to happen? We can often feel this way as we go about our daily lives. Nevertheless, we should live with contentment in the life God places us in and allow Him to use us every day to accomplish His will.

Discontent stems from lack of faith

When we are discontent with our lives it is because we are not trusting God to provide for us. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious. If we had no ambition, we would all be sluggards and no work would ever get done. However, we should pay close attention to what motivates our ambitions. Are we seeking to glorify God or only to satisfy our own pleasures?

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Heb 13:5)

Many of us will ask God to use us in big ways, but we fail to trust Him enough to let Him use us. Jesus demonstrated to us in many ways how even the "faith of a mustard seed" (Matt 17:20) was enough for God to use people. Small steps of faith resulted in big things.

Examine the calling of the first disciples (Luke 5:1-11). Jesus told Simon Peter, a fisherman, to cast his nets out into the water. Peter contended that they had already been out fishing all night and caught nothing. Yet he trusted Jesus and did what he told him to do anyway. The result was an overabundance of fish. The nets were so filled with fish that another boat had to help take them in. Even so, the boats began to sink. Peter, realizing he was in the presence of the Lord, confessed his sins. The small act of throwing out the nets eventually led to Peter establishing the Christian church, laid on a foundation of faith.

We can have the tendency to remain stagnant in our faith because we fear that if we go after the things God has planned for us we risk losing the things that we have. Before God can use us, we must trust that He will provide for us if we follow His will. (Actually, I believe that God uses all of us for His glory no matter what, but that is a completely different topic altogether concerning God's providence. But basically what it comes down to is this: would you rather be used by God like John or like Judas?) Don't worry. Jesus tells us to consider the ravens, who do not fret over food and shelter. If God cares for the birds and the flowers, how much more must He care for us, created in His own image? (Luke 12:24)

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it." 1 Tim 6:6-7

Have the right kind of ambition

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt 6:19-21)

The Christian life is ultimately about self-denial. All of our actions either glorify God or they glorify ourselves. When we seek to satisfy our own desires, we are looking to gratify ourselves and deny Christ. When we deny our sinful desires and seek Christ, we are no longer slaves to that sin but slaves to the righteousness of Christ. Many people will tell you that the only way to be happy is to stand up and live life your own way, making your own rules as you go. But a life of self-indulgence is a life of chasing after treasures that are subject to destruction, and eventually self destruction. But any true Christian can explain the sensation of freedom that is felt when we live with contentment and faith in Christ.

Have patience

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." (James 1:2-8)

These past few months have been a trial of faith for me. After months of jumping through hoops, I finally completed my Peace Corps application. But because of a mishap with a fax machine, I was unable to get placement for the program that I was nominated for, which would have departed in June. So I was told to wait 4-6 weeks.

And I waited. Four weeks went by. Then five. By the sixth week I was ripping my hair out. Finally, I got an email saying that I would get a call on a certain day between 6:30-1:30. I woke up at 6:00 that morning on my day off and waited by the phone all day. I watched in terror as my phone's reception bars went up and down. By 1:30 I had not gotten a call and I felt the urge to break something - besides my phone.

Finally, the call came just before 2:00. I was offered a placement in sub-Saharan Africa that would depart in September. I would be given no other details until the paperwork came in the mail in a few business days. At last I had a feeling of certainty!

I thought for sure that the paperwork would come in the mail yesterday. It didn't. So it must be coming today, I thought. But it didn't. I'm learning to laugh about it and simply live in the moment. I only have a couple more months to spend with family and friends, so I will enjoy this time that I have and squelch my urge to know everything right now.

"So father give me faith, providence and grace."
-Dustin Kensrue, "Consider the Ravens"