Do you ever have those moments in life where you feel like you are headed in a specific direction, but you are still walking around feeling unsure of each step? Do you ever feel like you take a couple of steps forward with confidence and trust, just to find yourself sliding back into the chains of doubt and discouragement?
For me, I’m finding that faith is kind of like stepping into the future blindfolded! On the one hand, you know that you are in good hands and that God IS good! You have seen His provision firsthand and felt His protection in times of trouble. You can look back on the past and recall situations and circumstances in which God’s mercy and love were not only apparent but also overwhelming in a time when you didn’t deserve it.
Yet, there are the things that oppose faith on a daily basis. Since you cannot quite see what God is doing, you have, on the other hand, very real emotions to contend with. These feelings can become stumbling blocks to all of the freedom that faith has to offer. Whether it is fear or comfort or contradictions, everyone comes to a place where they have to choose what it is that they are going to focus on, and how they are going to fight to keep their focus when the going gets tough. Today, my battle is with something unexpected…TIME. To wait or not to wait, that is the question!
I am really glad to know that all we need to have is faith the size of a mustard seed to make a difference! (Luke 17:6) A mustard seed is only 1-2 millimeters in diameter, which, in comparison to the majority of what we interact with daily, is tiny! My faith, like the little mustard seed, gets tested in various ways that keep cycling through the planting, cultivating, nurturing, pruning, waiting, and harvesting rotation.
With every challenge, unexpected circumstance, or unwanted situation, I always start back at the beginning with a tiny bit of faith. If I’m honest, it always seems impossible, and I always feel like giving up before I even get started! My mustard seed moments begin with some emotions that surface—ones that I really don’t want to face!
At first it was insecurity, then fear, and most recently, my control issues of wanting perfection. All of these emotions were lies of the enemy rooted in what I could, would, or should do. God was never a part of the equation. Whatever I chose to plant would inevitably be cultivated and nurtured whether I wanted it to, or not! Neural Pathways are built with repetition. At first I would give in to the lies and feel miserable! Then, I got sick of it! While I still FELT like facing my feelings would lead to disaster, I CHOSE to go to war—fighting with God’s Word as my weapon. It all started with this:
“With God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
It sounds good, right? All I have to do is figure out what thought is not in alignment with God’s Word and plant new seeds that replace the unfruitful, unhelpful thought with God’s Truth! Easy! I can do that! Or so I thought. The planting (replacing lies with Biblical truth), cultivating and nurturing (repeating the truth over and over), and even pruning (capturing rogue thoughts and re-framing them) really became a discipline of sorts. I just practiced and practiced, and my spiritual muscles grew stronger. With one small sentence, God planted a seed that would give me the courage to face, and break, chains that previously paralyzed me from stepping into who I was capable of being. With God’s grace and His Word to guide me, I let my Heavenly Father into my not-so-pretty places.
The first emotion was insecurity, so I had to choose which seed to plant and cultivate. Would it be the “I can’t! I’m not equipped, talented, or good enough” seed, or would I hear God speak the truth that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made for a purpose and on purpose” (Psalm 139:14)? It took a LOT of practice repeating scripture, encouragement from friends who saw the best in me, and a refusal to find my identity in anything other than Christ! Ironically, over time, my focus became less and less about me and more and more about who God Is and what He could do with the daughter that He created! Slowly, my confidence grew and my need for validation lessened (notice, I didn’t say disappeared… I am human after all).
Next up was fear, the emotion that has been my trusted companion nearly my whole life! Fear, started in the same way: which seed would I plant and cultivate? Would it be the “What if, worst case scenario” seed, or would it be “I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13), and “God knows the plans he has for me; plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans for a hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11)? Fear was harder for me, as this was one I couldn’t “Fake It Till You Make It” through some of the paralyzing thoughts! Even though I recognized that most of the fears running in my mind were irrational, the physical reactions to the thoughts were much more difficult to tame. I had to ask for help, “God, I can’t do this without YOU! I’m afraid! HELP!” It took much more time to work through fears, but now I face them with full confidence that God has FREEDOM on the other side! The first breath of freedom from overcoming my first fear with God by my side was an adrenaline rush like no other!! Now, with each fear faced, I feel stronger!
Ah, then there is PERFECTION…the one that I am intimately getting to know as I write. The prideful side of me wants to do everything in my own conviction and ability, yet I know that I cannot come remotely close to being perfect. So, as I finish this piece, a week late mind you, the seed that is scattered throughout the garden of my mind is in 2 Corinthians 12:9:
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
This beauty of a seed is still taking root in my mind and growing with practice. Some days it is fluent, and other days it is foreign. I have no clue how much time it will take to cultivate this seedling into a thriving Tree of Life.
