God's delays have often perplexed me. It seems to me that since his goal is to reach the world for him, when I ask him, "What do you want me to do with my life?" he should answer quickly and immediately so I can get on with whatever it is he wants me to do. Instead, there is often silence. But why would God be silent if he desires me to do his will?
I kept thinking the problem was God, but one day God opened my eyes to see that the problem was me.
I realized that God often was waiting to answer because I was not ready. I "surrendered all" without understanding the cost. I said I would go wherever he led, but my willingness to go was really based on my own ideas about where I was going. My intention wasn't for God to tell me what he wanted me to do, but for him to bless my plans. It hadn't occurred to me that God had plans of his own and that I existed for his purpose. To my total shock, I realized that God was silent because he was showing grace. He was silent because I was still in preparation for the call. He knew I wasn't ready.
We know that God is the perfect steward of his resources—and those resources include us. He doesn't waste our gifts and talents, but he might wait to use them until we are perfectly prepared for the task he has for us. So if God hasn't spoken, it must be because it's not time. He is still in preparation, and we are part of that preparation.
Understanding God's call on your life
God orchestrates the events of our lives to lead us to his calling for us. But still so many of us miss the boat or shrink back from what he wants us to do. He leads us to what he wants, and then he waits for us to understand and accept it. Through my own experiences, God has shown me that there are three stages to understanding and accepting our calling:.
Stage One: Declare That You Will Follow
This stage may sound obvious. After all, if we don't plan to follow God's call, why would we want to understand it? However, it is not as easy as it might seem. When initially confronted with God's plan, we may feel overwhelmed and immediately shrink back from it. We might not want to respond for various reasons.
Luke 9:57-62 tells of several situations where those who professed their desire to follow Jesus immediately came up with all kinds of reasons to justify delaying their obedience (which, in fact, is disobedience).
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
God wants us to respond to him with obedience, regardless of the cost. So the first step in understanding and accepting his call is just that—declaring you will accept it.
Stage Two: Fully Appreciate the Cost and Be Willing to Pay It
It might seem as if you should fully appreciate the cost of God's calling before accepting it. But the experience has shown me that no matter how long I take to assess the cost of obedience, I don't fully appreciate it until I make my unwavering declaration to follow.
So what will compel us to not only declare our commitment to Christ, but also to actually pay the cost of following him? God has shown me that often my delay in following Jesus boils down to the question Jesus asked Peter three times in John 21: "Do you love me?"
Could it really be that simple? Is accepting the cost really just about settling in our hearts if we love him? God showed me the answer to this through my own personal life. If my husband or sons were ill, would I not spare any expense to help them recover? Would I reprioritize my schedule to get them to the hospital? Would I not cut expenses wherever I could to be able to pay for their care? Would I spend one second analyzing whether I would pay for the cost? In my answers to those questions, I answer the question of whether or not I love them. I would do what I needed to do, no matter the cost, because I love them.
Few people question how much of themselves, their time, and their resources they will give their children or grandchildren. Few parents would hesitate to give a kidney to their dying child. Yet when it comes to giving God what he longs for, we often find ourselves setting a ceiling on our affections, which effectually tell him that we don't really love him—our Father and King. We must be willing to pay the cost in order to follow God's call.
Stage Three: Acknowledge God's Power
After we declare our commitment to God and decide that we are willing to pay the cost no matter what, we need to realize that the only way we can give God what he desires is through leaning on him and trusting in his power. If we try to do it on our own, we will surely fail. It is through his strength that we can actually pay the cost of our calling.
I knew a woman who wrestled with God when he first called her to serve in the ministry. She accepted the call. She understood clearly how much her calling would cost her, and she took a leap of faith in accepting it. She felt comfortable until she got to stage three: Part of the cost was leaving corporate America to serve God full-time in ministry.
She asked God to part the Red Sea by providing for her financially before she cut the umbilical cord from her corporate job. As I watched her wrestle with her decision, I knew from observing God's patterns that he was not going to provide for her until she stopped trying to solve challenges in her own power. Using her own human logic, she determined she did not know anyone who could support her, and tried to make ends meet through her own savings. She ran short. Meanwhile, God had connections for her throughout the city, but she never once asked God to lead her to these connections. As a result, she stayed in corporate America, and missed God's divine appointment.
In her human capability, she was not able to trust God with new ways to provide for her future finances. It is when we humble ourselves before God and acknowledge his power over all things that he will then carry us to a level beyond our wildest imagination. Let's look at an example of this in the life of a member of our royal family tree. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, he asked the question three times. The first time, Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" (John 21:15). The word Jesus used for "love" in this question was the Greek word agapao, which is a decision to love—the same kind of love that led Jesus to finish his work on the cross. There are times when we do not feel like loving, but we do so as an act of our choice and will. That is agapao love. Peter's answer to this questions was, "Yes Lord … you know that I love you" (John 21:15). But the Greek word for love that Peter used was phileo, which is a friendship type of love, clearly not one as intense as what Jesus was asking for.
In John 21:16, Jesus asked Peter a second time, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" Again, he used the word agapao. And Peter again answered with phileo. Then an incredible thing happened. Jesus asked Peter the question a third time, but this time he used the word phileo instead of agapao. He confirmed Peter's admission that he could not, in his own power, do what was asked of him. So God went to where Peter was. It is the same with us. When we humble ourselves before him and acknowledge our human weaknesses, he meets us where we are, and then he grows us into what he is asking of us.
I wish I could tell you that God speaks clearly and consistently, but there are many days when I can't hear him. Yet that doesn't mean I should just give up. I believe that often God uses those times of silence to see if I will trust him more. When I know that I am on the path God has called me to, yet he is silent, I simply proceed through any open door I can find. I don't stop because he isn't speaking. Even when no doors seem to be open, I can't give up on his dream.
As I look back over the years at Inspire Women, I remember many times I just wanted to crawl into bed and never wake up because of God's silence during the storms. Yet all the while, I felt a strong conviction that I was doing exactly what God wanted. I knew that God was watching over me and that he wanted to know if he could trust me to keep going even when he was silent.
I have learned that the more we walk with God, the more faith he expects for us. As God conforms us to Jesus' image, he will walk us into times when he is intentionally silent, and he will watch to see if we stay on course and keep doing the last thing we heard him tell us to do.
Adapted from Transforming for a Purpose: Fulfilling God's Mission as Daughters of the King. Copyright © 2009 by Anita Carman. Used by permission of Moody Publishers.