I don’t often ask the Lord for something with a specific timeline in mind. Usually, I leave the timing up to him, with an “as soon as possible, but when you think it is best” addendum. But this time, I asked him for something specific and tied it to my birthday. I asked if it could happen before it was the day to celebrate. I told him that I would rather have a “no” than not ask. But please, if it could happen by my birthday, that would be wonderful.
That was what I was asking for.
The few days leading up to my birthday were hard. It felt more and more obvious that the answer to my prayer was no. I thought I was ready for disappointment, but it would seem that you can’t steel yourself and be expectant all at once. So, disappointed I was.
I wasn’t angry with God. I still believed that he was doing what was best. It was just disappointing to have it confirmed that I couldn’t see what He was doing and that the “best” thing was more waiting. I was tired and was ready for something different. I felt weary and was asking him to work a small miracle for us. And the “no” was hard to swallow.
My birthday was this weekend, so I can confirm that the “no” wasn’t imagined. It was real. But I found that Jesus gave me something better than what I had asked him for. He gave me himself.
It was the eve of my birthday and I was sitting on the steps of the church. Our bonfire with the high school girls had gotten rained out just before we were going to sing, so we retreated to the covering of the church entryway. Setting aside our potato chips and cupcakes, we held our printed sheets, ready to spend a few minutes in song. I glanced on the song sheet and was excited to see a few favorites. When I saw Amazing Grace would be our final number, I wish I could say I was thrilled, but I wasn’t. The familiarity of those words on top of the recent disappointment of my prayers felt painful. But I was willing to sing anyway.
A few verses in, we came to these words:
Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.
As I sang these words, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart. This is your story. This is what I’m doing. I see you. I haven’t forgotten you. Look at this past year. You’ve come through much: toils, snares, even some dangers. My grace has brought you safe thus far. My grace will lead you home. Let your birthday be a chance to say this with your whole heart. I’m with you. I see you. I haven’t forgotten you. I will lead you home.
I felt tears fill my eyes and I knew that this was better than getting what I wanted. I didn’t want what I had prayed for at any cost. I wanted it if the time was right and if Jesus said yes. But if not, Jesus wasn’t leaving me alone. He was with me still. His grace was mine. I could trust him with a “no.”
I revisited the story of Joseph today and couldn’t help but notice how little is said about Joseph for the months and years of waiting and suffering as a servant, a slave, a prisoner. Yet even foreigners could see God’s favor on him. I imagine him crying for the life he once had, longing to be free, yet choosing to wait and trust in the Lord. By the time he reaches Pharaoh at age 30, he is still speaking confidently of who God is and what he is doing. The Lord was with him at Potiphar’s house. The Lord was with him in jail. And Joseph trusted in the Lord, regardless of what was happening around him.
“Like Joseph, let us be more careful to learn all the lessons in the school of sorrow than we are anxious for the house of deliverance. God is never in a hurry, but spends years with those He expects to greatly use. He never thinks the days of preparation are too long or too dull. Don’t steal tomorrow out of God’s hands. Give God time to speak to you and reveal his will. He is never too late; learn to wait.”
Streams in the Desert, March 22
I can not deny that I am anxious for my hour of deliverance. But I want to look like Joseph, trusting when I don’t understand, choosing to see signs of God’s favor in the midst of my Hard circumstances, continuing to show up even when God says that more waiting is best.
If the Lord has me here, and I truly believe he has brought me to this point, I trust him to be with me here. I trust him to help me in the waiting that feels long to me. I pray that he would keep my heart soft and willing. I pray that I would not grow impatient, but think of myself as a servant of Christ. I am his and he may do what he deems best. The Lord is with me.
But there in jail, God was still with Joseph. Genesis 39:20, MSG
*I spent some time writing to the Lord on my birthday, thanking him for the gifts that came in this last year. One of my favorites was starting this blog and beginning to write on a regular basis. In lieu of a blog birthday party (are there such things?), I’m giving away a copy of one of the very best fiction books I read last year, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. When I found a copy while thrifting this past week, I knew I had to get it to give away. This book was a pure delight and it would be a gift to share it with one of YOU. Comment below for a chance to win and I’ll pick a winner next Tuesday, June 14. Thanks for being here with me.