I guess it has to be by our very nature that we go at this backwards. If you’re reading this as a saved individual, then you’ve heard from God before. I’m not saying audibly, although I put nothing past Him, but at bare minimum, He has spoken to you through His word and through the circumstances of your life.
If you get nothing else from this, realize that when anything happens in life that you have to formulate a response to, your emotional feelings are overwhelmingly more often than not going to tell you what to do before God does. The greatest man of faith I know is an unheard of guy in the middle of nowhere, Kentucky. He ministers in the coal mining town he grew up in, which has literally been dwindling and slowly dying for decades. It is gripped with poverty, drugs, and violence. After what many would call great “success” in a more prototypical path as a pastor and Southern Baptist Convention leader, he walked away from everything because he was called back to that town, even though he had no idea what he was supposed to do when he got there.
Fast forward, and all I can tell you is that this dumpy little blip of a town is one of the most amazing places I have ever been because this man has allowed God to use him in such a mighty way. His ministry is a beacon of light in the midst of some horrendous darkness. This man has so many stories of God miraculously providing and answering prayers that someone finally made him publish them.
I tell you that story to highlight the wisdom he shared that has always stood out the most to me. When he averages the amount of time it took for God to answer those prayers, it comes out to two years. Now class, raise your hand if your prayer life is on point enough that very real needs are anchored to your list for that long or longer. I’ll be the first to admit that mine isn’t where it should be. In my five-year walk as a believer, even if I’ve managed to pray for something for two years, the faith in which I was doing so on day one probably faded to a point of no return somewhere along the path.
I’m not saying two years is some sort of concrete milestone for everyone to measure by. I’m saying God demands patience and submission from His children, and transparently telling you that I’m struggling with it myself now. I’m waiting on a few words from God–marching orders, if you will. I’m praying for very specific directions and in the relatively short amount of time I’ve been waiting for them, my own emotions and even those of other people have tried to step into God’s role and tell me what I should do.
I’ve made that mistake before though. Many times, actually. I’ve wasted years doing things in the name of Christ that God didn’t tell me to do. The point is that too often our tendency is to ask God, His Word, and His Spirit to submit to the leading of our emotions instead of vice versa. If you aren’t careful, you’ll develop that as an indoctrinated trend where all you do is wonder if your feelings are God talking to you. It’s a vicious cycle where you know who God is, but you’re robbing your own life of any fellowship with Him because He isn’t steering the ship any more, and in all reality you’ve fallen into idolatry of your own self.
We have to reverse that cycle. If you’re in it, you can have victory over it through faith, but it won’t be easy. It takes zero effort or discipline to feel some kind of way about something and just accept it as God telling you what to do, but show me a Christian who lacks discipline and I bet deep down on the inside there’s a miserable person begging for what they believe in to become real in their life.
So on the flip side, it takes tremendous discipline and effort to actually take our feelings and submit them to Him through prayer and scripture. Perhaps I’m making it sound like hard work. The difficulty is always with maintaining discipline, but it is within those efforts that you actually start experiencing fellowship with God. If that’s not worth it to you, then nothing ever will be. This is how it goes though and anyone who has experienced it would tell you this—now that I actively seek to do this, I realize that God asks me to do things all the time that I don’t feel like doing, but that I wind up feeling overwhelmingly fulfilled by once I’ve done them. It’s just the way this dance called life works and as best I can tell, the key ingredient is always patient prayer.
I walked into a church the other day asking God for a word on patience. The message wasn’t about it, but He delivered one anyway and it was the only one I needed. I leave you with that.
“The only thing worse than waiting on God, is later wishing that you would have”