By Tracy Griess
Life is a journey. I would venture to guess that most of you have heard this phrase or at least some variation of it. Recently I have been reflecting on the journey part of that phrase. Life is a journey; we look back and we see that sometimes we got it right and sometimes we didn’t. One of my favorite songs uses this line. And it strikes me as so very true. I have won, I have lost, I got it right sometimes and sometimes I did not. Colton Dixon may have penned those words but it rings true for all of us. What he also goes on to sing to us is that God has been there through all of it. All of it.
As I reflect on this journey of life, that is also true for me and I suspect for most of you. We can, in fact, look back and see God’s hand, His work, His plan carried out. But, what about the time in the middle of the struggle or difficult time? What about the journey? The truth is that if we are reading this, we have not yet come to the end of the journey. So, what about now? The rest of this truth is that we all want the destination but we don’t necessarily want the journey. We want the outcome, but not the process of getting there. We look toward the finish line, but we might prefer to skip the race or at least the preparation. The problem with that thinking is that it is in the journey or the holding pattern where the growth occurs, where God does his best work in us. Some of us might pray for patience on purpose. While others of us have not stepped out in complete faith to pray for patience because we know God doesn’t simply give us patience, he teaches us patience through the journey. James 5:7 says, ”Be patient, dear brothers until the Lord’s coming. A quick search and you will find that God talks about patience or being patient dozens of times in His word. In James, we are learning about patience in suffering. While we all experience suffering in different degrees and at different times, I think we can learn something here about the time spent waiting. Whether we are waiting during health issues, marital issues, prodigal child issues, financial issues, loss of loved ones, job change, or simply change, we can learn something here.
I recently heard Bryan Loritts, pastor at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship, deliver a message. Pastor Loritts spoke of being patient while waiting. He used a great analogy and said, “There are no microwaves in God’s kitchen. God only uses crockpots.” Oh my goodness, yes! This is absolutely true in every sense. God does not snap his fingers and 90 seconds later have a fully mature Christ follower. He slowly, over time, with lots of ingredients all mixed together into our lives, “cooks” us into the disciple He planned for us to be. It is simply our job to stay in the crockpot long enough to wait for Him to finish us. Again, it’s that journey or waiting part while we are molded and “cooked” that is difficult. That is the part that we sometimes get frustrated with. While we know we will never be finished this side of heaven, I love what Pastor Loritts went on to say, “The only thing worse than waiting on God, is wishing that you had.” Again, oh my goodness, yes! How many times have we looked back and wished we would have known this or that. We wished we would have sought God on something first.
So, how do we wait? Well, James goes on to say in verses 8-9, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” Yikes, is he serious? Do not grumble? Be patient and we can’t complain? Philippians 2:14 tells us we must do everything without grumbling or arguing. Yikes again! Some of you with children may have used this verse a time or two to admonish our children to obey without complaint. I have certainly said this a time or two. But have we applied it to ourselves? How many times do we as Christ followers find ourselves grumbling or complaining as we journey thorough change? It’s so easy to apply this to other people as we hear them complaining or grumbling, but I think it might be time that we really take a look at how we are waiting. God uses all of us in different ways. He has gifted us all differently. Sometimes I must remind myself that there are people wiser than me. We aren’t all in the same “crockpot”. My journey looks different than yours and it is for a very good and well thought out reason. God has a good and perfect plan. And one thing I know for sure is that I serve a God that is 100% always on time. I will remember one last thing that Pastor Loritts said and that is this: “Always let what you know about God trump how you feel.” Sometimes what I feel or think about change or things happening in our “holding pattern” needs to take a back seat to what I know about God. God has a plan for us individually and as a body of believers. We may not always understand it, we may not always love it, but we can ALWAYS trust it.