It’s January and maybe you have your planning sheets color-coded with your year long strategy broken into manageable chunks and you’re crossing them off your list one by one in hopes that this is the year you will make 2017 your best year yet.
Or maybe your year is looking a little like a train wreck and you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re suppose to be focusing on, you just do the next thing because that’s all you can concentrate on because the big picture threatens to gobble you up.
Or maybe your life just changed in an instant and it will never, ever be the same again because a loved one is missing and you’re grieving and wish you could rewind the clock to 2016 when your loved one winked at you with a twinkle in their eye.
Regardless of where 2017 finds us, we could all use some courage.
I know I could. The first morning of 2017, I awoke with a deep, deep sorrow in my heart. A sorrow over what? I don’t know. All I know is that my heart felt burdened and so very heavy. I led worship that morning and rather than leading us in an opening song, I led us to a place of prayer…a waiting on God, if you will.
“Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 ESV
Waiting on God is not a phrase unknown in Christian circles. We throw it around to convince ourselves that we’re trusting God to move and to act on our behalf. We encourage fellow believers with it when we have no answer. “Wait on God,” we blithely say.
But do we really understand it? Waiting on God isn’t a feeling, it’s not manipulating God into doing what we want, it isn’t one of those Christian disciplines we do to check off our list. So often, when we’re waiting on God, we’re really waiting on ourselves.
Andrew Murray writes: “You are not going to wait on yourself to see what you feel and what changes come to you, you are going to wait on God to know first, what he is, and after that what he will do.”
Jesus summed up the whole of the Old Testament law in two commands: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. Loving my neighbor is hard to do if I cannot love myself the way God sees me and if I can’t see the way God sees me then do I really understand the love he has for me? And if I can’t understand the love he has for me then how do I love him with all that I am?
Wait on God.
Let your heart take courage.
Waiting on God in this manner takes diligence and is often accompanied by an internal battle to trust him despite how I feel. I watch my circumstances and see no change and judge God to not care about the big stuff in my life. I’m moved to tears in a church service and conclude that God must be on the move, but the next week, I lead worship and see little response so I conclude that God must not be moving. So then I wait on God some more so that he will move in the hearts and lives of the people I serve. It becomes a cycle of wait, expect “something,” disappointment, repeat.
But rather than waiting on God to do something for us, what if you and I waited on God to receive the love he has for us?
Andrew Murray implores us to wait on God to know who he is.
And who is God? God is love.
He is full of a love that overwhelms and captures us. Sometimes his love is a gentle rain and sometimes it’s a raging torrent, but it’s there, in the kind of quiet, expectant waiting where our hearts are strengthened and gain courage.
Courage isn’t found in formulating a three-pronged plan of attack. It’s not found in the right self-talk because I’ve found that when I’m scared there’s nothing I can say to myself that will induce an ounce of courage.
When I come to him broken, bruised, and bleeding and don’t try to hide the weakness and simply wait in his presence just because He is God and not wait for what he can do for me, courage shows up and I gain the strength to get back up again for one more go around.
It’s winter here so I wear sweaters, scarves, drink hot tea, coffee, or lemon water in futile attempts to stay warm. I’ll even hand wash a sink of dishes to warm up my hands rather than use the dishwasher (I have to be pretty desperate for that one). But my favorite way of warming up is finding a patch of sun to sit in and letting the warmth soak into my bones and warm me from the inside out.
We can do multiple things to encourage our hearts to take courage. We can read blogs, books, the Bible, listen to worship music, or take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. These are good and right practices and help produce perseverance, hope, and maturity in our lives.
But if we want courage to seep all the way to the marrow of our bones, then we need to cultivate time into our day to wait on the Lord.
Waiting on the Lord gives us the opportunity to bask in his love. His love takes our feeble limbs and infuses them with strength because when we wait in God’s love he infuses us with himself and he is the greatest blessing we need.
He is the reason why we can wake up day after day to face the hard of life. Waiting on him gives our heart the courage it needs to tackle those goals, to do the next thing, or learn to live with grief.
So, today, today, today, trust his heart for you and wait on him and imagine his love soaking into your chilled heart and warming it from the inside out. Find a patch of sunlight, sit down in it and wait on God and as you soak in the sun, imagine God’s love soaking into the deepest part of your heart. Be strong and let your heart take courage.