By Didi Bacon
I hate feeling trapped. To be stuck in the same place. Paralysis by analysis is something I cannot stand. It makes me really grumpy when I get held back from moving forward.
When I was in elementary school we used to play a game called “Pile On.” This was a game of catching someone unaware on the ground and shouting to all your pals around you, “PILE ON!” Then you would jump on that person, and everyone else would jump on you in a huge pile. Sound like fun? Not for me. If I was one caught on the bottom of a pile I would go nuts. Feeling trapped and stuck brought out the fight or flight in me, usually the fight!
Do you feel stuck? Do you feel stalled? Are you spinning your wheels in place wondering which way you need to go? Is it as if life has just shouted “PILE ON” and you are now trapped in a situation where you wonder if you are ever going to get out? Waiting for good things to happen can feel like being stuck. Waiting on God to answer prayers. Waiting on that job promotion. Waiting on that right person to come into your life who will be your husband or your wife.
I have learned the hard way that not waiting well leads to trouble. Jumping ahead never turns out well. How many times did you miss great opportunities because you moved too soon?
I am going through the book of Joshua in my morning Bible reading time. Joshua is a book of action. It is the account of the people of Israel being led by Joshua to take possession of the Promised Land.
Joshua is also about learning to wait well. It contains some guidance on how to move with God at the right time, in the right way, for the right results. In Joshua chapter 3, we are told that the people of Israel were camped on the east side of the Jordan River. The Promised Land was on the west side of the river. What God had said would be theirs – the land flowing with ‘milk and honey’ – was just on the other side of that river. All they had to do was go in and take it. I am sure there was a lot of anxiety and impatience in the camp. They had been waiting to go into the land for forty years. Now they were sitting right there at the border, still waiting. In Joshua, chapter 3, God gives this instruction to the people through Joshua’s officers:
“2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits c between you and the ark; do not go near it.” Joshua 3:2-4 (NIV)
God told the people: keep an eye on the ark of the covenant. When the priests pick it up to move forward, that is when you move. When it moves, you move. God will lead you forward and guide you into places you have never been before.
The Ark of the Covenant was a sacred decorated box that contained the stone tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written. The ark represented the presence of God in the midst of the people. The message was, you only move forward when God moves. You don’t run ahead. You don’t lag behind.
When you feel stuck in life. When you feel discouraged that nothing seems to be happening as you try to follow Jesus. When you are tempted to take things into your own hands and go your own way because you are tired of waiting on the Lord. Remember this scripture passage.
Remember that being in step with the Lord requires being on watch. Keep your eyes open for God’s lead. That means making specific prayer asks; ‘Lord please let me know if this is what you want me to do.’ Making sure you are watching for the Lord causes you to pause before acting. It is a discipline of submitting to God. Keep your eyes open, and be prepared to move.
Being prepared to move means you stay flexible and free of obligations that may tie you down. If you are praying for a new job, then don’t commit to buying a house. If God gives you a job in another city, then you have just made that answered prayer more difficult to receive.
Keep your eyes open for the ‘ark’; be ready to move and be sure to move at the pace of honoring God. The message to the Israelites was to follow the ark but at a safe distance. Don’t get too close; don’t get too far away. Too many times when following God, we try to take the lead. God answers your prayer for the right romantic relationship, but you can’t wait to get married so you run ahead of God’s Word and you move in together. God answers your prayer for healing from surgery, but then you do not do the diet and exercise that keeps you healthy. Follow God at a God honoring pace.
When you are feeling stuck. When you need God to answer your prayers to be led into to ‘promised land’. Wait on Him, watch for His prompts, be ready to move, go with Him.