I’m what one might call “peak millennial.” I got my driver’s license in the window of time between printed MapQuest directions and Google Maps with unlimited data, which makes one of the first “grown-up” purchases I made a brand-new Garmin GPS. That bulky touchscreen, suction-cupped to the windshield of my not-so-gently used car, was this directionally challenged gal’s ever-faithful copilot–until it wasn’t. For anyone who has never been the proud owner of a Tamagotchi, these marvels of navigation were prone to losing satellite connection frequently and required the purchase of updated map packages.
Way back when, I was babysitting in a neighborhood I had only been to a handful of times. My Garmin and I cruised the streets of Delco, successfully arriving at my destination with no complications. Hours later when it came time to go home, I started my car, plugged in the GPS, was greeted by the animated welcome screen…and then a popup message letting me know that there was no connection. I tried my best to backtrack the way I came in, only to end up hopelessly lost and hitting one-way streets. Construction seemed to be everywhere.
Doesn’t that sound familiar? Being totally prepared to do something, only to be hit hard with the feeling of being completely lost and utterly directionless?
Genesis 15 begins the story of Abram’s covenant with God – that he would be the father of many through whom God’s people would be delivered. “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (vv. 5b-6). God gave this promise to Abram, but gave no timeline or instruction. A (subjectively) short time passed, and Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands, forming a plan wherein Sarai’s servant Hagar bore a son for Abram. This was not the result of the covenant God had promised, but a sinful lack of faith and patience that, in short, made a mess of things.
Noah, Abraham, Moses, David – these well-known stories are tiny fibers in the thread of waiting that runs through the Old Testament and weaves into God’s plan for redemption. We don’t necessarily read Abraham’s story to teach us a lesson about what happens when we take matters into our own hands. Instead, through Abraham’s lineage and eventual faithfulness, we get to the gospel.
As readers of Abraham’s story on this side of the cross, it’s so easy to say, “I can’t believe he didn’t wait for God!” or to think, “There’s no way he thought that’s what God meant.” Maybe you feel a call towards something, or a major decision is being asked of you – church planting, relationships, career, motherhood, medical care – but you were not expecting a season of waiting, or to feel like God’s not handing out turn-by-turn directions.
In times like these, it can be difficult to remember that God is always faithful to keep his promises. In Abraham’s day, in Paul’s as he waited in prison, and in ours. Waiting on God isn’t just about the amount of time that passes; it’s every bit as much about walking in faith that his purposes will be fulfilled through, or in spite of us. When we feel like we’re navigating blindly, our call is not to make the “right” decisions or to do things our own way. Obedience means simply trusting in God.
So what does walking by faith in the midst of uncertainty look like? Pray earnestly, press into the council and truth of scripture, and invite community into your waiting – all in the hope of the ultimate promise of the Gospel fulfilled. No matter how directionless you may feel.