God has a habit of not doing what I want, when I want, how I want.
That's probably a good thing seeing as how God is way smarter than I am and way more loving than I am.
Seriously. God loves me, my family, and the whole world; and he promises that he'll make everything come together for a good result.
If I really believe that last sentence, I'm never going to worry about a thing. Turns out sometimes I have a hard time believing that last sentence, because I wrestle with worry pretty often.
I'm pretty sure that my doubt isn't so much about God as it is about me.
As in, "Man, this is probably all my fault and God doesn't owe me anything, so he may not get me out of this one."
I know God says he'll cause everything to work together for good results, but I gotta tell you, I give God a lot of garbage to work with.
When things aren't going my way, I give God a lack of trust, anger, denial, despair and (in my better moments) some scraps of faith and hope.
And up to this point of my life, God has taken that junk and made a life filled with great blessings. Not a perfect life. If you give me a genie in a bottle, I can definitely use up those three wishes pretty quick.
(Side note: if your first wish is for more wishes and the genie says you can't do that, make your second wish that you COULD do that. Take that, genie rules. #foolproofplans)
Here's my point: God is like an artist, taking scraps and snips of trash and out of them creating a beautiful work of art.
The pieces of trash don't determine the beauty of those creations, the hand of the creator does. Any piece of trash can be part of a masterpiece in the right hands. So my faith should never be that I'm giving God perfect materials, but rather than God is able to make beautiful things out of what I give him.
1. Don't pray for peaceful situations, pray for peace in the midst of your situation
I make this mistake so often.
I ask God to move me somewhere that will be fulfilling and just generally happier for me.
When you boil it down, what I'm asking God to do is put me somewhere I no longer need to trust God.
"God I'm tired of having to rely on you, give me something to take your place."
I don't literally say this, but it's in all honesty what I mean.
We're supposed to place our hope and faith in God, not in this world.
Jesus promises we're going to have trouble in this world. If we put our hope in it, we're making a mistake.
Jesus also tells us he gives peace that goes beyond what this world can give us.
Situations will always change. God will not. Obviously, we should anchor our hope to the latter.
2. Focus on what's now rather than what's next
Every time I find myself focusing on my situation as the root of my frustrations, it's a reminder that I'm looking in the wrong place.
God is more interested in what's happening in me than what's happening to me.
God is more interested in who I am rather than where I am.
Not that God doesn't care about what's happening to me or where I am, just that there's a bigger purpose.
If you're not already familiar with the story of Joseph, you should totally stop reading this and go read Genesis 37-44. It'll be way better than anything I can say.
Joseph has a vision as a child of being a great ruler, but he finds himself sold into slavery by his own brothers, and later in jail. How long he was there is not certain, but it seems to have been years. I can't imagine trying to understand why God would allow this to happen. But we know in hindsight, because Psalm 105 includes this verse:
"Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character."
God was preparing Joseph, changing his character for the purpose he was called to fulfill. What must have seemed like the greatest waste of time was actually part of the process. Joseph could spend that time being angry and frustrated, or he could allow the situation he found himself in to prepare him for what God wanted to do.
Next time you're in a period of waiting, take a deep breath and ask how you can get on board with what God is doing now before you desperately ask to be moved on to what's next.
3. Place your hope in God, not in you
Looping back to what we discussed at the start, God isn't limited by you. We have the ability to walk away from the offer of the rich and satisfying life Jesus offers us, but even when you accept it, God doesn't hand us the steering wheel and say 'Good luck'.
In Proverbs 16:9, Solomon wrote:
"We can make our plans; but the Lord determines our steps."
If you are seeking to honor God and submitting your plans to him, you can trust that God is not ignorant or confused or scared. He is weaving all the stuff in this world into a beautiful masterpiece. We're not going to screw it up, and we're not going to be a useless scrap tossed aside. We're part of what God is making, and that means everything we do is filled with purpose, not because of who I am, but because of who he is.