“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” That’s Jeremiah 29:11. You’ve probably heard it or seen it painted on a canvas in a dorm room. You may even have it tattooed on your body. (Hint: I do.) And those words mean a lot to me; they did three years ago when I got it inked, and they still do now. But that verse has sort of become a cliché, words that sound poetic and can be used to comfort someone. Thinking about those words deeper reveals an even stronger lack of control. Truthfully, those words make me feel like I have no control at all.
You see, its easy to yell the words of Jeremiah 29:11 when things are going really well. Perhaps you just applied for a new job or moved to a new community. You might be searching for a direction to take your life and a few ideas keep popping in your head. Those, and so many more, are all valid reasons to seek the Lord’s plan for your life; I think I talk to God about it daily. Yet if you’ve ever asked God about His direction for your life or answers to your pressing questions, you probably know that His answers are rarely quick. As a matter of fact, deciphering His answers toward your life are much more challenging than we like to admit.
So what does the waiting look like? What are we supposed to do when we haven’t heard an answer from God? The Bible gives us a little insight (probably because the writers of the Bible struggled with the same thing).
Paul, an apostle of God who had many struggles throughout his life, writes many times throughout the New Testament about contentment. Keep in mind, Paul was thrown in jail multiple times for his faith, spent his life on the road with few places to call home, and more practically, lived with a “thorn” in his flesh for an extended period of time.
In a letter to his dear friend and fellow church planter Timothy, Paul writes about tangible ways Timothy can use his time waiting to hear from the Lord. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 and 11-12 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it… Buy you, man [or woman] of God…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
Though we expect God to answer us immediately, especially in today’s society of rapid response, His timing does not operate the same way ours does. He continues by telling us to seek things in this world that will bring us joy, and ultimately deepen our relationship with God. But you don’t need another list of ambiguous words on a page, you want tangible things that you can do to keep yourself occupied. Say no more, here’s examples.
Find a church community that provides a space for your grow deeper with the Lord, and also gives you a space to socialize. God built us to be in community with one another, both in and outside of church.
Grow deeper in your relationships with the people around you. If you have a best friend, instead of breathing the fumes of Starbucks together, try running a mile or go to basketball game together. If you meet someone at your new church community, invite them to come rearrange your living room furniture. Do something that gets you out of your comfort zone or gives you a new experience.
Make a conscious effort to love and thank those who have an impact on your life. If God is not showing you a new direction, thank those in your life that have gotten you to where you are now. Make the most of those people who care about you. Send them flowers, buy them dinner, make them cookies. Do something that shows that you are thankful for their place in your life.
Take time for yourself. Often during times of waiting we just want to fill our schedules with anything to distract us from reality. Try doing the opposite. Binge watch The Office or pick a random RomCom to watch. Read a book. Start a journal. Cook food, and work on making it edible this time. Often ourselves are the most fun people to hang out with.
I’ll leave you with a final thought. We will never understand why people are bad drivers, but more importantly, why God operates the way He does. And that’s a fact that will continue on for eternity. Often times, the time we are supposed to spend waiting on Him can be a lesson in itself. Isaiah 55:8 says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” Instead of trying to understand why He is telling us to wait, perhaps we should find ways to serve Him better where we are now.