We all have a specific calling in life. Some of us already know what that is, and others are struggling to find it. Either way, we all have an idea of where we want to end up in life. For some, we want to be the next great doctor or nurse who uses their medical expertise to provide healthcare to impoverished people across the world. Still, others desire to use their artistic talents to change the world through media and music. Some, like myself, feel called to preach and teach God’s Word and build up the church. All of these careers and passions are different, but they also have one thing in common: It takes time to get to where we want to be.
As young adults, we often find ourselves at the beginning of our professional careers with limited experience under our belt. Our resumes are full of overstated job responsibilities in order to “fluff up” our applications because, simply, we don’t have much to put on there. But in line with our culture, we don’t want to wait for our dream jobs; we want these jobs now. We desire to set up our own medical missions clinics, be the president of our own firms, or be in the lead ministry roles at large churches.
But unfortunately, that’s not how life works.
Our generation has been raised to have a mindset of “entitlement.” As Kevin DeYoung puts it, “We expect people to affirm us for everything, criticize us for nothing, and pay us for anything we do.” We were raised during the time when parenting’s buzzword was “self-esteem.” Showing children unconditional love and the idea of being valued simply because “you are you” reigned in schools and homes. Children were constantly praised while criticized for very little. At the end of basketball games, everyone received an award, and no one lost. Teachers curved grades to make a “C” the new “F” (Aspen Education). Growing up was less about learning, and it became more about feeling good about oneself. This has led a common thinking among our generation to expect the things handed to us without working for them (this is not true for everyone, but an overall generalization).
So when we hear verses such as Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” we want God to perfectly lead us to arrive at the end of His plan instead of having to walk through it ourselves.
The Dark Room
Christine Caine gives great insight in her Passion 2014 talk when she confirms this idea by saying we are a “snap and upload” generation. We can take a picture in the matter of seconds and have it uploaded for others to see just as fast. She then points out how we’re foreign to the idea of a “dark room,” which is where film used to be developed. When film was developed, it was a process that took many hours, sometimes even days. Not only does it take time, but it happens in the dark. This is because the light would destroy the image on the film. For us, the dark room is the days of waiting, while the light is the arrival at the fulfillment of God’s plan that would destroy us because we wouldn’t be prepared to walk in it. We want God’s plan now, instead of wanting to wait on God’s timing to make us men and women who are prepared to handle the responsibilities He has for us.
So what does it look like to have godly patience in the dark room? Well, let’s take a look at the life of David. Here is a “man after God’s own heart.” A man who wrote many of the Psalms. And a man God chose to be king of His people. But what we can very easily overlook is David’s process of coming to the throne. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel walks into the house of Jesse, and God anoints David to be the king of Israel at the age of 17. For some of us, this is around the same age when God revealed our calling to us. But here’s the key to the story: It took David 20 years to finally come to the throne. David was anointed at the age of 17, but was not appointed until he was 37. During the years in between, he had experiences that ranged from being loved by Saul, the king, and living in his palace all the way to being pursued by Saul and was in fear of losing his life. He went through trials and tribulations which led to many of the sorrowful Psalms we read today. But in the end, God placed him on the throne with a life full of experiences that taught him to fear the Lord and lead a nation.
For many of us, we don’t want to have to go through the process. We just want to arrive at the end destination. Even more, we think it’s unfair to wait. We feel God is being slow to fulfill His plans in our lives. But here’s a biblical truth to combat that way of thinking: “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9). We may think we know what we want, but God knows what we need. If our lives went according to our plans and our timing, we would be placed in positions that would destroy us. We wouldn’t have the experiences and abilities to fulfill our roles. In David’s circumstance, the throne would’ve destroyed him, or even more, he would’ve led Israel to destruction. So the definition of patience states, “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” To understand God’s definition, we must also remember James 1:4, which says, “And let patience have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The goal of patience is to make us more and more like Christ, which enables God to use us most effectively for His work.
Progress In the Midst of Waiting
God’s plan is a process. We never get to the end goal without taking steps that prepare us along the way. Some of those steps are going to end in failure, but they will teach us. Something to remember is that progress is progress, no matter how small. Sometimes progress is your efforts, not your results. So as you’re looking toward your calling, don’t see the process as something you’re just getting through. It’s God’s plan for you. The process is just as much your calling as is the end. So take the smaller jobs. Take the internships where you’re just simply observing. You’re not high up in management or calling the shots, but you are learning. You’re going to learn what works, and what doesn’t, which can be painful. But as C.S. Lewis says, “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.” You will look back years from now and remember those tough jobs and thank God for what you learned through them. But no one wants to sit and wait and learn. We want to do and lead and teach. The same goes for athletes. No one wants to practice while everyone wants the spotlight. But without practice, there’s no greatness on the field. During practice is where we teach our bodies muscle memory, so when we’re in the heat of the game, we don’t think about what to do. It just happens. This is exactly what God is doing with us now. Don’t think of it as waiting. Think of it as God’s training. He’s preparing your heart with “muscle memory” to glorify Him and love Him. Let’s put in the effort, so we can give God glory with our lives.
Holiness Is the End Goal
So what’s the point of the dark room? It’s to produce a beautiful picture. Its the same with godly patience. The goal of waiting is to produce the beautiful image of Christ in our hearts. Slowly, the image will be made clearer and clearer, but it’s through endurance in the faith. As 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “It is God’s will that you should be holy.” This means that no matter if you are in the beginning stages of the process or the end, there’s a purpose for it all: to pursue God and glorify Him. So no matter where you are, your pursuit of the Lord should be constant.