I’ve had many interesting conversations this year, but there seemed to be one topic in particular that would consistently come up. With each person I spoke with or in each class I attended this conversation would be wrapped in a different set of circumstances, but the principle always remained the same.
As Christians doing our very best to walk “in-step” with God, it seems we are constantly struggling to discern the meaning behind God’s restraint in our lives.
He seems to withhold direction, provision, and even communication, which leaves us scratching our heads wondering what it all means. It could even be that there are things you know deep down that God doesn’t want for you, and although you decide not to do them, in the moment you just feel like you’re being cheated in life.
I remember watching a friend of mine with her baby as she was warming up her daughter’s bottle of milk. However, in that moment the milk was way too hot for her baby to drink, but the baby only perceived two things: 1. there is my milk and 2. why is my mom torturing me by not letting me drink it?!
So, as the baby was losing her mind, my friend was patiently waiting till the bottle was a safe temperature to give to her child.
As simple as this illustration is, it really doesn’t become that much more sophisticated as we get older. We are still wrestling and grappling with understanding God’s “withholding” or restraint in our lives. Let’s be real, sometimes, it just feels like we’re being ripped off.
We can become so linear in our thinking with God. “Ok, so I did A, I’m not doing B, so I should get C.” But that’s just not how God operates. There is a mystery to God’s ways that we cannot control or predict. This mystery is an invitation to a relationship with God that is not based on doing something so I can get something, but rather founded on receiving so that I can know Him.
I was reminded of this as I read 2 Peter 3:8-9.
“But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.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.”
The context here is about Christ’s second coming, and how people were “throwing shade”, so to speak, on God and his promise of coming back, because basically it had been too long and nothing had changed.
This is a perfect example of how we can mistake God’s protection for neglect or forgetfulness. We start to see in the context of these verses that God isn’t waiting without purpose, but rather He is “holding out” so that every person who will belong to Him will have the opportunity to receive Him.
This starts to change how we view God’s restraint.
We stop reacting like my friend’s baby, because we know there must be a wise reason behind the delay and the restraint.
There are so many moments in situations like these where we could misjudge God’s intentions and character.
When He closes the door for a potential job
When he says wait or no to a relationship
When you feel the excruciating tension between what you believe you’ve heard from God, but not having a clear or open door to walk into it yet.
Any of these examples and many more can be a challenge for us to trust the restraint of God in our lives. We must remember that He withholds in order to give, he closes one thing to open another. His ultimate joy is for us to trust His heart in the process, and to lift our eyes and attention to the fact that our blessings are not just for us but for others too.
God is unimaginably resourceful and desires that the impact of my blessing would reverberate into the lives and hearts of those around me.
So, as you and I walk into 2017 we can be excited, expectant, and understanding that God has not forgotten us, but has an immeasurably amazing reason for His restraint in our lives.
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11