And now folks, we have my current challenge, the WAIT before the harvest. Waiting. I’m not even sure what waiting means in this day and age! From instant oatmeal to Instagram and live feeds, EVERYTHING happens in real time. I can Google the things that I don’t know and, in seconds, I can find out the answer. I used to think that I was patient and persistent; in reality, I want a “genie in the bottle” type of God, and my faith needs a “lift” not a “Lyft.” I’m relatively receptive to waiting as long as there is visible progress amidst the process. In my current season, the waiting not only lacks visible signs of progress, but the things I’m praying for and “word-warring” over seem to be heading towards definite defeat vs. victory!
So, now I am stuck in a conundrum! HOW do I gain the faith that produces freedom when God asks me to WAIT, especially when things seem to be in opposition to God’s Word?! While I don’t have it all figured out at the current moment, I am starting with a perspective change on what waiting really means. According to the dictionary, waiting means:
“the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something happens.”
I don’t know about you, but navigating the longer stretches make me feel like a lion locked in a cage! As soon as I pass my measure of mustard seed faith, my anxiety hits an all-time high. My breathing gets shallow, my heart starts to pound, my face gets hot, and my mind starts to race! Then, the lies creep in…. Doesn’t God know that a growth mindset means stretching towards a solution and trying things in various ways until you get a desired result? Doesn’t God realize that we live in a “YOU CAN DO IT! JUST TRY HARDER!” culture? Doesn’t God realize how incredibly long I have been waiting and how unfair it is to make me wait longer?
I believe that God does know my feelings, which is exactly why sometimes He lovingly asks me to wait! You see, I have become so self-reliant that God needs to slow me down in order to train my mind further and develop skills that I will need in the future. What I am learning is that if God is asking me to wait, it means that I am not ready for what I think I want!
I’m like my seven-year-old son who doesn’t know any better than to eat candy all day long and then wonders why his tummy is aching! If I don’t tell him, “No,” or “Not right now,” then he would be sick to his stomach on a regular basis. Likewise, I want what I want, and I want it RIGHT NOW! Can you feel the tantrum that I am throwing?! Seriously, I can throw a fit that can put a toddler to shame!
It is easier for me to fight than to surrender to God’s goodness. You mean to tell me that God is THAT GOOD that He will actually allow a waiting season that results in a bigger and better purpose? He is, and He does. I’m learning that sometimes waiting means that God is protecting us from ourselves or protecting us from something that we cannot yet see! I don’t know if you have ever run so hard that your body finally gives up in sickness, fatigue, or pain, but I have! It is an unnecessary addition of pain that could have been prevented had I just been patiently persevering in skill and habit development, which may mean building boundaries and learning to rest in His presence. What is worse, I can also be like a deer running into oncoming traffic. I see something that I want across the street and, instead of waiting for Guidance, I run straight into a preventable collision that only freezes me in disaster. Again, practicing self-control, discernment, and gratitude for what I already have could be the difference between thriving and limping away barely surviving!
My feelings and knowledge that God may have bigger and better plans for me than I have for myself don’t match yet. Again, I am planting new seeds, and I will cultivate it until the doubt is replaced with
a definitive, “YES and AMEN!” Of course, God won’t force me to do anything that I don’t want to do. I always have the choice to say, “no!” or to rush into my own desires. For me, that has never turned out well! So, I am learning to follow God’s will, God’s way, and God’s timing. He is always present, patiently waiting for me to TRUST HIM. All I have to do is listen and take a step of obedience, even if that step is actively waiting. The seeds that I choose to plant and cultivate in the waiting have the potential to harvest an internal peace that starts with the understanding that
“…In ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love Him.”
Every crop grows over time, and so do we. Anyone who has successfully taken a plant from seed to blossom knows that you do all of the hard work up front and then you just have to patiently endure the passing of time and wait, all the while feeding the soil with good nutrients even when you cannot see the progress. Likewise, we have our own faith seasons and passing of time. The reality is that I don’t always get it right! Sometimes, I let my impatience get the best of me and impulsively go against what God is telling me. While I am a work-in-progress, the process seems to get easier and faster with each new cycle. I still hear the lies from time to time, especially when I am tired, stretched beyond my capacity, or in new and difficult situations. Most of the time, I choose to wield the Sword of the Spirit, aka my “God War Words”, and most of the time it works! When I fail or it gets hard, I just “tap out” and tag God in!
The good news is that His grace, forgiveness, and love are sufficient when I am deficient. Even when I know what to do, it is much more difficult to put theory into practice. This is why I pray to God that HE help me. I know that I cannot do it on my own. With my tiny mustard seed faith surrounding “the wait,” I plant again, putting my hope into a harvest that only God can give with a future that cannot yet see.
I’m not sure where you might be right now. What I do know is that freedom IS possible with God! No matter where you might be in the cycle, planting, cultivating, and nurturing a mustard seed faith of your own is worth it! Will the pruning be hard sometimes? Yes. Will the waiting be frustrating at times? Also, yes! However, there is nothing to compare with the harvest of chains broken and the feeling that
“Who the Son sets free is free indeed!” (John 8:36)
Amen and Hallelujah!