There are curves up ahead; bends in this twisting turning road that is my life.
For the longest time, whenever I’ve looked ahead, all I have been able to see is the same straight path laid out before me. The shifts in the trajectory of my life have come without warning: the sin struggles I never anticipated, the news of cancer and death. While the shock of the unexpected brought its own level of wreckage and pain, it carried a grace: deliverance from the waiting and the wondering and the anticipation.
But life is not always like that. Sometimes it’s like a roller coaster, where you can see that there is a sharp bend up ahead, but where it will take you is unknown. So you watch the curve approach. You endure the horrible feeling of waiting, unsure if what’s around the curve is going to bring us closer to what we want or close the door on a dream.
Right now, I can see some bends in the road up ahead. Most of us have them.
Across town, my friends are waiting to hear if and when their baby girl will be well enough to bring home. For over 80 days they’ve lived in waiting at the NICU, getting closer and closer to the curve in the road, but not sure if the corner will turn into miraculous healing and a normal life, or a painful no, and a learning to live in different kinds of days.
It’s the girl waiting to see if this new relationship she’s in will blossom into the marriage she’s hoping for, or whether it will end in lessons learned and parting ways. It’s the mom waiting to hear if her cancer is cured or if it’s time for round three of treatment.
It’s hard to not want to eject in the waiting. We do it by imaging what lies around the curve: getting ahead of bad news that hasn’t come or living in promises that haven’t been given. But wrestling with waiting is the calling of the Christian.
And I know one thing. I can feel it pressing down on me with all its glorious and difficult weight right now: all this waiting and all these roads end with Him. He is the point.
I feel weary of this idol making factor that is found in the flesh of my heart. That continues to treat God as if He is a consolation prize – yes, Lord I will be content with you if you say no. That continues to treat God as if He is a hoop to jump through on this road toward what I truly want: yes, Lord, I will learn contentment with you so I can get that gift. That continues to treat God as if His company in this waiting is a helpful crutch, not the point: yes Lord, I am thankful that you are with me so that I can endure this suffering.
I want more for myself in the waiting. So, sitting in a coffee shop anticipating the curves ahead, I will preach to my heart and ask for the grace to learn to trust in the waiting.
God is not the consolation prize if the turn in the bend isn’t what I might want.
Go ahead, line up all the treasures in the world, all the people I have loved and life I have lived, and hear – oh, heart of mine – that they together pale in comparison to your great God. Give me the whole kingdom, the greatest spouse, a perfect family, the raised bodies of my lost loved ones, and know this – oh heart – none of it would offer a drop of consolation in the ocean of anguish I would face if God was not my God.
Contentment with God is not a hoop to jump through to get what you want. It’s what happens when you get God.
Listen heart – I know you want contentment and peace. You want it because you want to feel better. You want it because in sneaky heretical corners you think God might be tricked into giving you things you want if He thinks you’re happy with Him.
But contentment is not a tool to get what you want from God. It is the sweet harmony that happens when you realize what it means to have God. In the moments when you see the glory of who He is, you will know, because contentment will cannibalize the awful anticipation of what’s around the bend. He is all. Nothing to lose if that corner brings a ‘no’. Nothing to gain if it holds out a ‘yes’.
God’s companionship is not a helpful crutch to get through suffering. Suffering is the crutch to help us get Him.
Oh heart, believe what you know – God’s company in this waiting is the point. This suffering is pulling scales off your eyes so that you can see who stands beside you. He is the perfection and the fulfillment of all that is good.
God is the person you ache for. He is all the dreams you desire. And you have Him even now.
What’s left to wait for, except more of Him?